ThereÂ is no issue that is topiÂ Â Â cal in the tourism industry in Nigeria today as the implementation of the Tourism Master Plan, and if there isÂ anybody to speak on it, it is the Minister ofÂ Tourism, Culture andÂ National Orientation, Alhaji Muhammed Abubakar Sadiq.
So, whenÂ the opportunityÂ to meet with him came during the week, the questionwasÂ put to him and he barred his minds on this and other issues in this interviewÂ with Jimoh Babatunde. Excerpt
On what he met on ground onÂ resumption
Thank you. First and foremost, I met a ministry with aÂ determined work forceÂ that needed just a little push so that theyÂ can move the three core sectors of tourism, culture and orientation,Â forward.
As it relates to the tourism sector, I met a tourismÂ master plan on the ground that needed to be implemented. Of course,Â there was a committeeÂ set up by my predecessorÂ that was supposedÂ to be implementingÂ the tourism master plan. But during the briefingÂ I received, I was made to understand that there was no concreteÂ Â step takenÂ in the implementation process that laterÂ becameÂ a subjectÂ of controversy between the different members of the committee aÂ staff of the ministry.
However, I felt that we should take aÂ proactive measure,Â I then sought for an audience and aÂ Â Â Â visitÂ Â toÂ the United Nations World Tourism OrganizationÂ in Spain,Â whom IÂ believe was part of theÂ developmentÂ Â of the master plan and who I believeÂ have the capacity to help in the implementationÂ of theÂ master plan.
SoÂ at that visit, we metÂ with the executive members of the UNWTOÂ Â and IÂ am happy to say that just last week we had a mission from UNWTO andÂ they interacted with stakeholders here and they hadÂ gone back areÂ sending us their reports and how they think we should move forwardÂ in terms of implementation.
There is of course the presidentialÂ implementation committee on tourism which I think has not been veryÂ active, of course there is the technical steering committee which orÂ whatever reason has not been active.
But I have tried to put someÂ structure in place to make sure they start working, the submissionsÂ from UNWTO to other issues that are coming up within the ministryÂ are issues that will now be placed before the steering committee after deliberationÂ will be presented to the presidential committee.
I intend to briefÂ Mr. President so that he will be surely aware of what is happening. On the stakeholders met by UNWTOâ€™s officials andÂ the steeringÂ committee set up by his predecessor
Well not like it hasÂ seized to work. It has not, probably it has not sat for a long timeÂ and may be issues they were to have looked atÂ Â have not been looked at.
OnÂ the stakeholders, they met with Nigerian Tourism DevelopmentÂ Corporation (NTDC), Bureau of Statistics, they met with UnitedÂ Nations Development Program (UDP), because United NationsÂ Development Program (UDP) is part of the tourism master plan and ofÂ course they will be able to drive it in terms of funding and development.
They also met with the National Institute for HospitalityÂ and
Tourism(NIHOTOUR)Â as an agency charged with building capacity as well. They alsoÂ metÂ with the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN). That wasÂ my brief.
On reasons for UNWTO visit to theÂ Nigerian TourismÂ Development Corporation (NTDC) and the National Institute forÂ HospitalityÂ and Tourism(NIHOTOUR)
We are looking at theÂ implementation of the master plan holistically, so whateverÂ submission is made by UNWTO and what is deliberated in the ministry and theÂ steering committee and the presidential committee we will make recommendation.
OfÂ course, if it is agreed that re-organising any of our agency isÂ paramount we will do that.
OnÂ the take off date for theÂ implementation of the tourism master plan By September I shouldÂ kick off, because we are expecting the reports from UNWTO before theÂ end of next week,Â Â I think the reports will highlight some strategic stepsÂ that will be crucial to the implementation of the master plan.
ThereÂ have been several workshops that have been attended by our staff in respectÂ to tourism statistics because capacity developments have been stalled becauseÂ of lack of synergies in the various arms of government in the collection of statistics.
On statistics gathering
WellÂ the impression I have is that the bureau for statistics had informedÂ them that the statistics they captured are related to tourism asÂ well. One other big challenge that I discovered was the fact that orÂ them to be able to attract and analyze those aspects that relateÂ Â to tourism.
I think that is theirÂ work what we are expected to giveÂ them those variables that are ours so that they can just extractÂ and help us analysis them. Because they are recognized by the law establishingÂ them as the sole agency responsible for collecting statistics and analyzingÂ them forÂ Â national development.
On the allegation that thereÂ is provision in the ministry budget for tourism master planÂ implementation in the past three years
For this year I have notÂ seen money for implementation, what we have is very meager. If theyÂ had before, I am not in a position to say how it has been spent becauseÂ I was not there, but if at the end of this year you ask me how the one weÂ are expecting how it was spent I think I will be able to give you an answer.
That means there is a provision for it in the budget Yes, weather to the extent that it will implement the tourismÂ master plan or not is what I donâ€™t know. Because it all depends onÂ budget drew for the implementation vis a vis what is provided in theÂ national budget.
On Abuja carnival funding
We will continueÂ to rely, to think that the private sector should fund the Abuja carnival.Â That is our vision. If government is putting money in the carnival, probablyÂ it is seed money, but of course we are thinking along the line of havingÂ a longer partnership with the private sectorÂ Â having an MOU that will spanÂ for some years Probably at the end of the day it is not everyÂ year you go out and look for money and people and people give youÂ whatever they think, but with what we plan they will already haveÂ commitment to relate to a time frame which mean they know they areÂ committed to Abuja carnival for so and so number of years for funding.
NowÂ if we get that commitment, then government can completely hand off the fundingÂ of the Abuja carnival, of course you know there was no funding forÂ Abuja carnival from government as all the money used was source fromÂ outside.
This year we have started and the marketer has promised usÂ that it will be different, of course we still have some debt toÂ settle in respect to last yearâ€™s commitment, but we believe thatÂ this year we have sufficient funds.
On the cultural policyâ€™sÂ meeting
The meeting was targeted at specially on the fifth scheduleÂ of the policy which dealt with the funding, the tax holidays and soÂ before I came, the national policy was presented to the federalÂ executive council and it did not scale through completely because ofÂ the fear expressed in respect to tax holidays, tax rebates andÂ other incentives contained in the cultural policy.
So when I came IÂ saw that the policy had been lying there since it was returned backÂ to the ministry for further consultation, and nobody had done anything. So I directedÂ that we convey a stakeholder forum to look at thoseÂ issues.
The stakeholders forum looked into issues that relate to taxÂ holiday; tax incentives and of course the endowment for the arts. YouÂ can remember that there was an Act, decree of 1991 or so for ArtÂ endowment and nothing has been done I believe and so theÂ stakeholders need to look at it and the modern trends as well asÂ probably proposing for an amendment of the Act, together it nowÂ comes out as a package for the culture sector. If we get thisÂ tax rebate are we likely to have it in tourism also.
I think theÂ major challenge is trying to look at areas within the existing laws nowÂ where you will be able to key in like for exampleÂ Â if there areÂ culture industries that are making … they can enjoy pioneerÂ status, so it is within the context of existing laws that we areÂ trying to see how the art sector is going to benefit. Of courseÂ there could be incentives for the tourism sector