Minister unfolds government’s agenda for culture, tourism

CYNICS who think that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration will not focus on culture and tourism in his second tenure have been told to perish the thought.

“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,” explained Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, last Sunday at a news briefing in Lagos.

First on the list of 14 initiatives the Minister unfolded was the conclusion and launch of the National Policy on Culture as well as the National Policy on Tourism “to set the necessary legal framework for the sector”

He also said that the government would finalise work on the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) Bill and submit it to the Federal Executive Council to create a proper regulatory environment for the film industry, otherwise known as Nollywood.

Government, according to Mohammed, would also “establish the Endowment Fund for the Arts to create a legal framework for the financing of the sector” and make the National Summit for Culture and Tourism first held on April 2016, an annual affair, starting from the first quarter of 2020.

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Others are, “ensure a regular meeting of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) to catalyze the growth of tourism; kick-start the implementation of the parts of the Tourism Masterplan that constitute low-hanging fruits, and complete work on the establishment of Tourism Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), working with the UNWTO.”

The Minister added that the government would, “institute a unified National Celebration of the World Tourism Day; hold a National Council on Culture and Tourism in May next year, and then hold it yearly thereafter.”

Mohammed also said his ministry would, “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; continue with our visits to tourist sites and attend as many festivals as possible across the country.”

Other activities the Minister highlighted are completion and launch of the country’s National Festival Calendar this year, getting more Nigerian sites inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and exploration of private sector branding of the nation’s Cultural Centres abroad.

Earlier before sharing the government’s agenda for the next four years, the Minister clarified that he didn’t focus on information to the detriment of culture and tourism.

He said, “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 the creative industry generally.”

He then proceeded to highlight the achievements to include: The National Summit on Culture and Tourism held on April 2016 in Abuja to chart “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.”

Convening of “a roundtable in Lagos that provided stakeholders with the platform to engage in business-focused discussions, to initiate and enable private-sector-led growth and development of the Industry. The Creative Industry Financing Conference to articulate ways to source funding for the Creative Industry.

“Leading 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.

“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. 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.

“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.”

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