Nigeria: Don ’t Let Indigenous Languages Die, Lawan Pleads

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Feb 24 19:29:51 UTC 2009

Don’t Let Indigenous Languages Die, Lawan Pleads

Stella Eze, Abuja
February 23rd, 2009
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Education, Hon. Farouk
Lawan, has called for efforts from every Nigerian to promote the
nation's indigenous languages, to avert the danger of allowing them go
into extinction.

Speaking yesterday during the celebration of the 2009 International
Day for Mother Language in Abuja noted that not much was being done in
that regard, while much energy is committed into promoting foreign

The lawmaker also gave reasons on why the two chambers of the National
Assembly, the Senate and the House of Representatives, who should live
by example have also failed in using the mother tongue in conducting
the affairs of the country as provided by the Constitution.

According to him, the chambers are lacking facilities, such as the
simultaneous translation system, and as such are unable to conduct the
business of legislation in any of the Nigeria major languages as
provided for in the 1999 Constitution.

He noted that the 1999 Constitution is every clear about the fact that
law makers can legislate and conduct the business of the Senate and
House of Representatives in English, or any of the three major
languages of Nigeria.

"That is already a constitutional provision. Any member is free to
speak in Hausa or Igbo or Yoruba or in English on the floor of the
Senate or the House of Representatives."

"Our greatest challenge is that for you to be seen as civilised we
have to speak and behave like the West and obviously this is something
we have to find a way of reducing. Most of our teaching materials are
in English, most of other instructional materials are also in English.
We need to encourage the development literature in these languages so
that we can begin to sustain and promote our culture through

"We attach too much importance to foreign languages to the detriment
of ours. But we have to develop and promote our culture by developing
and promoting our indigenous languages too so that they don't die", he

Lawan decried the poor implementation of the National Policy on
Language; a development he said poses serious on any attempt at
promoting indigenous languages in the country challenging his
colleagues to ensure that the policy is properly promoted.

"We have a language policy in this country but, unfortunately, we have
not been able to fully implement and promote that policy. For us in
the National Assembly, we believe that we have to go back to the
basics and ensure that we properly promote our language policy in
making sure that our three major languages become the first language
of instruction at the early stages of our children. Beyond that, we
have to encourage other languages so that they do not go into
extinction and they do not die, "he said.

The lawmaker, who noted that mother tongue should be the first
instructional language for children in their early stage, emphasised
that government has to invest heavily in the development of facilities
that would enable lawmakers to use indigenous languages on the floor
of the houses as well as in training children.

" That is why I said even if we must inculcate these indigenous
languages in our children at their early stage, we cannot successfully
do that without investing heavily in the development of these
necessary facilities and the literary materials to do that and that is
I said we must be working simultaneously to put them in place "he
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