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‘How BC has strengthened cultural ties between Nigeria, UK’

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
05 April 2020   |   4:18 am
Recently, March 5, to be precise, the British Council (BC) in Nigeria hosted high networth guests to its facility, as it celebrated the final leg of the council’s 75th anniversary.

Panel discussion at the event

Recently, March 5, to be precise, the British Council (BC) in Nigeria hosted high networth guests to its facility, as it celebrated the final leg of the council’s 75th anniversary. The event also witnessed commissioning of a state-of-the-art office complex in Maitama, Abuja.

In his goodwill message, delivered by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, commended the culture mission in Nigeria for strengthening ties between Nigeria and Britain.

Osinbajo recognised the immense contributions of the culture mission to the development of English Language as well as the support of mother tongue based, multi-lingual education.

He said, “Nigeria and the UK have a long history with strong cultural and logistics ties. The United Kingdom remains a popular destination for Nigerians wishing to study abroad.

“As at 2019 there were 16,072 Nigerian students studying in the UK making us the top five suppliers of international students to the United Kingdom. Nigeria values the UK’s expertise not only in education but also in skills and technological innovations.

“It is on record that the UK Government has been a strong ally in the country’s economic reforms. The formation of the British Council positively impacted in strengthening the ties that bind both countries together.”

The vice president noted that 2,935 teachers have been trained through schools and English language programmes since 2018.

According to Prof. Osinbajo, the culture mission strives to create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries of the world, making positive contributions to the UK and host countries through life changing opportunities and building connections.

He also underscored the council’s work of enhancing good governance, curbing corruption and improving conflict management, through its programmes being implemented in communities across the country including those in the fragile and conflict afflicted areas.

In her message, the Country Director, Lucy Pearson, expressed hope that in the next 75 years, “the growing youth population in Nigeria will rise to the true Nigeria spirit of resilience and innovation that we have seen exhibited repeatedly by the participants in our programmes over the years.”

The British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Catriona Laing, represented by Mr Richard Moon, said the new building allows the council to express the very best of British design and to continue it’s amazing work in Nigeria.

Regional Head of the British Council, Mr. Moses Anibaba, whilst acknowledging the strides of the culture institution, noted that the culture institution’s uniqueness in Nigeria “is a result of what Nigerians bring in terms of talent, skill audacity and swagger that is everywhere.”

Anibaba added, “the future is in Africa, the future is in Nigeria and the future is here as well. Especially as we have heard from everybody what the BC has done for them individually and I don’t think that we can tell the stories better than them. We are committed to Nigeria, we are not going anywhere, we are going to be here.”

The anniversary celebration in Abuja was an all day affair, beginning in the morning at the Transcorp Hilton where a panel of past participants in their various programmes expressed the impact that the British Council has had on their lives, careers and businesses.

Mrs Eugenia Abu, award winning broadcaster and prize-winning author, moderated the morning panel. She expertly led the conversations and provided a strong platform for the audience to engage with the panellists.

On the panel were Mr. Christopher Maiyaki, Director of the National Universities Commission, who spoke on the impact of the council’s programmes for teachers, schools and administrators and how that has affected policy formulation.

He stressed that the world needs more culturally educated people and the council provides the unique opportunity to prepare young people for this future.

Mrs. Priscilla Ankut, CEO Kaduna State Peace Commission, spoke on how she started her working career as an NYSC staff, and how the experiences she had; shaped the person she is today. She continues to work with the council in the area of human rights, access to justice, peace building, and conflict resolution and played a big part in establishing the law that has put in place a sex-offenders register in Nigeria for the first time.

Jude Abaga, famous musician and artist popularly known as ‘MI’ was also on the panel and talked about how his big break was as a result of his participation in the council’s programme called, Bring the Noise.

While saying that the mission does a lot to replace competition with collaboration in the creative space, urged the culture institution to continue to provide platforms that allow young people to express their creative talent. He said collaboration should be encouraged to make the world a better place.

Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, President and CEO of Transcorp was a Chevening Scholar and spoke about how the expertise and experience gained from his time in the UK shaped the trajectory of his professional development to become the person he is today.

The council, over the years, has been involved in a lot of activities including, empowering women and girls through arts by supporting the Nigerian creative industries, offering opportunities for women artists to showcase their skills lsuch as, Naija Street Stories in collaboration with Hatch Africa where young filmmakers were challenged to present ideas for a women-centred documentary through workshops, mentoring and training. There is also the Go Women Go, collaboration by British artist Laura Aldridge and Nike Davies Okundaye of the Nike Arts Centre in, which aims to promote ceramics, textiles and sculpture.