By Olasunkanmi Akoni & MonsurÂ Olowoopejo
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State onÂ Monday appended his signature into law, a bill for the regulationÂ and standardization of the tourism sector including hotel practiceÂ in the state, saying the future holds much more than oil for majorÂ oil producing countries.
As part of its commitment towards enforcingÂ the law, the state government has placed a fine ranging from N100,Â 000 to N500, 000 or a two year jail term on any of operator whichÂ found to have violated the just amended Hotel Licensing Law of 2003.
Fashola,Â while signing the bill into law at the Conference Room of the Lagos House,Â Ikeja added that this explains why such oil producing giants are now investingÂ their oil proceeds to diversify away from oil and move into other sectorsÂ like Agriculture, knowledge based economy like Information Technology, GreenÂ Energy and Tourism.
He said: â€œLagos is one of those states thatÂ have the capacity to really diversify its economy towards the areaÂ of tourism and that are why we have spent so much of tax payersÂ money trying to provide the environment that would support a growthÂ of tourismâ€.
The governor explained that tourism is aboutÂ destination, saying if the people cannot get there, there is noÂ tourism.
Fashola added that this explains the massiveÂ construction of road network such as the Lagos Badagry Expressway,Â the Lekki-Epe Concession which are strategic investments to boostÂ tourism and improve the economic possibilities that lie there. â€œWeÂ have the same Atlantic Ocean that goes all the way round the West CoastÂ and as far as Brazil, saying: â€œIf Brazil is making money from theÂ Atlantic, why are we not doing the same thing. Laws like this alsoÂ exist in all those jurisdictionsâ€.
Fashola acknowledged thatÂ the tourism and hospitality sector of the economy is looking up andÂ getting better by the day, citing the instances of many businessesÂ that hitherto closed at 7pm but now extending till late in the night.
â€œMoreÂ hotels have opened in Lagos in the last three years and more are still coming.Â It is important for us to be able to measure this growth. Legislations suchÂ as this will enable us, apart from reviewing some of the prescriptions here to bring them in conformity with current laws and have a dataÂ where it is possible to enable us know how many new people come intoÂ this economy or how many people it is employingâ€, the GovernorÂ added.
The governor said in addition to the fact that itÂ represents a way of self benchmarking, it would also help measureÂ how many people are being employed in the tourism industry in orderÂ to empower Government to know how much more it has to do. InÂ his words:
â€œWe complain about unemployment, but we have not reallyÂ opened up the economy of this state and to the possibilities. ForÂ example, our greening has employed over 5000 people. We are alsoÂ looking at solid waste management waste water treatment and similarÂ ones that have to be opened up. This is also an economic policyÂ that can expand the economyâ€.
Fashola thanked the membersÂ of the State House of Assembly for enacting the useful piece ofÂ legislation.
Earlier, while giving an insight into the bill, theÂ Special Adviser to the
Governor on Political and LegislativeÂ Matters, Hon AbdulHakeem AbdulLateefÂ said the law will standardizeÂ the tourism sector as well as regulate hotel practice by amendingÂ the provisions of the hotel licensing law of 2003.
HonÂ AbdulHakeem disclosed that immediately the Governor assents to the bill, the hotel licensing law of 2003 becomes amended, adding the law hasÂ been expanded to include the regulation of tourism practice.
HeÂ Â explained that the former law which stipulates that no person shallÂ operate or keep any brothel without obtaining license or permissionÂ from the Hotel and Tourism licensing authority has been amended toÂ read that no person would be allowed to operate a hotelÂ establishment or practice tourism in Lagos State in any premisesÂ without first obtaining the license of the authority.
HeÂ explained that the penalties prescribed under the former law are soÂ outdated that it has witnessed high level of disobedience withÂ maximum penalties ranging between N100 and N200 for offences.
TheÂ Special Adviser also said the new law has also given power to Hotel and Tourism Licensing Authority to standardize, regulate and grade theÂ various hotels and tourism businesses operating in Lagos State inÂ line with best practices.Â He said the Commissioner responsibleÂ for managing the provisions of the new law is the HonourableÂ Commissioner for Tourism and Inter-Governmental Relations.
TheÂ event was witnessed by members of the State Executive Council includingÂ the Commissioner for Tourism and Inter-Governmental Relations,Â Senator Tokunboh Afikuyomi, the Chairman of the House of AssemblyÂ Committee on Local Government, Hon Onibiyo Adelabu, representativesÂ of the National Association of Travel Agents and Association ofÂ Lagos Hoteliers.