Nigeria has made history at the on-going 11th Session of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), at Conference Hall I, United Nations Building, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as the nomination of the Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival on the Representative List of the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was adopted.
In the face of a very critical assessment of the Nomination File by the Evaluation Body, an Amendment to the dossier was sponsored by Palestine, based on added information from the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO); it was strongly defended by Senegal; it received no objection from States Parties, and was eventually adopted.
Reacting to the cheering development, the Nigerian Delegation to the ICH Conference, led by Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, the Executive Secretary/CEO, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), who is also a Visiting Associate Professor at Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK), was full of appreciation to all, in the face of earlier apprehensions.
In his appreciation speech, Prof. Ayakoroma stated: “Mr. Chairperson, Members of the Committee, States Parties representing the various Member countries present here, let me, on behalf of the Nigerian Delegation, heartily appreciate the government and people of Ethiopia, for the warm hospitality. We also wish to express our deep appreciation to Members of the Evaluation Body and the Committee for a thorough assessment of the Nomination File.
“Nigeria is a country of over 170million; Nigeria is a country of over 250 ethnic groups; Nigeria is a country of over 520 indigenous languages; and Nigeria is a country with abundant festivals. The reality is that Nigeria, our beloved country, has a diversity of cultures that have not been given the needed attention.
“There are hundreds of thousands of edifying cultural practices and expressions that demonstrate the diversity of the Nigerian people. Consequently, there is the need to raise awareness about their importance through inscription on the Representative List. The Argungu Fishing Festival is just one among the numerous fishing festivals in the country. This is a festival that started as a community initiative. In the words of Ibrahim Hussain’s Kinjeketile, “A man gives birth to a word; the word grows… and it grows bigger than the man who gave it birth”. Today, the Argungu Fishing Festival has gone beyond a village gathering, attracting and unifying people nationally and internationally.
“Mr. Chairperson, there are cultural elements in various communities in Nigeria that require urgent safeguarding measures for them to be sustained for future generations to come. We believe that the ICH programme is a veritable window for us in Nigeria, and indeed Africa, to bring to the fore our unique cultural endowments.
“We like to recall that, so far, Nigeria has only the Ifa Divination System and the Ijele Masquerade on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. These two elements were inscribed in 2008 and 2009, respectively; while the Oral Heritage of Gelede, a multi-lateral element with Benin and Togo, was inscribed in 2008. Today, we have made history with the inscription of the Argungu Fishing Festival on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
“The Nigerian Delegation wishes to reiterate its position to be more committed to carry on with the documentation of our rich and cherished intangible cultural heritages. The elements are there in abundance. We have the will; and as the saying goes, ‘once there is a will, there is a way’. We will further strategise and make a rebound in the preparation of more Nomination Files on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
“We thank you all for the support and for your kind attention”.
It would be recalled that the Evaluation Body had approved only two out of five of the Nomination criteria, meaning that the file was to be referred to another Nomination cycle; but the Nigerian Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Ambassador Maryam Katagum, never gave up and insisted that NICO, the UNESCO Focal Agency on the ICH in Nigeria, needed to provide additional information as an Amendment for the file, which was done.
With the ES, NICO to defend the Nomination of the file were Mrs. Edith Okoro (Delegate Counsellor, Nigeria’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO), Mr. Ibrahim Lawal (Coordinator, NICO North-West Zonal Office), Mr. Law Ikay Ezeh (Deputy Director/SA-ES), and UNESCO accredited Nigerian ICH Advisory Experts, namely, Mr. Joseph Ogieriakhi (WACIPR), Dr. Casmir Ani (CEPPER), Mallam Babagana Abubakar (KDA), as well as Sis. Dr. Marie Agatha Ozah (Executive Board Member of the International Council of Traditional Music, ICTM).
The 11th Session of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), which opened at Conference Hall I, United Nations Building, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Monday, 28th November, 2016, will last till Friday, 2nd December, 2016.
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