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‘Why we rejected goverment’s creative industry committee on Covid-19’

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With more than 3.9 million people testing positive for the coronavirus worldwide, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and over 273,000 deaths, the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a substantial impact on the arts and cultural heritage sectors.

The Guardian’s checks revealed that by late March, most cultural institutions had been indefinitely closed, and events postponed or cancelled, either voluntarily or by government mandate. These included libraries, archives, museums, film and television productions, theatre and orchestra performances, concert tours, zoos, as well as music, arts festivals and exhibitions.

Recognising that the pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on jobs and that many individuals will temporarily or permanently lose contracts or employment, governments world over are introducing measures to support workers and businesses affected by the COVID-19 that apply to all sectors of the economy, including those who work in the culture sector. Governments across the world understand that financial stimulus from them and charities for artists would provide the fillip for the sector’s growth.

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Taking a cue is the Federal Government of Nigeria. It recently approved the appointment of comedian Ali Baba, Segun Arinze and others into a committee of creative industry stakeholders to advise it on the best way to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on the industry.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced this at a meeting with the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, BON, on Wednesday, May 8, in Abuja.

Alhaji Mohammed noted that the creative industry is a very critical sector of the nation’s economy and a major plank of the economic diversification policy of the Buhari administration, as it creates the highest number of jobs after agriculture.

He also stressed the need for a collective and government-supported approach in dealing with the immediate, short and long term palliatives and initiatives for the industry, in order to mitigate the effect of the pandemic on the industry.

“We have, therefore, decided that instead of addressing this problem piecemeal, we should do so holistically for a more positive outcome,” he said, noting that the creative industry is a very critical sector of the nation’s economy.

The terms of reference of the committee include assessing the expected impact of the pandemic on the industry in general and advising the government on how to mitigate job and revenue losses in the sector, as well as to create succour for the industry small businesses.

According to the minister, the committee is also to suggest the type of taxation and financing that is best for the industry at this time to encourage growth and also advise the government on any other measure or measures that can be undertaken to support the industry.

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The committee, which is led by Atunyota Alleluya Akpobome, professionally known as Ali Baba, has Anita Eboigbe of the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, as Secretary. Other members of the Committee are Bolanle Austen Peters, Charles Novia, Segun Arinze, Ali Jita, Baba Agba, Kene Okwuosa, Efe Omoregbe, Prince Daniel Aboki, Chioma Ude, Olumade Adesemowo, Dare Art Alade and Hajia Sa’a Ibrahim.

The committee will also include representatives of the fashion, publishing, photography, hospitality and travel sectors. Less than two days after, a coalition of Nollywood groups kicked against their non-inclusion in FG’s COVID-19 committee on creative industry

In a statement jointly signed on Thursday, the coalition — made of about 18 guilds and associations — said it was unfortunate that the government would take such action without considering the leadership structure of the industry.

The statement was jointly signed by: Ralph Nwadike, Association of Movie Producers (AMP); Emeka Rollas, Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN); Fred Amata, Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN); Yinka Ogun, Screen Writers Guild of Nigeria (SWGN); Daisy Madu-Chikwendu, Association of Nollywood Core Producers
(ANCOP); Ahmad Sarari, Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN); Sele O. Sele, Creative Designers Guild Of Nigeria (CDGN); Emeka Aduah, Film and Video Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (FVPMAN); Yinka Oduniyi, Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN), Izu Osuigwe, Media Contents Distributors Association, Nigeria [MCDAN], CEMP Peddie Okhao; Theater Arts and Motion Pictures Producers Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN); Israel Eboh of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) and others.

According to Eboh, ”this is a proof of government’s insensitivity to the creative industry. Why would government refuse to get the stakeholders involved in such an issue policy formulation?”

He said, “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.”

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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.”

The coalition also urged the minister to reconstitute the committee to reflect the industry’s leadership representatives and not only “hand-picking a few practitioners no matter how prominent they may be.”

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