It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 46th edition of this all important Meeting of the Chief Executives of Culture of the Federation (CEC), comprising 36 States Arts Councils and the FCT, Federal Cultural Parastatals and other relevant stakeholders. Being a strategic organ in administration of Culture in Nigeria, this Meeting shall as usual, be deliberating on issues of common concern to our Arts and Culture Industry with a view to taking far reaching decisions, which would significantly reposition the sector for better performance under the present economic dispensation.

Permit me therefore to also use this medium to express my appreciation to all our stakeholders, who since my assumption of office have expressed satisfaction on my professional competence to deliver on the mandate of the Council. I humbly accept the responsibility along with my management to deploy our expertise to provide direction to this distinguished body, CEC, make maximum use of its latent capacities and deliver great gains to the people of Nigeria, especially in arousing their consciousness as to the need to preserve, protect and promote our cultural heritage.

I wish to assure all present that NCAC will continue to work with Stakeholders to develop the Sector, such that Nigeria can join the league of nations that are tapping the inexhaustible economic resources that can be found in the culture and tourism industry.

May I therefore on behalf of my colleagues sincerely thank His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson, and the Government and good people of the State for accepting to host as well as ensuring such serene atmosphere under which we are holding this meeting.

We equally commend Your Excellency on your enduring commitment to the development and growth of Culture and Tourism. The fruit of Your Excellency’s efforts and your indelible marks have certainly set out Bayelsa as an iconic brand on the map of cultural tourism in Nigeria.

To be specific, your massive investment in the provision of infrastructure in all nooks and crannies of the State in the areas of road constructions, electricity, Agricultural revolution, Youth and Women empowerment and hosting of reputable national and international cultural events to mention but a few, have received global admiration.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have no doubt in my mind that the CEC provides a veritable prospect, not only for us to assess the forth coming National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC) and other Memos from our Sister cultural Parastatals and States, but also to collectively direct our productive efforts in articulating polices and sharing ideas on how to engineer market demand for products of our Cultural Industries.

As cultural administrators, we must come to terms with the fact that throughout history, but more so in this era of global village, a Nation’s only real wealth is its Cultural Heritage, which therefore must be preserved and fully exploited to preserve the nation’s identify and natural comparative advantage.

I therefore urge you to focus your attention on how we can redirect our programmes and activities towards revenue generation. During my tenure in the Council, our focus would be on how to effectively tap into the hidden goldmine and economic potentials of our Cultural Heritage to improve the Nation’s GDP, wealth creation and decent living of our Artiste(s), as well as serving as a panacea for Peace, Unity and Diplomacy. The new paradigm is Culture: Nigeria’s New Oil.

It is for this reason that the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) shall be aiming at accelerating the commercial and economic content of cultural Assets identifiable to each State of the Federation. We shall be looking at development and improvement on our festival format, which today remains one of the fastest growing forms of tourism activities. It has been noticed that well designed and executed Festivals have a tendency of being popular amongst tourists and injecting extra revenue into the host region.

In addition, in the course of this Meeting we shall take some time out to deliberate on the proposed 37 Cultural Wonders designed to bring to the fore the economic potentials of an iconic cultural manifestation of the various States that can be developed to meet the taste and demands of both Domestic and International Markets. Take for instance, the initiation of the Drum Festival by the Government and people of Ogun State, which before now remained untapped, but within the space of two (2) years, the Festival is becoming a reference point and a viable platform for Internally Generated Revenue. It is also serving as a brand ambassador to the State thereby bringing visibility to the sector.

Equally, we are all aware, that the greatest militating factor against the promotion of the Nigerian creative industries has been lack of access to funding for the Artists to develop their creative works and weak access to international markets as a result of poor packaging and standard. Today, I am happy to inform you that Nigerian Artists can heave a sigh of relief as a result of NCAC’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bank of Industry for the sum of Three Hundred Million Naira (N300,000.000.00) as loanable fund. The fund which will be domiciled in NCAC can be accessed by eligible members of NCAC, States Arts Councils and the Nigerian Artistes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as we settle down to discuss the business of the day, I wish to urge my colleagues to closely examine the various Memos, especially NAFEST Syllabus by making creative inputs to ensure that the presentation and indeed NAFEST 2017 surpasses previous ones. Extra efforts must be made to ensure that States’ presentations are well packaged, creative and innovative so that we can market the contents of the Festival to the outside world.
Top on the Agenda for discussion are:
The proposed National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST) 2017
The African Arts and Crafts (AFAC) Expo 2017
The Specialized Exhibition(s) 2017
Report on NAFEST 2016
Reports and Memos from the Federal Cultural Parastatals and
Reports and Memos from the 36 States and FCT.

May I once more, most profoundly express our appreciation to His Excellency, Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson for his landmark achievements and the support given to the Culture and Tourism sector which has manifested in the excellent outing of the State in National and International events. We pray that His Excellency will continue with his support to the sector.

In concluding my remarks, I must thank and appreciate our indefatigable Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, for his vision and passion towards repositioning the sector for higher achievement.
Permit me to also express my appreciation to the Hon. Commissioner of Culture and Ijaw National Affairs, Mr. Austin Dressman and all their Staff including Mrs. Payeboye E. Festus-Lukoh, the Executive Director of Bayelsa State Council for Arts and Culture, for ensuring that the appropriate facilities were provided for the success of this meeting.
Finally, while thanking my colleagues and members of the Press for the teamwork, let me once more reiterate the need for us to continually uphold the importance of this vibrant forum and platform, which is the only one at which national cultural issues and policies are articulated, discussed, evaluated and strategies put in place for their implementation.

Once more, it is my honour and privilege to welcome you all to this Meeting of the Chief Executives of Culture of the Federation holding here in Yenagoa.

Thank you and God bless!