Saturday 28 January 2012


Four years on, NGA Bill gathers dust on legislators’ shelf 
By Tajudeen Sowole

The National Gallery of Art (NGA) Bill, which could not move beyond the first public hearing during the sixth National Assembly, is yet to be represented for consideration by the current legislative house. However, it appears that the proposed legislation may be on a tortuous journey to become an Act.

  SPONSORED by the former Federal Director of Culture who was then a member of the House of Representatives, Hon Tunde Akogun, the bill reportedly got to the lower chamber of the National Assembly in 2008. It had its first reading/public hearing on November 16, 2010 and it got stuck as there was no consensus on certain provisions of the draft document between the government officials as represented by the leadership of the NGA and visual arts practitioners.

  But the public hearing yielded certain fruits as the then Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Culture and Tourism, Hon. KGB Oguakwa facilitated the setting up of a committee that was saddled with the responsibility of harmonizing the divergent views that came up during the hearing. For three weeks, the committee had fruitful deliberations and a harmonized document emerged which was presented to the House Committee on Culture on December 21, 2010. Since then, nothing has been heard of the document.

  The Chairman House Committee on Culture and Tourism, Hon Ben Nwankwo disclosed recently that, “ the bill is not yet presented in the 7th Assembly.”

  But the prayer of the leadership of the NGA when the bill returns to the House for deliberation is for it to come as an executive bill.

  Director-General of NGA, Abdullahi Muku alluded to this few days ago saying, “I am already talking to the Chairmen of the House and Senate Committees,” as well as “discussing with the Hon Minister to present it as an Executive Bill.”

  Given the lack of strong will at which government treat culture-related issues, the warning of the former Chairman of the House Committee on Culture, Hon Kanayo G. B. Oguakwa may come to pass, after all. When stakeholders had an inconclusive section, amid heated debate, at the public hearing in 2010, Oguakwa urged stakeholders to harmonise their differences to avoid a carry-over to the Seventh National Assembly. Sadly, that warning was not adhere to, hence the failure to get the Bill passed into laws.

  Muku noted, “the good intention of NGA with regards to the bill is being misunderstood, but we shall not be discouraged at all.”

  It would be recalled that when the hearing held inside the 028 Conference Hall, House of Representatives (New Building), on November 16, 2010, representatives of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation and Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) made separate presentations. The deliberation on the proposed bill – which ran into sections – showed that the two sides were sharply divided on some vital issues.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke

  Such areas of differences debated were functions and powers of NGA, the right of artists to regulate art practice, membership of the board of NGA, embellishment of public building and contents of NGA’s collections.
 The most contentious area was the headship of NGA. The proposed bill, according to sources, had recommended that the D-G of NGA “must be an artist.” However, from the government’s argument, the sub-section of the document on the Staff of the Gallery now recommends that: “The Director General shall be a person with not less than fifteen (15) years experience in professional art practice or culture administration.”

  With this recommendation, the then Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Abubakar Sadiq Muhammed, while presenting government’s position, argued, “we have our harmonisation of the issues and we hope that it is in the interest of all stakeholders.”
  Another contentious point was the request by artists to make regulation of visual arts the business of professional body and not government. The Joint House Committees of Justice and Culture said such request could be granted only if the professional artists’ body is chartered. 

  However, one of the aspects of the Bill, which may boost revenue for artist is the section on art in public buildings. It recommends thus:

“Every Public building and structure of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be embellished with contemporary visual works of art. Such work of art shall depict the purpose for which the building or structure was built or reasonably relevant thereof. What is relevant in this context shall be determined by the Embellishment Committee established under this Act.”

  Funding such embellishment is also made easy as it’s recommended “Every contractor engaged to build public building or structure shall pay 5 per cent of the gross contract sum to the embellishment Fund established under this Act.”

  The proposed document states further, “Any public building or structure on commencement not complying with the foregoing sections commits an offence which on conviction shall attract one year imprisonment or a fine of 10 per cent of the gross contract sum or both. (g) Non-compliance shall not be complete unless there is: (i) Evidence of embellishment from the National Gallery of Art Act, endorsed by the Chairman of the Embellishment Committee.”

  Basically, the proposed laws aim to “repeal and re-enact the NGA Act, Cap. N41 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and other related matters,”

  In 1993, the NGA was created by Decree No 86, which was later amended in 2004.

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