Thursday, October 21, 2010

Culture Minister says National Museums are under watch

National Museums under constant watch
– Culture Minister Abubakar Mohammed

Amid lingering fears over the dilapidated state of many National Museums across the contrary; the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, has assured all museums are under watch, and therefore would not be allowed to degenerate any further.
Speaking during an exclusive chat with mauricearchibongtravels in his office within the Federal Secretariat complex, Abuja; Alhaji Abubakar added that plans were ongoing to devise ways and means of generating more funds to run museums in the face of dwindling votes from government.
All National Museums are under the purview of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), and fears over museums have heightened following a huge decline in a Presidential Intervention Fund (PIF) for the museums in the 2010 budget. Floated during the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo presidency, the PIF was mandated to rescue Nigeria’s decrepit museums and monuments as well as the National Archive. However, the N500 million originally approved by the then Chief Obasanjo-led government for National Museums was later revised 40 per cent downward by the Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua presidency.
Eventually, the N300 million disbursed for the rehabilitation and renovation of select repositories in 2009 during President Yar’Adua’s era; proved, not surprisingly, grossly inadequate. Given that the N500 million budgeted during Obasanjo’s presidency, though much welcome, was seen by informed observers as a mere drop in an ocean; the impact of the N300 million, expectedly, turned out almost inconsequential.
Sadly, however, barely N100 million has been made available as PIF for 2010; despite the “mere scratch on the surface” value of N300 million against a backdrop of colossal demands that have to be met, if Nigeria’s National Museums are to begin to measure up to the least expected of them.
During the exclusive chat with mauricearchibongtravels recently, Alhaji Abubakar further submitted that despite the drop in the vote for rehabilitation of museums and archives from N500million in 2009 to barely N100million for 2010; efforts were afoot to ensure that museums are well maintained.
As to how such maintenance would be funded, given impecuniosities staring National Museums in the face, Alhaji Mohammed declared: “We want to change the perception or misconception that the federal government should be solely responsible for museums’ funding. The federal government cannot continue to fund museums all alone. It is in line with this, that the Presidential Committee on Rehabilitation, Renovation and Reconstruction of Archives and Museums was set up.
“Now that we have noticed that the vote is dropping, we have to engage other sources; and, the Presidential Committee on Renovation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of the National Archives and National Museums was not created to perpetually collect money from government. One of their tasks was to ‘go and look for money’”.
Government, he added, has many other social amenities to provide urgently. “This Presidential Committee”, he continued, “is also expected to ginger the public to foster awareness, so that through attracting more viewers; the museum would generate more money to stay in business and even support affiliate industries. And, after sittings, where the White Paper submitted by this committee was reviewed; it was discovered that the body as part of strategies to realize its mandate, is expected to explore, discover and tap alternative sources of funding.
“There is need to involve the private sector and Corporate Nigeria and let them know that everyone has a role to play in the maintenance of museums. And, in fact; this is one of our core programmes for this year, and part of the 2010 PIF would be invested in this area”.
The minister further observed that in the face of numerous services contending for limited resources, government had to weigh all options. Faced with a choice between improving electricity supply and rehabilitation of museums, for example; Alhaji Abubakar opined the latter would more likely be relegated to the back seat. Therefore, he reasoned; with dwindling allocations for Archive’s and Museums’ Rehabilitation and Renovation, was clear indication that the time has come to look to other sources for money.
Consolingly, the minister in his concluding remarks, intoned that the government would continue to make sacrifices even by funding museums in order to make such institutions alluring enough to attract more and more viewers, thus consequently generating decent enough income to sustain themselves and even assist in the funding of other projects or programmes.

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