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Post-COVID-19 committee inaugurated to assess impact of pandemic on creative industry

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor (Lagos) and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja)
20 May 2020   |   4:19 am
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has performed the virtual inauguration of the Post-Covid-19 Initiatives Committee for the Creative Industry...

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while inaugurating the Post-Covid-19 Initiatives Committee for the Creative Industry virtually from his office in Abuja… yesterday.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has performed the virtual inauguration of the Post-Covid-19 Initiatives Committee for the Creative Industry, with a call to all members of the industry to support the committee in the interest of the sector.

“The committee’s membership, as announced two weeks ago, has now been expanded to include as many sectors as possible. This is to ensure a fair representation,’’ the minister said while inaugurating the committee in his office in Abuja yesterday.

Less than two days after the announcement of the committee, a coalition of groups in the sector kicked against their non-inclusion. In a statement jointly signed by the coalition, which comprised 18 guilds and associations, they noted that it was unfortunate that the government would take such action without considering the leadership structure of the industry.

President of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), Israel Eboh, told The Guardian, “we decided to come out with the statement because of the non recognition of our sector.

“If guilds like the Nigerian Bar Association, Nigerian Medical Association among others are engaged as strategic stakeholders by the government through their recognised association’s leadership then the creative industry deserves the same.”

He noted, “it is an incontrovertible fact that, the Nigerian creative industry with over 20 guilds, employs about 2.5 million Nigerian youths; and is recognised globally as the fastest growing creative industry.”

Reechoing the statement of the coalition, Eboh said, “these 2.5 million Nigerians belong to associations and organisations generally referred to as guilds, whom they have willingly through legitimate elections handed over the incumbency of their mandates; saying in essence speak and act on our behalf on matters affecting our interests, welfare and wellbeing!”

He asked, “under which mandate are these people speaking? How can they speak for the sector? Why do we have leadership? As leaders, we are more in touch with our members. Who can be more stakeholders than the associations and guilds?”

He added, “it is indeed compelling that any discussion concerning the welfare of the industry should as a matter of equity and transparency involve the participation of those guild heads.”

According to the minister, ‘’while the committee cannot accommodate all members of the industry, it is certain that all members will benefit from its work. I therefore want to implore the entire industry to support this committee. This is no time for division. All hands must be on deck so the industry can rebound.”

Alhaji Mohammed described the industry as a very critical sector of the nation’s economy and a major plank of the economic diversification policy of the Buhari administration.

He said that in view of the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the creative industry, it has become imperative to have a collective and government-supported approach in dealing with the immediate, short and long term economic stimulus and initiatives for the industry, in order to mitigate the effect of the pandemic on the sector.

“Two weeks ago, I announced the establishment of this committee. In doing so, I said the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted negatively on the nation, and that the Creative Industry has been particularly hard hit, considering the fact that it is an industry that has people-interaction at its core. I also said that instead of addressing these problems piecemeal, we should do so holistically for a more positive outcome,” the minister said.

While commending members of the committee for their sacrifice and love of country, he urged them to do justice to the assignment, which will culminate in suitable recommendations that will help the industry to thrive and expand.

In his response, the committee chairman, Atunyota Alleluya Akpobome, professionally known as Ali Baba, expressed the appreciation of members, saying that the creative industry has been given a pride of place under this administration because of its huge contribution to the diversification of the nation’s economy.

He assured that members of the committee would work in unison to represent the entire creative industry and not just their respective sectors.

The committee’s Terms of Reference are: Assess the expected impact of the pandemic on the industry in general; advise the government on how to mitigate job and revenue losses in the sector as well as to create succour for the industry small businesses; suggest the type of taxation and financing that is best for the industry at this time to encourage growth and advise the government on any other measure or measures that can be undertaken to support the industry.

Amid the shelter-at-home orders and social distancing, the sector has obviously suffered significantly. At the outset, arts and culture sector organisations attempted to uphold their (often publicly funded) mission to provide access to cultural heritage to the community; maintain the safety of their employees, collections, and the public; while reacting to the unexpected change in their business model with an unknown end.

However, by March 2020, across the world, most cultural institutions had been indefinitely closed (or at least with their services radically curtailed). This include, libraries, archives, museums, film and television productions, theatre and orchestra performances, concert tours, zoos, as well as music- and arts festivals. Also art exhibitions, events and performances were cancelled or postponed.