Bill to establish Endowment Fund for the Arts underway

Saraki-CopyThe much-awaited Endowment Fund for the Art and Literature may soon become reality as the Bill for the establishment of the fund scaled first reading in the Senate last week. The Bill, which was sponsored by Senator Shehu Sani from Kaduna State, seeks the possibility of establishing an agency that would be saddled with the responsibility of sourcing funds arts and literature.

Titled National Endowment for Arts, Literature Bill  (2015), Sani, in the lead debate, stated that giving financial support to the creative industry would be like giving life to an aspect of national development that was neglected over time.

He said, “The idea of the Bill is to see to the possibility of establishing a government agency that will support arts and literature financially. It is very clear that this a very good aspect of our national development that has for long been neglected or consigned to the dustbin”.

With the funds he said artists, authors, poets and playwrights will have the opportunity of boosting their talents and careers. Sani regretted that ever since the first generation of Nigerian artists – novelists, poets and playwrights – the country has not done much towards promotion of creativity.

He remarked, “The idea is to avail artists, authors, poets and playwrights the opportunity to be funded so that their talents could see the light of day. Since the first generation of artists, novelists and poets such as Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, we have not been able to support the new generation of artists and literary personalities. So, young people have shown interest in writing and on issues of art but there is virtually no support. This is more like a programme that will help them publish their materials and also help their materials to be used for national development.

“The endowment also makes provisions for dissertations and thesis in the tertiary institutions to see them published. If you go to most of our academic institutions, you will see thesis and dissertations lying on the shelves; they are never used. So, I believe that this kind of endowment will help bring to life those academic materials”.

While speaking on the lingering National Policy on Culture, Sani said it was a reflection of successive governments’ apathy towards the arts, noting, “If you have a serious government, issues of national policy on culture would be taken very seriously. Those multi-national firms and even national agencies have corporate social responsibility but it is not enough. We must begin to appreciate that as a nation; we need to develop the area of education and culture.

“This time we are not requesting them to do; we are making a Bill that will insist that they do and by insisting, it means that it is a law which you must not break and if you do, there is certainly going to be consequences for it. When you have a Bill and you do not have a serious legislature or government that will pursue it to the end and see it to life, such things will die. This time around, I have put forth the Bill for the first reading and I will pursue it to the end.

“What we are trying to do is within the structure of the endowment. It is the fund that will include representations from the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), radios and television workers, art writers, councils for arts and culture. Also, the product that will come out of it will be to the benefit of all academic institutions – both secondary and post-secondary schools”.

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