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Experts set agenda for NCMM boss, Tijani

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Prof. Abba Isa Tijani

Prof. Abba Isa Tijani is not in for a tea party at the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM). He knows this. He is in the Commission to overhaul Nigeria’s ‘dysfunctional’ museums in the wake of Oronsaye Report. He also needs to prove why NCMM and National Gallery of Art (NGA) should not be merged as recommended by the report.

The 800-page report aimed at reducing cost of governance with the elimination of duplicated functions by several departments and agencies.

NCMM, which is one of the biggest arts employers in the country, is in dire need of a drastic overhaul. Currently, it has about 100 museums and monuments and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites under its management.

According to the culture communicator and former Deputy Editor of The Guardian, Ben Tomoloju, “so many sites that demand the attention of the commission are yet to be fully developed for both educational and touristic advantages.

“I am aware from my vantage position as a former member of the Board of the Commission that it handles not only artistic manifests, but also heritage sites spread all over the country based on their historical and cultural importance. It also attends to the natural sciences, botanical and zoological. I don’t know how it is today after my humble service in 1993. But at that time, the NCMM was in charge of the Jos Zoo.

“The NCMM deals with our antiquities, dating as far back as thousands of years. Historically, we are talking about 10,000 years, considering that human fossils dug up at Iwo Eleru near Akure in Ondo State was dated to as far back as 10 millennia. You have the Nok terracottas between 500 to 200 BC and so on.”

Established as a replacement for the Federal Antiquities Department to manage the collection, documentation, conservation and presentation of the National Cultural properties to the public for the purposes of Education, Enlightenment and Entertainment by Decree No. 77 of 1979 (now Act of Parliament, CAP 242, 2000) to replace the former Antiquities Commission.

The Commission was set up to save Nigerian antiquities from destruction through human and natural agencies and to create among Nigerians an awareness of their country’s cultural heritage.

According to the Decree, the functions of the Commission shall be:
• To administer national museums, antiquities and monuments;
• to establish and maintain national museums and other outlets for or in connection with, but not restricted only to the following, that is, Antiquities, Science and Technology, Warfare, African, Black and other Antiquities, Arts and Crafts, Architecture, Natural History and Educational Services.
• To make recommendations to any state government or other person or authority concerning the establishment and management of museums and other preservation of antiquities and monuments declared to be national antiquities and monuments; and
• to approve a museum, that is privately established and maintained for the purpose Act of Parliament, CAP 242, 2000 and at any time withdraw such approval.

Tijani, an Associate Professor of Museology and Anthropology at the University of Maiduguri and the Acting Director, Centre for the Study and Promotion of Cultural Sustainability before his appointment on August 26, 2020, was the Head of Department of Fine and Creative Arts as well as the Deputy Director, Archive and Records Unit of the University of Maiduguri. He had also worked in the UK from 2005 to 2008 with the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London on a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Some culture workers, who spoke to The Guardian, said the new chief executives should engage industry players, who are all grounded about operations in the establishment.

They advised the new DG to borrow from the experiences of other countries how they have been able to create tourism business from their arts and culture.

A staff of NCMM, who spoke under condition of anonymity, noted that with the kind of problems associated with COVID-19 and the rest, there is no way life can be the same again. “Nigeria is not an exception. People will experience financial inertia; money will be in short supply. So, chief executive officers must think out of the box. You can’t bring somebody who will be waiting for the next subvention to come from Abuja.”

Tomoloju said, “we must put primacy on developing culture; because culture is also something that improves the education of the youths. If people are not cultured, there is no amount of school that they can go to.”

Apart from the complex issue of repatriation of cultural objects of Nigerian origin housed in foreign museums confronting NCMM, the immediate challenge of improving the standard of museums across the country should get adequate attention under Tijani administration.

In a statement signed by Dapo Sijuade, Head, Public Relations, NCMM, the new DG promised “to vigorously pursue the emergence of an enviable museum system in Nigeria that will become the pride of the African continent.”

A three-day retreat for museum curators, which held in Nasarawa State, focused on how to reposition the parastatal for revenue generation.

Organised during the tenure of Alhaji Abdulkerim O. Kadiri as acting DG, poor funding was identified as the strongest impediments to the activities and programmes of museums across the country.

According to the Act, the commission, beyond its yearly budgetary allocation, is equally empowered to raise funds as fees charged for services rendered. It can also be funded through endowments.

Noting that some curators generate more revenue than others due to availability of manpower and infrastructure, nevertheless, curators were tasked to embrace hardwork and right attitude to service.

The workshop noted that Nigerian monuments and heritage sites are very rich and among the most valued and respected artifacts all over the world. What we have been lacking is adequate publicity.

It also noted that the commission is underfunded, because it is tied to federal allocation and not much comes from tourism. There are equally identified severe shortages in ‘museum’ education, exhibition management, publicity, fundraising, marketing and sponsorship.

Museums are success stories in Europe and America. They play a leading role in the success of the tourism of these countries, attracting millions of international and domestic visitors. They showcase the best of their nation’s history and culture to the widest possible audiences and captivate visitors with objects that tell stories of the world.

However, an inventory of Nigerian museums today will reveal a sad and painful treatment of the country’s historical monuments and heritage. Among the priorities indicated by states in their responses to the UNESCO study are capacity building, social protection of museum staff, digitisation and inventorying of collections, development of online content, technical assistance and the equipment of conservation laboratories, all of which require the mobilisation of resources.

According to Frank Meke, a travel journalist, for Tijani to make a distinguishing mark, “he must first establish that the museum is not just for history but meant to drive recreation. In this quest, he must set out to rebrand and connect the entire architecture to the specialised media, tour operators and education system.”

Meke said that thenew DG must “identify locations, content and context and drive their upgrading. Saturate the media and public space with well researched educational and recreation materials.”

On the occasion of International Museum Day this year, experts predicted that close to 85, 000 museums around the globe would suffer from COVID-19 pandemic challenge.

They noted that museums have been especially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 90 per cent of them, or more than 85,000 institutions, having closed their doors for varying lengths of time during the crisis.

Dr. Sola Balogun of the Department of Theatre Arts, Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, “If we examine closely the operations of the existing agencies, we’ll discover many of their officials operate like typical civil servants, hence creativity and excellence in terms of idea generation to advance the sector are grossly lacking.

“The truth is that from the way people/employees run government business in Nigeria, there has been little or no commitment to developmental initiatives, rather people have been more concerned about their personal benefits and gains…the culture sector inclusive.”

Dr. Sola Adeyemi of the Goldsmith College, University of London, pointed out that culture institution like museum need more autonomy, and also, their own budgets to perform upto maximum capacity.


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Abba Isa TijaniNCMM
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