Our archives, our future: Our archives must live! By –Prof. OLUTAYO ADESINA
The 9th of June of every year is celebrated as the International Archives Day. The date was instituted by the International Council on Archives (ICA), an international non-governmental organisation dedicated to the preservation of the integrity of archives worldwide. The day is celebrated annually. This year, the ICA is rolling out its banner at an international conference taking place in Yaoundé, Cameroon in November 2018 under the theme “Archives: Governance, Memory and Heritage.”
In recognition of the 2018 International Archives Day, the Society of Nigerian Archivists (SNA) in a sombre mood is issuing a clarion call to the governments at all levels in Nigeria, private citizens, corporate organisations, the private sector and the citizenry to rededicate themselves to the effective organisation, funding and management of our archives and records. The International Council on Archives (ICA) had since its inauguration in 1948 ensured that countries of the world remained dedicated to records management and preservation. Its members are spread across 199 countries and territories. Nigeria has been an active participant in the vision and mission of the ICA as a responsible and forward-looking nation. Globally, the Archives Day is observed to raise awareness of the importance of archives, promote their protection and free access to archives. This is a laudable goal that has been achieved by several countries of the world.
Since the 1950s, Nigeria had been an enthusiastic supporter of the vision of the ICA. Over the years, however, records keeping, and the management of our records and archives had fallen to its lowest ebb either because of a lackadaisical approach to this important task on the part of the government or due to the acute economic crisis facing the country. Our archives had been neglected through poor funding and a visit to many of our archives would reveal the effect of the neglect on important documents and equipment. Archivists and record managers are poorly paid and do not have access to adequate and qualitative local and international training.
As we edge closer to the end of the second decade of the 21st century, Nigeria must rediscover the relevance of our past records, archives, record managers and archivists for our future growth. We must begin to understand how to leverage on these to ensure that this country moves into the future as a cohesive and vibrant nation. Thus, while encouraging our archives and records managers a happy Archives day, we must also go beyond and over the call of duty to help preserve the records of the past. This patriotic task is being handled with the required skill and zeal despite our lean and dwindling resources.
Thus, to ensure the preservation of our heritage, Nigerian governments at every level should not only commit deep resources to the maintenance and revamping of our archives but also ensure as a matter of urgency, the passage of an ‘Act to Repeal the National Archives Act, 1992 and to Establish the National Archives and Records Administration.’ This will give the National Archives the resources and independence it requires in the onerous tasks of archives and records keeping and management in the twenty-first century. As it is, the laws governing the management and administration of our archives are outdated and cumbersome.
We must save our archives from decay and total collapse through better funding and incentives. We are also ready to dialogue with responsible members of society, creators and users of the archives to ensure the growth and survival of our archives. The Society of Nigerian Archivists (SNA) will dedicate the next one year to ensuring the realisation of these lofty goals. We wish our compatriots a happy Archives Day.
PROFESSOR OLUTAYO C. ADESINA
PRESIDENT, SOCIETY OF NIGERIAN ARCHIVISTS (SNA)
JUNE 8, 2018