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Stakeholders tasks lawmakers on passage of NGA Act amendment bill

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Abuja
03 January 2021   |   4:10 am
Stakeholders in the creative industry have tasked the National Assembly to give priority attention to the speedy passage of the new bill seeking to amend the National Gallery of Art (NGA) establishment act.

Stakeholders in the creative industry have tasked the National Assembly to give priority attention to the speedy passage of the new bill seeking to amend the National Gallery of Art (NGA) establishment act.

At a forum organised in Abuja recently, aimed at chatting a new course for the NGA, the stakeholders argued that once the bill is amended and signed into law, it would make the NGA a revenue generating agency.

The NGA was established as a parastatal (Federal Government agency) by an enabling Act (Decree No. 86) of August 1993, which was later, amended in 2004.

The decree, which established the organization, gave it responsibility for the collection, preservation and presentation of modern Nigerian visual art.

The proposed laws, which is aimed at repealing and reenacting the NGA Act, seeks to ensure that every public building and structure of the Federal Republic of Nigeria be embellished with contemporary visual work of art.

The bill also included the definition of resale rights for an art piece across primary and secondary markets.

Speaking, Director-General of NGA, Ebeten Ivara, lamented that the agency had not been able tap to its potentials because the very act establishing it made it service oriented and not revenue driven.

According him, amending the act will improve the agency’s contribution to general well being of artists in the country as well as generate revenue for the government.

Ivara while stressing the need for the organisation to have a gallery edifice described the lack of such facility as a huge setback to the growth of Nigerian art and artists.

To him, the poor conditions of some artworks in the stores wouldn’t have arisen if the organisation had its edifice designed to host as many shows as possible.

He said: “Can we really talk of a gallery without a gallery space? But that has been the story of NGA for these past years, which explains why a lot that has been done are not noticed. It is indeed a sad story and one that will continue for the foreseeable future if we do not do something fast to change the narrative.

“We are therefore gathered here today to put our heads together to find ways of changing the story by focusing on its viability. This will equally fit into the vision of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to make Nigeria a Tourist paradise and Culture goldmine.”

Chairman, Governing Board of the NGA, Alhaji Umaru Suleiman, noted that the trio of NGA, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) and National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) had same challenges.

He said the three agencies have not been able to maximise their potentials because of lack of edifice to house their peculiar works so people can appreciate them.

Represented by the Director General of NCMM, Prof. Abba Tijani, he said: “Their functions appear Interrelated at first glance but they are really different. While the NCMM handles traditional arts, the NCAC is in charge of crafts and national festivals and the NGA takes care of visual art. This means if the agencies are refocused, it would lead to revenue generation and make them contribute significantly to the economy. In essence, edifice is what is needed now for each organisation to truly contribute it quota to Nigeria wealth.”

Delivering the keynote address, Professor Emmanuel Wesley of Sculpture, Culture and Tourism Development, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, noted that lack of adequate legislation hinders the creative sector from proper development.

According to him, there had been attempt in 2010 and 2016 to amend the existing NGA act but the move could not see the light of the day due to what some stakeholders described as ‘lack of consultation’.

“There are some arguments that the agency only drain resources without any impact. However, the truth is the virtual art is less recognised in the creative sub-sector. Indeed, this resulted to not having enough of political will to grow the sector,” he said.

Going forward, Wesley recommended the enactment of a law that will expand the revenue base of the NGA.

According to him, to achieve its mandate, the agency should also mobilise for funding from different corporate entities in the country.

On his part, Chairman Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, Senator Rochas Okorocha, affirmed that both chambers of the National Assembly had received copies of the proposed bill and the challenge had been thrown to the the legislative arm to do the needful.

He said: “They have presented the work that was done by our predecessors and urging us to complete the assignment. I am, therefore, promising this gathering that I will tirelessly work with members of my committee on Culture and Tourism alongside the Committee in the House of Representatives to ensure that the Repeal and Reenactment of NGA Establishment Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. We have no doubt that in the future, NGA will become a viable agency of government,” he stated