I am indeed very delighted to be here today on this auspicious occasion of the opening ceremony of the 28th Annual International Conference of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA) hosted by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation.

I wish to start by commending NICO and SONTA for organizing the conference and for the choice of the theme of the conference: “Repositioning Nollywood for the Promotion of Nigeria’s cultural Diplomacy and National Security,” which is designed to address critical and topical issues of national concern.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, issues of national security and a positive image for Nigeria, which are the primary focus of this conference, are central issues in our Change Agenda.

You will recall that in my inauguration address on Friday, 29th May, 2015, I stated in unequivocal terms that, my administration is committed to addressing the problem of insecurity in the country.

I wish to reiterate our resolve to erect and maintain efficient and disciplined security structures capable of making Nigeria a safe place for our citizens and foreigners alike. In this regard, we solicit the support and cooperation of all Nigerians and key stakeholders like Nollywood to make Nigerians appreciate the enormous socio-economic and political benefits of living in peace and harmony.

It is indisputable that the film medium is a powerful weapon for influencing the behaviour and attitude of people positively or negatively. Unfortunately, due to exposure to foreign films, our people especially the youths have been negatively influenced. This has resulted in moral decadence and erosion of our cherished cultural values. I am fully convinced, through Nollywood, our own film industry, our cultural values can be reinvented.

It is also pertinent to state here that this administration is committed to revamping the Nigerian economy. Thus, diversifying the economy in the face of dwindling oil price is imperative. In this regard, an industry that generates about $600million annually for the Nigerian economy and employs over a million Nigerians requires serious attention.

I therefore wish to reassure practitioners that Nollywood will be assisted by government to achieve its maximum potentials. Relevant agencies of government will be empowered and given a fresh mandate to deal with the menace of piracy, which has become an albatross to both practitioners and government.

Furthermore, we support the call for Nollywood to be repositioned, to serve as a veritable tool for the promotion of Nigeria’s cultural diplomacy objectives in view of the popularity Nollywood films enjoy globally. This national asset can be used to project and promote our rich cultural heritage internationally and make Nigeria attractive for tourists and direct foreign investment (DFI).

Finally, I wish participants to this conference a fruitful deliberation and look forward to receive your invaluable recommendations.

I now have the pleasure to declare the 28th Annual Conference of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA) open.