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National Theatre: Artistes' coalition battles Culture Minister, to meet with President, National Ass

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THE Coalition of Nigeria Artists rose from their extra-ordinary meeting on August 3, 2009, where they deliberated on the recent developments in the culture sector. In a communique issued at the end of the meeting, certain far-reaching decisions were made regarding the arraignment of the directors-general of the Nigerian Film Corporation, Mr. Afolabi Adesanya and his counterpart at the National Gallery of Art, Mr. Joe Musa.

Those in attendance include the heads and members of Associations and Guilds in the Culture/Information Sectors under the aegis of the Coalition of Nigerian Artist(e)s. they arrived at firm resolutions on the way forward for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Tourism and National Orientation and the Ministry of Information and Communication.

They made the following affirmation: "That the recent happenings that have pervaded the Culture/Information Sectors including various EFCC's arraignments of CEO's and Directors of parastatals in the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism & National Orientation and that of Information & Communication namely Mr. Afolabi Adesanya, Managing Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation and Chief Joe Musa, Director-General of the National Gallery of Art and four Directors are worrisome;

"That while the cases are still in court, all Associations and Heads in the Culture/Information Sectors under the aegis of the Coalition of Nigerian Artist(e)s hereby demand for fair trials to avoid any form of prejudicial treatment or postulations. And that the current observed posturing of certain Board members and Civil Servants to take over administration of the parastatals or agencies, whose heads are under investigation and trial should be HALTED.

"All accused CEO's and Directors are all presumed innocent until proven guilty. We believe and trust in the sanctity of the judiciary and trust that it will deliver a fair and just judgment.

"That the prevailing efforts of the Minister of Tourism, Culture & National Orientation, in concert with the Chairman, Governing Board of the National Theatre/National Troupe of Nigeria towards splitting the National Theatre/National Troupe of Nigeria are unlawful, irresponsible, and will draw the parastatal backwards. We hold that such decisions and actions are hereby rejected with outright condemnation, and that retention of the status quo is in consonance with Decree No. 47 of 1991 which formally established the National Theatre and the National Troupe of Nigeria as one indivisible entity. We also affirm that only Mr. President can appoint or remove the Director-General of the National Theatre/National Troupe of Nigeria. To this end, the purported appointment of Mallam Kabir Yar Adua has no basis in law and will be resisted by all well-meaning culture activists and practitioners.

"That with the recent development, we hereby express our fear that the current onslaught against the headship of the National Gallery of Art and the National Theatre/National Troupe of Nigeria is a pre-conceived strategy towards destroying the relative successes recorded by these parastatals in recent times. We also fear that the next target may be the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization. As major players in both the Sectors and the Industries, we hereby warn all players in this diabolical game of systemic destruction of our cultural legacies and edifice to desist or face the wrath of the members of the Art and Culture Community.

"That henceforth all parastatals in the Ministry of Culture & Tourism as well as Information and National Orientation must make public publication of their account records (expenditures and expenses) for the purposes of probity and accountability.

"That the political head of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation should desist from frivolous demands from the subventions allocated to various parastatals in the Ministry as his actions are capable of crippling activities and infrastructures of the Ministry. The Honourable Minister must stop being insensitive to the goals and aspirations of practitioners in the industry. The good and development of the sector must not be sacrificed on the altar of anybody's aspiration or political ambition.

"That the Chairman, Governing Board of the National Gallery of Art, Mr. Peter Eze who has set up an Administrative Panel on the case of the National Gallery's Management while the case is still in court, should seek legal advice on the propriety of his action. The statute of the Board of the National Gallery of Art does not confer on him as Chairman, the powers to administer the day- to-day running of the National Gallery. We will not tolerate undue interference in the operations of the National Gallery as well as other parastatals in the Culture/Information sectors.

"That the Coalition is henceforth interested in, and prepared to be involved in the appointment of the Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, as well as the Minister of Information and National Orientation. Also appointments into the key posts in the parastatals under the two Ministries are now of utmost interest to the Coalition. Only qualified professionals must head these Ministries henceforth.

"That the Federal Government should know that the idea of appointing non-professionals into key positions in the Culture, Tourism and National Orientation/Information and Communication Ministries is hereby rejected and will be resisted henceforth.

"That in view of the need to set the Culture/Information Ministries on a pedestal of progress and stability, the Coalition hereby demands from the Federal Government that the issue of Arts Charter and National Cultural Policy be addressed for immediate review and implementation".

Those who signed the communque include Mr. Gregory Odutayo,National President, National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, Mr. Teemac Omatshola Iseli, MFR President, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, Mr. Mudiare Onobrakpeya, Secretary, Arts Galleries Association of Nigeria, Mr. Kunle Adeyemi, Deputy President, Society of Nigerian Artists. Others are Mr. Oliver Enwonwu, Chairman, Society of Nigerian Artists, Lagos State Chapter, Stella Awoh, Vice Chairman, Society of Nigerian Artists, Lagos State Chapter, Dagga Tolar, Vice Chairman, Association of Nigerian Authors, Mr. Steve James, National Chairman, Dance Guild of Nigeria, Mr.Bond Emeruwa, President, Directors' Guild of Nigeria, Ms Iyen Agbonifo, Chairman, Creative Designers Guild of Nigeria, Mr. Segun Ajayi, President, Arts Writers Association of Nigeria, Prince Jide Kosoko, National President, Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, Mr. Toyin Akinosho, Secretary, Committee for Relevant Arts, Mr. Jimi Olusola, Sector Participant, Mr. Mufu Onifade, Convener/Secretary.