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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Wale Ojo Lanre writes Buhari on tourism development in Nigeria !

What Buhari must know about Nigerian tourism development

Written By Wale Ojo Lanre 
Nigerian Tribune ,
Wednesday ,1 July, 2015

President Muhammadu Buhari
By the eclipse of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure in 2007, the tourism sector was in a vibrant state as the fundamental structures required for the blossoming of the sector were already on ground only waiting for its sustenance, expansion and development by successive government.
 Chief Obasanjo showed and displayed his passionate comphrension of the potency of tourism sector not as only as alternate source of revenue for the nation, but as a tool for empowerment, infrastructural development, job creation and wealth mobilising.
Thus, he announced and mentioned Tourism as the sixth major preferred sector of the economy, which he personally monitored and ensured its buffer budgetary allocation 
Chief Obasanjo showed his seriousness of purpose on tourism as he created, for the first time, a Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and assigned it a purposeful driving mission from entertainment to empowerment.
Reinforcing the ministry, Chief Obasanjo inaugurated the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT), which the president was the chairman, with ministers of key ministries like Finance, Aviation, Works, Environment, and state governors which have interest in tourism development and whose states harbour notable tourism sites.
This Council discussed and promote tourism issues and policy complying with international standards, his government with the tacit backing of UNESCO World Tourism Organisation, commenced the drawing of a Tourism Master Plan which is a necessity for a tourism driven nation.
He also inaugurated the Abuja Carnival, which was propelled as a national unifying tourism convention where all states of the Federation will yearly showcase their tourism potentialities to the global view for appreciation.
The new Ministry of Culture and Tourism has 9 separate parastatals which are headed by Director – Generals and all the parastatals are tourism content major under the supervision of the Minister.
Testifying to the fact that Nigerian tourism strides got global acceptance and acknowledgement, the Commonwealth Tourism Ministers Conference was held in Nigeria with over 152 Ministers of Tourism from members of the Commonwealth in attendance.
The Commonwealth ministers lauded the advancement made on the tourism sector but the Obasanjo’s administration pointing   that ‘Nigeria has planted herself firmly inside the fast global tourism train”
 This legacy of positive advancements in the tourism was bequeathed to the Yar’adua / Jonathan administration by Obasanjo’s administration.
However, the glowing embers of the tourism glory started ebbing slowly as soon as Dr Goodluck Jonathan assumed full authority as the president of Nigeria, to the consternation and disappointment of tourism stakeholders and industry watchers who believed that the new President should not only sustain the achievements so far but build on it.
Instead of stoking the embers already set aglow on the tourism sector, the Jonathan administration displayed a clinical indifference to the sector.
First, the Presidential Council on Tourism was not only disbanded but consigned to the dustbin of history.
Thus, the tourism sector lost a practical and potent platform of people with patriotic interest and gut to push tourism policy at the national front burner.
Tourism was no longer treated as the 6th preffered sector of the economy but relegated into the background as one of those ministries with no special interest.
Also, the Tourism Master Plan which was co- sponsored by Nigeria and WTO was completed but the documents have been gathering dust in the office of the minister and crying for attention and implementation.
All the festival and particularly the Abuja Carnival, have been cannibalised and its extent of celebration watered down tremendously, which has confined it as an avenue to recite poem, not as a glamorous event set by the government of Chief Obasanjo as an answer as to the Rio de Jeneiro Carnival in Nigeria.
The Jonathan administration, made a bold effort at branding Nigeria when its Minister of Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke gathered some of the Hollywood acts together, invited some select sector participants and gleefully launched Fascinating Nigeria inside Aso Villa at the presence of Vice-President  Namadi  Sambo who represented the President. The project was meant to sell Nigeria as a tourism brand to the world.
Apart from the launching of the project in Aso Villa with a heavy dose of publicity and paparazzi , it was briefly re- enacted for 45 minutes at World Travel Market, London.
 Sadly ,tragedy hit the tourism sector, when a judgement of a full Supreme Court  withdrew the authority of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, as the sole agency charged with  Hotel Registration, Classification and Grading  and made it a prerogative of the state government.
In a case that was between the federal government and Lagos State government over who has the authority to register, classify and grade hotels in Nigeria.
Except for splashes of exciting events from the Nigerian Tourism development Corporation (NTDC) which has been lucky to have some vibrant director-generals like, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, who ensured the promotion and the creation of tourism awareness both at the national and international level and the present DG, Mrs Sally Mbanefo who has been consistently promoting and marketing the need to develop and promote Nigeria’s domestic tourism, nothing much has been achieved under  President Jonathan.
The other parastatals of the tourism industry are in coma as the supervising ministry has been docile, complacent and timid failing to live up to expectation by advocating proper budgeting and implementing visionary policy .
However, there seems no hope of any further improvement on the tourism sector as President Muhammadu Buhari has no portion for tourism in his manifesto.
The Obasanjo government was able to achieve so much in the tourism sector, not as a result of development of brain wave about tourism, but by ingraining it as part of his vision and setting agenda of implementation.
Tourism has been effectively utilised by some countries with mono-revenue source and Nigeria will benefit immensely from making it an alternative revenue source.
The government of President Buhari will be doing this nation a great justice, both to its economy and people, if it can reinstate tourism as a preferred sector of his government, stoop low not only to resuscitate the Presidential Council on Tourism, but set up the necessary structure to reposition tourism as an alternate source of revenue for this nation.
Next week: How Buhari can shore up tourism in Nigeria.