Rationalization: NGA, three others may remain
By Tajudeen Sowole
If prospects to the growth of the economy, special attention given to similar organisations around the world as well as prevention of overlapping functions would influence the outcome of the ongoing rationalization of parastatals, the National Gallery of Art (NGA) and three other government agencies are likely to retain their current status.
SOURCES disclosed that there are indications that the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalization of Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies has received more memoranda, which favour non-overlapping functions for the coming parastatals of the culture sub-division of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.
About a month ago, the committee closed submission of memoranda from members of the public. In its “invitation for Memoranda,” published in a national daily, the committee urged “the general public, groups, professional bodies and individuals” to, among other terms of reference, “examine critically the mandates of the existing Federal Agencies, Parastatals and Commissions and determine areas of overlap or duplication of functions and make appropriate recommendations to either restructure, merge or scrap to eliminate such overlaps, duplication or redundancies.”
Although some of the basic functions and focus of some of these nine agencies, over time, have been overlapping or encroaching into others, the distinct activities of NGA, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and National Theatre, have been retained.
Perhaps the presidency’s lack of proper monitoring of the culture sector towards the Vision 20:2020 projection appears to have resulted into these overlapping and duplication of functions.
Currently, culture parastatals under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation are seven: NGA, NCMM, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), National Troupe of Nigeria and National Theatre Management Board.
The National Institute of Hospitality, Tourism and Recreational Services (NIHOTOURS) and NTDC as well as the National Orientation Agency are that of the tourism and orientation sub-divisions of the ministry.
One of these sources close to the former Head of Service, Steve Orosanye-led committee disclosed that the parastatals under are likely to be reduced to four and their functions redefined as well as recommend strict adherence to avert duplication or overlapping of activities. He however stated that names of some of these parastatals would change based on redefinitions of functions.
He noted, for example, that the outcome of the committee would prevent duplication of NGA’s basic functions by another parastatal, the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC).
Also a former administrator in the culture sector, who claimed to have submitted memorandum to the committee, but spoke on condition of anonymity advised that the functions of the NCAC, currently, should be strengthened as it is done elsewhere. A council for the arts, he argued, should not venture into areas of other parastatlas such as promoting or organizing art and culture events. He stressed that NCAC should be saddled with the responsibility of sourcing funds for artists and aiding their performance “not producing works or organizing art and culture content events.”
This argument is not new; observers of the culture sector, in the past, have stressed the need for an art and culture council that its functions do not overlap with others. For example, the Arts Council England set up in 1994 from a former body – Arts Council of Great Britain created in 1945 – distributes grants to visual, performing and literary artists for projects of English contents. The body is largely funded from the country’s national lottery and partly from corporate inputs.
For the supposedly Nigerian equivalent, NCAC, its functions, as it stands currently, encroach into another parastatal’s. One of such activities duplicated by the NCAC, it has been observed, is the annual African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC), which is basically what the NGA does organising International ArtExpo Nigeria and African Regional Summit on Visual Arts and Exhibition, annually. This clearly showed that NGA and NCAC have been doing basically the same thing.
One of Nigeria’s leading theatre artists and culture scholar, Ebun Clark in an interview she granted The Guardian recently also faulted the activities of the NCAC. She stated that “people now doing all sorts of arts matters – theatre, music, literature, name it – should benefit from grant-giving arts councils, and not arts councils competing with practitioners.”
Although the NGA was carved out of NCAC in 1993, its distinct and well-defined focus was projected, long before its creation. This was contain in a 1988 document tagged Cultural Policy for Nigeria. It recommended that “the State shall establish a National Gallery of Art whose objective shall be: serve as a repository for artistic creation since the birth of the country as a nation; to promote creative genius in Nigerian artists and to promote research, art education and appreciation.” And when the Ahmed Joda report of 1999 recommended the NGA as one of the parastatals to be strengthened, it must have built on an earlier report by the Vision 2010 Committee of 1997. Under the label, Core Values, the Vision 2010 Committee advised: “Streamline and strengthen the four organs of cultural administration: NCMM, NGA, Arts Council of Nigeria and National Theatre.”
For NGA, however, its prospect as a separate parastatal had, in the last few years been showing in several developments. One of these is the proposed NGA Bill, currently before the National Assembly. The bill is meant to repeal and re-enact National Gallery of Art Act, Cap. N41 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and other related matters.” Last year, a public hearing on the bill was held inside the 028 Conference Hall, House of Representatives (New Building). Some of the crucial contents of the bill include establishment of Endowment Fund, Embellishment of Public Buildings and Structures with visual works of art and Payment of 5 % Royalty to original artist for every visual work sold by a third party.
Another prominent name in culture sector who said he also submitted a memorandum noted that already the NGA needs to be expanded, and not merge. “National gallery of developed, even lesser endowed countries, are segmented into different areas. For example in the U.S, there are portrait gallery, photography gallery; in the U.K, there is Tate Gallery and Tate Modern under the national gallery.”
And for the NGA here, which is yet to have an edifice since its establishment in 1993, getting a befitting gallery, perhaps, is the most pronounced challenge of the parastatal. Therefore, bringing its functions under another parastatal, observers argued, could derail this ultimate aim of setting up the national gallery.