Minister unveils four-year agenda for Culture & Tourism Sector

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TEXT OF THE SPEECH BY THE HON. MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE,ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, DURING MEETING WITH TRAVEL JOURNALISTS/ARTS AND CULTURE WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA IN LAGOS ON SUNDAY, 6 OCT 2019

Good afternoon gentlemen. I am delighted to be here, and to meet with you again. I have called this meeting to enable us rub minds on how to move the Tourism and Culture Sector forward. You, as critical stakeholders, are critical to any progress we may hope to achieve in this sector. I therefore look forward to working more closely with you in this second tenure.

2. Before I go further, let me first thank you for your strong support for us during our first term. I remember, with pride, your impressive coverage of the 61st United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Commission for Africa (CAF) Meeting in June 2018; and your largely positive reporting on the Sector. The successful hosting of that Meeting could not have been possible without you. Of course, you also gave good coverage to our activities on your various platforms all through our first term. Thank you all.

3. Today, I want to review what we did in the sector in the past four years and also set an agenda for the next four years. Looking back these past four years, there is a misconception in certain circles that we paid more attention to the Information sector than we did to Culture and Tourism. This may appear so because the issues we usually deal with in the Information sector are those that receive the bigger play in the media. But I can tell you, with evidence, that we achieved a lot in the Tourism and Culture Sector, or in the Creative Industry generally.

4. Within six months of assuming office (in November 2015), we decided to invite all stakeholders to a meeting, tagged the National Summit on Culture and Tourism, in April 2016 in Abuja, with a view to charting a new path for the nation’s Creative Industry. At the end of the summit, we set up an Implementation Committee to carry out the recommendations of the summit. The review of our Tourism Masterplan; resuscitation of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) and the setting up a Task Force on the Creative Industry are some of the outcomes of the summit.

5. We followed up that summit by organizing two other meetings to fast-track the main objective of transforming the Creative Industry which I have regularly described as Nigeria’s ‘new oil’. First, we convened a Roundtable in Lagos that provided stakeholders the platform to engage in business-focused discussions, with a view to initiating and enabling private-sector-led growth and development of the Industry. Then we held the Creative Industry Financing Conference to articulate ways to source funding for the Creative Industry.

Gentlemen, both meetings paid off handsomely. After I led a team of stakeholders to the Inspector-General of Police, the force set up anti-piracy units in all its 36 formations and the FCT, leading to many joint raids and seizure of pirated works, with the National Film and Video Censors Board, We haven’t eradicated piracy, but we have shown the political will to tackle the menace. Another fallout of the meetings is the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI) of the Central Bank of Nigeria to improve access to long-term, low-cost financing for entrepreneurs and investors in the Creative Industry and the Information Technology Sectors. Under this Initiative, you can get a loan ranging from 3 million Naira to 500 million Naira for movie production, movie distribution, fashion, music, etc. Remember, gentlemen, that this happened after I also led a team of stakeholders to meet with the CBN, upon the recommendation of the Creative Industry Financing Conference. Same applies to the granting of the Pioneer Status, by the Federal Government, to the Creative Industry Sector to boost investment in the sector. It was one of the recommendations from the Creative Industry Financing Conference.

6. We also decided to engage in partnerships to fast-track the growth of the industry by signing MoUs with the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the British Council. Under the latter, we trained over 100 Festival Managers in Lagos, Abuja and Accra. The next phase in the implementation of the MoU is the mapping of the Creative Industry. Of course you are aware that when we came on board, Nigeria was just a member of the UNWTO in name. We decided to re-engage fully with the organization, and our efforts paid off richly. First, we were awarded the hosting right of the 61st UNWTO CAF Meeting, which I talked about earlier, and Nigeria was elected as Vice President, Africa, at the 22nd General Assembly of the organization in China.

7. As part of efforts to attract attention and infrastructural development to tourist sites, we visited a number of such sites across the country, just as we also attended many festivals. First, we showcased the Eko Atlantic City during the 2016 World Tourism Day and the 2018 hosting of the 61st UNWTO CAF Meeting. Then we visited tourists sites that include Owu Water Falls in Kwara; Rock Painting in Birnin Kudu, Jigawa State; Durbar in Dutse, Jigawa; Calabar Carnival in Cross River State; Puus Kaat Festival in Mangu, Plateau and Ijakadi Festival in Kwara State. In the same vein, we made sure to attend the premieres of many movies across the country in a show of support for the efforts of our brilliant and hardworking producers. The premieres we attended included Genevive Nnaji’s ‘Road To Yesterday’, Mo Abudu’s ‘Wedding Party’, Bolanle Austen-Peters’ ‘The Bling Lagosians’, ‘Hakunde’ by Nadine Ibrahim as well as ‘Oloibiri’. We travelled to London to support ‘Waka’ the musical, just as we supported ‘Saro’ the musical as well as ‘Fela and Kalakuta Queens’, all from the stable of Bolanle Austen-Pters.

8. Similarly, we gave strong government support for the hosting of the Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) in Lagos, Nigeria, for four consecutive years. The Ministry also packaged Nigeria’s first-ever attendance of Edinburgh’s Military Tattoo last August. Troupes from FCT, Osun, Kano and Katsina States joined representatives of the military at the month-long event, where Nigeria dazzled the world.

9. Gentlemen, I have gone to this length to let the world know that we did not neglect the Culture and Tourism Sector, as some have insinuated. Rather, we engaged in a lot of activities to showcase the sector and set it up as the nation’s new oil. As we begin a new tenure, we promised to do even more for the sector, working with all stakeholders. This sector, if well harnessed, is capable of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for our ever-creative and energetic youths.

10. In this regard, please permit me to reel out, for the very first time since assuming office last August, the highlights of our agenda for the Culture and Tourism Sector for the next four years, in order to build on the gains of the past four years. What you are about to hear is by no means exhaustive, hence we are open to ideas on areas we may have inadvertently left out.

We plan to:
a) – To set the necessary legal framework for the sector, we will conclude and launch the National Policy on Culture as well as the National Policy on Tourism.
b) – Finalize work on the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) Bill and submit it to the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The plan is to create a proper regulatory environment for the sub-sector that has put Nigeria’s name on the global map, thus attracting the much-needed investment to the sector.
c) – Establish the Endowment Fund for The Arts to create a legal framework for the financing of the sector.
d) – Make the National Summit for Culture and Tourism – which we first held in April 2016 – a yearly affair, starting from the first quarter of 2020
e) – Ensure a regularly meeting of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) to catalyze the growth of tourism. We plan at least three
meetings a year.
f) – Kick-start the implementation of the parts of the Tourism Masterplan that constitute low-hanging fruits.
g) – Complete work on the establishment of Tourism Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), working with the UNWTO. We have already signed an agreement with the UNWTO in this regard.
h) – Institute a unified National Celebration of the World Tourism Day, instead of the current situation in which we have multiple celebrations
i) – Hold a National Council on Culture and Tourism in May next year, and then hold it yearly thereafter.
j) – Organize a Regional Summit on Culture and Tourism, starting next year, with a view to working with other countries in the West Africa sub-region to foster the development of the sector.
k) – Continue with our visits to tourist sites and attend as many festivals as possible across the country.
l) – Finalize work on and launch our National Festival Calendar this year. This is to attract more tourists, domestic and foreign, to these events.
m) – Get more sites in Nigeria inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites
n) – Explore private sector branding of the nation’s Cultural Centres abroad

11. Everything we have listed here and many more are achievable, with the support of stakeholders like you. That is why we have decided to announce the agenda in front of you! We seek your continued cooperation as we set forth on this journey, because we can’t do it without you.

12. Once again, gentlemen, thank you for honouring our invitation. And have a good afternoon.