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At culture roundtable, stakeholders task government on policy implementation

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Stakeholders in arts and culture have tasked the federal government on implementation of strategic policies and programmes that can lift the culture sector.

This position was one of the resolutions reached at the end of a two-day Annual Roundtable on Cultural Orientation (ARTCO), organized by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO).The event, which held between March 8 and 9in Benin, Edo State Capital, was attended by some scholars, government officials and other stakeholders in arts and culture, including Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who was represented by the Commissioner for Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs, Honourable Osaze Osemwegie–Ero.

Other participants include the Head of Service, Edo State, Mrs. Gladys Idahor, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Edo State Ministry for Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs, Mrs. Itohan Obayagbona and the Vice Chancellor, University of Benin, represented by Professor John Ogene.

There were also representatives of Federal, State and private agencies among whom are the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), National Orientation Agency (NOA), National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), National Gallery of Arts (NGA), Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS), Nigeria Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria as well as National Directorate of Employment.

With the theme, Mainstreaming Culture In The Nation’s Economic Agenda, participants held that for culture to become a viable source of revenue generation, it must be proudly embraced and appreciated by all Nigerians.

“Communities, cultural organizations, government agencies, the media as well as the academia should work together to enhance the appreciation of culture in the country, and to enable the wealth in the sector to be fully realized.”

The forum further suggested a provision of soft loans by the government. This, it was agreed, will encourage the private sector participation in cultural activities.To ensure peace and stability, without which there can be no development, a synergy between culture and education sectors was suggested for the promotion of religious tolerance among Nigerians.

Meanwhile, government was charged to encourage the recreation of traditional festivals. This will not only enhance the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but will also boost tourism and make festivals relevant to the contemporary society.The suggestion hinged on the attitude of the younger generations of Nigerians to traditional practices, many of which they perceived as fetish.

Acknowledging the fact that globalization has come to stay, it was equally suggested that Nigeria being part of the global community should not shy away from the realities of civilization.Rather, while accepted it as a global phenomenon, the positive aspects should be explored for developmental purposes.

To arrive at the above suggestions and recommendations, several scholarly papers on the business of culture were presented.Some of the presentations included Cultural and Creative Industries, as Catalysts for Economic Growth in Nigeria by Dr. Austin O. Asagba of the department of Theatre Arts, University of Benin; Understanding the Relationship Between Cultural Values and Economic Development by Professor Kokunre A. Eghafona of the department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Benin; and Culture And Economic Growth: Lessons From Leading Economies, which was presented by Professor Dickson E. Oriakhi.

The paper titled, Recreating Cultural Festivals for Economic Benefits was presented by Professor Chris Ugolo, also of the department of Theatre Arts, University of Benin while Culture and Economy: The Dynamics of Globalization was presented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Benson Idahosa University, Professor Sam Guobadia.

In the course of their presentations, the speakers held that positive cultural values were imperative, not only for social cohesion and improved quality of life of a people, but also for economic growth and development.Blessed with rich cultural history and landscape; abundant natural and human resources, and with creative works that are valued and sought after all over the world, the scholars were of the opinion that if all the available resources were effectively harnessed, Nigeria would be rated among the world’s richest nations.

Also identified was the fact that cultural and religious differences have, over time, posed serious threat to economic growth through varying attitudes, norms and intolerance in beliefs and practices.Professor Ugolo in his presentation stressed that festivals have the capacity and potentials to achieve tremendous economic benefits if properly managed and packaged.

Earlier, he held that with modernity, globalization and the increasing role of tourism, governments the world over were beginning to explore and exploit its cultural potentials for economic development.According to him, traditional festival institutions constituted a very rich source of culture that could be transformed and exploited for economic gains.

Noting that Nigeria is blessed with abundance of traditional festivals across various ethnic groups, he urged the government to synergize with traditional institutions in extracting tourism products from traditional festivals.

Earlier, while declaring the workshop open, Governor Godwin Obaseki emphasized that though the sector was neglected for a long time, it has however been given its rightful place by his government.Describing culture and tourism as new oil for the nation, the governor insisted that without culture, “there would be no people and the society will have no foundation.”

He added that since culture was accorded the relevance it deserved; the ministry of culture and tourism has emerged one of the most vibrant sectors of the state’s economy.While commending NICO for the programme, he stressed that it was timely in view of the current economic situation in the country.

The governor also informed his guests that with the successful hosting of Edo State Festival of Arts and Culture in 2017, it would be made an annual event.According to him, the hosting of the festival afforded the state the desired positive visibility across the world.“In addition, we have developed some of the tourist destinations with historical values to Benin tradition”, he stated.

In his remarks, the Acting ExecutiveSecretary, NICO, Mr. Louis Eriomala, stated that the programme was designed to draw Nigerians’ attention to the strategic place of culture in economic development of the country.The forum, he said, was also to enable stakeholders strategize on how to enhance the contributions of culture to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).He maintained that for culture to be economically viable, the private sector’s contributions should not be undermined.

According to him, the private sector should even play the lead role in repositioning the sector while the government should be willing to provide the enabling environment for effective operation of the private sector.Aside ensuring adequate security for players, he stressed that there must also be necessary infrastructure as well as soft funds for the sector.

“It is important to state that from lessons obtained from other nations, repositioning this sector is not the responsibility of government alone, the private sector has a crucial role to play. In fact, it has a leading role to play.“The government on its part has to provide the enabling environment for the private sector to operate. This should come through the provision of cheap funds, establishment and upgrading of cultural tourism infrastructure as well as adequate security in the light of our recent security challenges.”

The Acting ES noted that time was gone when the value of culture was perceived only in terms of music and dance or pure entertainment.“This is contrary to global recognition of culture as one of the pillars of sustainable development,” he noted.The Minister of Culture and Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was represented at the forum by the Director, Entertainment and Creative Services, Mr. Augustus Ajibola.

In his remarks, he listed some of government’s efforts geared towards making the creative industry a harbinger of change.One of such efforts, he highlighted, was the recent granting of pioneer status to culture under the Industrial Development  (Income Tax Relief) Act No. 22 of 1971.
“The implication of this status is that any direct foreign investment or inflows that is up to N100 million attracts an immediate tax rebate and holiday of three years.“This will not only have a multiplier effect on the creative industries but also create new employment opportunities for entrepreneurs “, he said.


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