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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

PMB, Tourism mustn’t die in Nigeria, Written by: Wale Ojo Lanre

PMB, Tourism mustn’t die in Nigeria

December 9, 2015
Written by: 
Wale Ojo Lanre

The scrapping or merging of  some ministries by  President Mohammed Buhari in his efforts at scaling down the cost of governance , reducing overlapping in  government  agencies  and lubricating  the  wheel of  operation of the civil  service for optimum performance and national development is apt , right and welcomed. Truly, there are some of these ministries which can justifiably function while in alliance with others without duplicating offices and personnel. 
However, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism with its nine parastatals is definitely not one of the ministries which should be merged with another ministry because of what it stands to plant, grow, nurture and showcase. 
Thus, the scrapping of the hitherto Ministry of Culture and Tourism  is not only an anathema to the development of tourism in Nigeria, but one of the faux pax  which I believe this regime has committed which I hope it could be redressed very soon .
It is unfortunate that Ministry of Culture and Tourism Ministry had to go which is one of the youngest Ministries out of all. 
The defunct ministry was not just created as an avenue for the jobless boys, but as a result of the necessity of growing the tourism industry as an alternate to oil. 
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo  who had passion for tourism not  just  because he saw it  as an entertainment or recreation driving sector but a  sector,  if properly grounded  has the wondrous capacity to empower , generate employment , mobilise fund and serve, as an alternate revenue  to oil. 
Chief Obasanjo knew the essence of having a separate ministry for the tourism and culture sector as obtains in other countries that are tourism consious explore and exploit the sector for the development of their countries. 
And before Chief Obasanjo’s tenure, tourism has no permanent ministry. It was either with Ministry of Commerce or Ministry of Information and under these ministries; the highest categorisation for tourism has a mere department while the permanent secretary was the highest officer for all. 
Chief Obasanjo  then  created the Ministry  relying on ad hoc committee’s report he initiated to look into ways to enhance the tourism industry and groom it to a level of world acceptance and patronage.  
The informal committee made many suggestions and underscored the need to have a separate Ministry for Culture and Tourism.
The  committee pointed out that one of the ways to grow , nurture  and mobilise the numerous tourism resources available in this country for national development and growth is to “create a separate from Ministry to drive the vision of Mr President on tourism”.
The committee listed 20 countries which today reap bountifully from tourism and emphasised that separate ministry was created in this country solely for tourism to drive the economic potentialities in culture, entertainment, recreation, wildlife and others. 
The countries are: Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia, Brazil, Bahamas, Croatia, Canada, Ontario, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, Israel, Mauritius, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, Vietnam. 
In Ghana, the ministry was created in 1993 to promote, develop and coordinate tourism related activities in the country. In 2003, under John Kuffuor’s administration, the ministry’s name was changed to the Ministry of Tourism and Modernisation of the capital city. This was due to the expansion of the ministry’s portfolio to include the development of Accra into a modern international capital city. The ministry had another name in change to the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations. In 2009, the John Atta Mills administration reverted the name of the ministry back to the Ministry of Tourism.  
Ghana has only six notable and well kept, internationally branded tourism sites and maintained a separate ministry for Tourism and the result is that last year only, the country made one billion dollars revenue from tourism. 
Chief Obasanjo created a separate Ministry for Culture and Tourism in 2000 and matched his passion with guts, vision and direction.
The ministry’s first minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe laid the foundation for the industry which consecutive ministers built on.
It was because of the fact that there was a fully fledged ministry with a minister and even a minister of State who were all members of the Executive Council that enabled the sector achieved much under Chief Obasanjo,
It is to the credit of the ministry and the ministers then that, Nigeria was not only admitted to the Commonwealth Tourism Ministers  Committee but was within four years of it’s existence, it  hosted the Commonwealth Tourism Ministers’ Conference. 
 Chief Maduekwe was able to push some reforms with his clout at the Executive Council meeting such  as 48 hours visa for intending tourists to Nigeria, abolition of embarrassing road block being mounted then by officers security, Immigration and Customs which was seen then as encumbrance to travel and tourism.  
Chief Obasanjo inaugurated the Presidential Council on Tourism which was not only visible, but active throughout his tenure. 
Throughout Chief Obasanjo’s tenure, tourism was not only given a pride of place, but declared as one of the six preferred sectors.  
And it was so. 
And then, Nigeria’s image soared to high heaven and wielded a respect in the comity of tourism nations. 
Though the passion with which Chief Obasanjo drove the tourism sector was not the same by his successors in office, yet they were able to retain the ministry with its nine parastatals. .
Though President Muhammed Buhari has no tourism agenda, but bearing in mind his ability as an efficient person and people’s expectation that he is coming to make things work, no one expected him to scrap or merge the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. 
The expectation of President Buhari was fuelled by his body language after his meeting with the officials of the ministry where he assured that his government would soon be inaugurating a Tourism Development Fund. 
It was a shock to all that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism was never considered as worthy of those ministries that survived the onslaught of merger.
 What the stakeholders were expecting was a reinforced Ministry of Culture and Tourism which will include National Parks, while National Orientation which should go to Ministry of Information. 
By not having a separate Ministry for Culture and Tourism with a substantive minister , it has relegated Nigeria to the lowest step in the  global  tourism  ladder and debar it from having a say of reference at the comity of tourism countries in the world .
Also, Nigeria will not have the strong latitude to negotiate and host International Tourism Summit like African Tourism Ministera’ Conference, Commonwealth Tourism Minister Conference and negotiate talks at G20 Tourism Ministers Group. 
For now, Tourism has no designated ministry except Culture which has been effectively taken control of by the Ministry of Information, National Orientation and Culture.  
However, the situation is not out of hope. The President can  still rise up and transform the relics of the  ministry to a strong  Tourism Commission which will be  under the presidency with the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, (NTDC)  as the arrow head of the nine parastatals  including National Parks  and Wildlife.