The Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace Most Rev. Anthony Obinna and the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Prof. Bappah Aliyu Muhammed, have urged the Federal Government to give more support to the National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN), Aba, for it to fulfill its given mandate on the development of Nigerian languages.
The Archbishop and the Executive Secretary spoke in Aba at the official opening ceremony of a three- day National Stakeholders’ Conference on Acculturation with the theme “Building a United and Peaceful Nation through Acculturation”.
In his remarks, on the occasion Most Rev. Obinna, who was honoured at the ceremony as an ardent promoter of Nigerian languages with special interest in the Igbo language, urged the institute to remain focused on the realization of its mandate, in spite of all the visible setbacks.
Archbishop Obinna, the founder of the Odenigbo pan-Igbo annual lecture series, expressed his commitment to supporting NINLAN to ensure the development of Nigerian languages, especially Igbo. He donated ten volumes of past-Odenigbo lectures, NchikotaNkuzi Odenigbo, to the NINLAN Library. He further contributed to the feeding expenses of the delegates.
Speaking first, Professor Bappah-Aliyu Muhammadu in his speech showed his shock and surprise at the level of infrastructural backwardness of the Institute and called on the Federal Government to assist NINLAN “so it would be better to tackle its problems and deliver on its mandate.”
According to Prof. Mohammed, NINLAN and the other Acculturation Centres in the country are very useful Institutions for the promotion of Nigerian languages, “And without language, we would be nowhere.”
The professor commended the institute for organizing such an important conference that would sensitize stakeholders on the relevance of acculturation programme in Nigerian languages and how to maximize its relevance, benefits and usefulness.
In his remarks, the Provost of the Adeyemi Federal College of Education, Ondo, Prof. Olukoya Ogen, lamented what he described as lack of adequate attention to NINLAN by relevant authorities and called for improved funding and attention to the institute. He expressed the view that the institute would have grown beyond its present level if it had received the level of attention it required as a centre of excellence for the development of Nigerian languages.
Earlier, in his welcome address to the conference participants, the Deputy Executive Director of NINLAN and host of the conference, Prof. Obiajulu Emejulu, said that the Acculturation Programme was designed to give students of Nigerian languages other than their mother tongues practical, in situ knowledge and insight into the language by interacting with the native speakers of the language in their cultural environment.
Prof. Emejulu further lamented that a preponderance of Nigerian children and youth raised in urban centres are unable to speak the language of their parents but rather only English, a factor which he said made the acculturation programme also necessary in their mother tongues for these urban children in senior secondary schools and universities.
Professor Emejulu, noting that the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) had a crucial role to play in the effective practice of acculturation, urged the Federal Government to show greater presence in NINLAN and the acculturation programme by subsidizing the cost of the programme and setting up a customized acculturation village in the Institute.
Dr. Chidi Osuagwu drew a wave of excitement and attention with his keynote speech on the topic: ‘Gem-mining of Nigerian Languages for Scientific Concepts’. The participants in the conference were drawn from various Colleges of Education in the country including Adeyemi College of Education, Oyo; Federal College of Education Zaria, Federal College of Education, Yola and Federal College of Education, Obudu.