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FG set to map the creative industry to boost economy

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
24 April 2016   |   2:15 am
No one should have a doubt that the culture and tourism sectors of the economy need a serious policy statement.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed

No one should have a doubt that the culture and tourism sectors of the economy need a serious policy statement. And, the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is the only one that can make that now. In almost 16 years, they have swung like a yo-yo that workers and practitioners are not even aware of the latest information about them.

So, when the minister said the sectors were among those that have been identified as key to the government’s economic diversification programme, the news was accepted with almost no reservation.

Speaking with culture and tourism journalists in Lagos at the weekend, the minister reechoed the Federal Government’s thinking. He said government is working hard to bring the culture and tourism into the mainstream of the nation’s economy.

His words: “This administration is diversifying the economy away from oil, which, for many years, has been the mainstay of our economy. Among the sectors that have been identified as veritable sources of revenue for the nation are the arts, culture and tourism sectors. This is why we in the Ministry of Information and Culture are working hard to move these sectors from the margins to the mainstream, and ensure that the rural poor in particular, are factored into the sector’s architecture.”

Mohammed said special attention would be paid to the capacity building of culture and tourism managers in a deliberate effort to revive the nation’s creative arts, boost tourism and create employment for Nigerians, particularly, the rural dwellers.

“Working with various local and international partners, including the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the British Council, we are mapping our creative arts, by which we mean pottery, weaving, dyeing, sculpturing, etc., with a view to reviving them massively through capacity building for those involved and the provision of loans. We believe this will not only create hundreds of thousands of jobs, thus keeping our people meaningfully engaged, it will also become money spinners for the economy and stem the rural-urban migration,” he said.

Mohammed identified the non-involvement of local communities in the tourism and culture architecture as one of the banes of the sector and promised to reverse the trend through the training of the locals on specific skills that will enable them to participate actively in the tourism and culture economy.

In addition, he said a multi-sectoral approach was critical in order to address the multifaceted challenges facing the sectors, while giving an assurance that the present administration has mustered the political will to tackle those challenges.

“We are not naive enough to believe that repositioning these critical sectors will be a walk in the park. We do know, for example, that tourism is a multi-sectoral issue that involves easier access to visas, provision of necessary infrastructure like roads, adequate security, etc. This is why we have decided to call a National Summit on Culture and Tourism, which is scheduled for April 27 to 29 in Abuja, with a view to charting the path forward. We are aware that similar efforts have been made in the past, without an appreciable result. The difference this time is our commitment and the different milieu provided by the national imperative to diversify the economy, amidst the crash in the price of oil,” the minister said.

Mohammed therefore, solicited the support and cooperation of the media to achieve the goal of repositioning the tourism and culture sectors into the main pillars of the economy because of its potential to generate wealth and create jobs.

He reiterated the need to resolve all conflicting issues surrounding the turning around of the National Theatre complex, as the culture edifice would be playing strategic roles in the quest to mainstreaming culture and tourism as revenue earners for the country.

Only recently, the minister inaugurated the review committee of the Motion Picture Practitioners council (MOPICON).

The minister said his interest in seeing to the establishment of MOPICON was to solve the problem of disunity in the motion picture industry and also to have a central body the Ministry can relate with on matters of the industry.

He said, ‘’I need the support of the industry to achieve some of the plans I have outlined, which include a revved up battle against piracy, the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts and the need to reverse the lack of policy direction in the movie industry. I cannot count the number of petitions I have received either for non-inclusion in this committee or against the idea of MOPICON since I announced the constitution of the review committee. Some have even suggested that we are about to set up another agency that will muzzle creativity and dictate to them the kind of movies to produce.’’

The members of the committee include, representatives of the National Society of Cinematographers, Editors Guild, Creative Designers Guild, NANTAP, DGN, ANTP, AMP, ITPAN, MOPPAN and ANCOP. Also, the Minister named the representative of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) as Secretary of the committee and he directed the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) to provide Secretariat Services for the Committee. The former Secretary, Mr. Tony Anih, is to serve as deputy secretary, while Mr. Mahmood Ali-Balogun will serve as deputy coordinator of the committee. The coordinator is Peace Anyiam-Osigwe.

Watchers of event in the ministry have, however, called on the minister to match words with action, because the creative economy has never had it so bad. They say previous administrations have given promissory notes that never translated to the development of the creative industry.

Only on March 21, 2011, the former President, Goodluck Jonathan, gathered stakeholders in the creative industry in Lagos for the first time. Held at the new Expo Hall, Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.

At the event, Jonathan promised to refocus the sector. He also promised not to make the same mistake as other administrations by overlooking the economic potentials of the creative industry, proclaiming his commitment to opening up the Nigerian creative sector for excellence, as well as bringing the desired synergy between the sectors: literary, performing and plastic arts, making them readily available instrument for the transformation agenda of his administration.

Years after, Jonathan succeeded in keeping to his promise, only in part, as one his new creation, Bring Back The Book, lasted just for a year, if not less. The book campaign was just ephemeral. However, a section of the creative sector has enjoyed, but not as an industry.

In mapping the creative arts, it behooves on the minister to ensure that government takes very seriously, the summation of various presentations of the creative community at its meting with Jonathan. The demands are not different now:

• fast tracking the realisation of the National Endowment Funds for the Arts; and facilitating introduction of tax rebates as incentives for sponsors of the arts,

• ensuring the formal launch and operation of the Nigeria Cultural Policy,

• giving prime place to the cultural sector in budgeting process since it has capacity to create massive job opportunities,

• establishing infrastructural and relevant facilities to back up the mobility and diversity of the creative industry,

• ensuring a proactive enforcement of the copyright law so as to make the industry lucrative,

• giving artists deserved visibility in matters concerning their trades in government appointment,

• creating Book Commission to take charge and engaging of all in state matters dealing with issues of Book, Reading and Writing; and

• engaging the country’s vast human resources in literature, movies, theatre, television programme, visual arts, etc., as tool for building Nigeria’s image abroad,

• setting up the machinery for effective monitoring of all cultural agencies to ensure that they are well managed and performing to the best interest of the artistes and creative industry practitioners.