Information Minister Commends UniPort’s Contributions To Nollywood At SONTA Conference By Obinna Nwodim

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has praised the University of Port Harcourt for her high impact contributions to the growth of the Nigerian film industry—Nollywood. He particularly singled out the Department of Theatre and Film Studies for producing famous Thespians who are telling the Nigerian story to the world, describing the University as a leading light in the academia. 
The Minister made the commendation while declaring open the 30th Annual Convention and International Conference of the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists, which held at the Ebitimi Banigo Auditorium on Wednesday, November 1, 2017.
Represented by the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Baclays Ayakoroma, who himself is a proud alumnus of the University, the Honourable Minister expressed happiness that most practitioners in Nollywood were made at the UniPort theatre—THE CRAB. 
“This shows that the University of Port Harcourt has paid serious attention to the quality of its graduates. The Federal Government will continue to encourage practitioners in the entertainment industry which has grown over the years with boundless opportunities. The Ministry has supported several artistic programmes aimed at repositioning the tourism and culture industry in line with the change agenda of the present administration. I wish to call on other well-meaning individuals and organisations to partner SONTA and continue to cooperate with you to move the industry forward,” the Minister said.
Chairman of the occasion and Vice-Chancellor of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Professor Ozo-mekuri Ndimele, who was represented by the Dean, School of Graduate Studies, Professor Daniel Ogum, thanked the leadership of SONTA for adding value to theatre practice in Nigeria. Ndimele announced that his administration has decided to establish a Department of Theatre Arts in the University.
In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ndowa Lale, described UniPort as a breeding ground for actors, actresses, comedians, dramatists and other theatre practitioners, promising that Management would continue to identify with SONTA to promote theatre practice in Nigeria.
Represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), Professor Regina Ogali, Professor Lale said: “We are proud to say that UniPort has produced a galaxy of movie stars. Nigeria’s entertainment industry has been a major employer of labour in the last decade. It is only reasonable to support SONTA to harness the potentials of the industry to tackle value orientation and unemployment in the country.” 
Earlier in his welcome address, National President of SONTA, Professor Sunday Ododo, traced the history of the organisation to 1982, when the founding fathers came together at the University of Benin to birth a society that would advance the training and practice of theatre artists and allied professionals. He expressed gratitude to all stakeholders for helping SONTA to sustain the vision.
The President, whose valedictory address drew the curtain on his four-year tenure, called on the Federal Government, arts patrons and other well-meaning Nigerians to invest in the construction of befitting theatre buildings in Nigerian universities to promote the arts.
In her keynote address, former Vice-Chancellor of Benue State University, Professor Charity Angya, advised theatre practitioners not to “shy away from the core issues of national politics, economics and the deep divide which have surfaced in national debate. Even when we operate with the rule of the thumb-to entertain as our mantra, we are conscious of our collective responsibility to our communities, societies and nation and what we write and perform should reflect this enormous responsibility.”
In their separate goodwill messages, the Senator representing Rivers South-East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Magnus Abe and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri, Professor Ibrahim Njodi, both of who received SONTA awards, stressed the importance of investing in the entertainment industry, given the enormous economic value and employment opportunities it has generated for the country.
The two-day event which had the theme: Theatre, Economic Recession and the Quest for Survival, featured presentation of over 150 papers on the theme, as well as the 2017 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of SONTA.
Also present at the opening ceremony were the Emir of Kaltungo in Borno State, Alhaji Mai Kaltungo and the Deputy Chairman of the Borno State Council of Emirs, Alhaji Saleh Muhammadu.


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