The Acting Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Mr. Louis Eriomala has said that indigenous languages are key to the development of any nation in the world.

Eriomala made this known while fielding questions from an interview in his office on Friday, October 11, 2019 by Nigerian Television Authority International (NTAi) reporter, Mrs. Nnenna Bassey on efforts to prevent our indigenous languages from going into extinction.

According to him, NICO, the apex cultural training institute in Nigeria has over the years, organized the Nigerian Indigenous Language Programme (NILP) to encourage Nigerians to take pride in their languages and speak their mother tongue.

In his words “We run the Nigerian Indigenous Language Programme. With three editions; the one-month intensive programme holds every August from Mondays to Fridays. It was actually programmed for the children because we had them in mind when we designed the programme in Lagos in 2007, so that since our children could not speak our indigenous languages, they could come in and learn their mother tongue for free during the long holidays”.

“We also have the weekend programme which is meant for workers who could not come for the August programme. So on Fridays and Saturdays in all our centres, the weekend programme holds for the working class to also come and benefit”.

“The last is the language in the barracks programme which we started this year to help the security personnel in the barracks to be able to relate properly with their neighbours and also help them gather intelligence”.

Speaking on why the Institute embarked on the language training, Eriomala said when UNESCO gave a signal in 2007 that most of our indigenous languages were going into extinction, NICO as a cultural institute, took up the responsibility to teach Nigerians how to speak their languages that were feared to be going into extinction.

He also disclosed that the Institute extended its language programme to the barracks this year because a barrack is a mini Nigeria where all ethnic groups and tribes stay. “We felt in the spirit of building national unity, if we go there and teach these indigenous languages and they get to understand and speak these languages, they will be able to gather information as well as live together with their neighbours, thereby ensuring peace among Nigerians”, he said.

NICO Boss who commended some parents for taking time to speak their indigenous languages to their children, said it was unfortunate that some Nigerians have become more foreign than foreigners as many of them feel speaking their mother tongue is an aberration.

He said even though the Institute is limited by funds, it will not relent to encourage Nigerians to take pride in their languages and speak their mother tongue. According to him, as part of measures to improve the teaching of indigenous in the country, the Institute is building a platform for e-learning where Nigerians can learn their indigenous languages from the comfort of their homes using the internet.

Caleb Nor & Njideka Dimgba

Corporate Affairs Unit

NICO, Abuja