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CIFI, National Arts Theatre and the industry

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By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor

Nigeria’s creative industry accounts for 2.3 percent, approximately N239 billion of the nation’s GDP in 2016. Experts agree that the sector can be the Midas touch of Nigeria’s economy, especially in the areas of music and movie productions which have already experienced huge successes globally, even without any financial aid from the government.

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Before the idea of Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, the creative industry has been projected to contribute a whopping $1 billion (about N350 billion) to the country’s GDP by 2020. Now, with the CIFI, it is possible to surpass that projection.

Similar interventions

The CBN, in line with its developmental function, established the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP). The Programme which was launched by Mr. Muhammadu Buhari on November 17, 2015 is intended to create a linkage between anchor companies involved in the processing and small holder farmers (SHFs) of the required key agricultural commodities.

The programme thrust of the ABP is provision of farm inputs in kind and cash (for farm labour) to small holder farmers to boost production of these commodities, stabilize inputs supply to agro processors and address the country’s negative balance of payments on food. At harvest, the SHF supplies his/her produce to the Agro-processor (Anchor) who pays the cash equivalent to the farmer’s account.

The Programme evolved from the consultations with stakeholders comprising Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development, State Governors, millers of agricultural produce, and smallholder farmers to boost agricultural production and non-oil exports in the face of unpredictable crude oil prices and its resultant effect on the revenue profile of Nigeria.

The ABP whose beneficiaries are private people and firms must have been informed by the realization, through experiences, that government has never been good in business.

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Recently, there were reports in the media of neglected or completely abandoned government farm settlements being taken over by land grabbers. According to the report, multi-million naira agricultural equipment were sold as scrap and tractors looted. In Benue state, there were instances where the government had planted soya beans and then abandoned the farm for villagers to harvest the crops.

Policy somersaults and lack of continuity were partly blamed for the different state governments’ failure in the agriculture business. Perhaps as a result of those serial failures, the government decided to lend the money to individual and private famers this time around.

For full benefits to the country, the CBN interventions should not be limited to the Agriculture and Creative industries. It should, as a matter of urgency, be extended to the many technical innovations and crafts (like in the Nnewi motor spare parts fabrication and the Ariaria footwear and tailoring hubs in the South East) in which our youths have shown startling ingenuity.

Unlike the agricultural sector, the creative industry has never experienced any form of serious intervention by government. Now that it has, one can only hope that the same policy flip-flop that caused government agric businesses to fail will not affect the Creative Industry Financing Initiative, especially when a Pharaoh who does not know Joseph ascends the throne.

Management of the revived National Arts Theatre

The mission and vision of the CBN, Bankers Committee, and the Lagos State Government for the National Arts Theatre are quite laudable – to recreate it in the likeness of Holywood of United State of America and make it a creative hub by injecting between 20-25 billion naira into the project.

The big question is: who is going to manage the revived and recreated National Arts Theatre? It would be a great mistake to return the recreated edifice to the old management board which ran it aground in the first place.

Already, the governing board of the National Theatre and National Troupe of Nigeria are spoiling for war with the news of the takeover of the falling national monument. In a press release last week, the Secretary, Governing Board of the two bodies, Agbo Ita, claimed that the unscheduled visit of the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat in company of the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele to the National Theatre has nothing to do with any handover agreement of the space to Lagos State government.

If that is a warm-up or lobby to retain management of the edifice which failed under it, this is not the time to re-enforce failure. For the objectives of the CBN and Bankers Committee in pumping huge amount of money into the National Arts Theatre to be realized, the place must have to be concessioned out to private managers. Otherwise, the fate which befell the government agricultural businesses across the states and other businesses civil servants and government agencies have managed in the past will befall the recreated and funded new National Arts Theatre.

The warning has been sounded in a Vanguard Newspaper editorial published on Thursday October 31 with the title, “Protecting the CIFI from scammers”. And yet, we need to repeat the warning here:

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“Now that the CIFI money is available, all manners of people who have little or nothing to do with the creative industry would be scheming and jostling to have their fingers in the cookie jar.

“We advise that the Central Bank of Nigeria, as facilitator and regulator of this laudable initiative, put measures in place to ensure that only those who are in the listed professions and have the capacities and pedigrees to succeed get these loans. Otherwise it will go down history as another beautiful Nigerian idea scuttled by officials-aided scams.”

Vanguard

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