By Wole Mosadomi, Minna
There are many tourist centers across Niger State untapped.
They include the popular Zuma Rock along the Suleja-Abuja Road, Gurara Falls in Gurara Local Government Area of the state, the Ladi Kwali Poutry Center in Suleja and Zungeru town where the amalgamation of Nigeria by Lord Luggard took place in 1945 with the cemeteries of some white men still in place.
Still on Zungeru, the small but very important town is the birthplace of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Odumegwu Ojukwu, among other notable personalities.
Niger also has the Baro Port and Hill where the radio station used by Luggard was sited.
All these tourist attractions, capable of opening Niger to the outside world, had been neglected by successive administrations in Niger.
Zuma Rock cannot be missed along Kaduna-Suleja- Abuja Road because of its giant size. It is a sight to behold but many tourists, especially mountain climbers from within and outside the state, used to be scared of going close to the mountain on the grounds that it had mystic powers. However, in 2014, the jinx was broken as a group of mountain climbers and tourists from Australia, in collaboration with Niger State government, climbed the rock and came down unhurt; consequently, Zuma Rock became like any other rock.
That same year, immediate past Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu used chopper to get to the top of the rock.
It was fun on the occasion as government officials and members of the community celebrated the “conquering” of the rock.
Aliyu then reeled out plans to transform the Zuma Rock land area into a tourist centre of international standard. But the idea ended on paper.
Meanwhile, the incumbent administration of the state under the leadership of Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello has taken a bold step to renovate tourist centres in Niger as a way of opening the state to the outside world.
Top on the agenda are Zuma Rock, Ladi Kwali Poutry Centre, the Baro Hill and Gurara Falls.
The state Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Jonathan Tsado Vatsa, said the current government, on assumption of office, discovered that about 360 hectares of land surrounding Zuma Rock had been allocated to private individuals.
“If we have to go by what we met when Governor Sani Bello came into power, the only thing that is left around the rock is only the rock itself and there is nothing you can do without the land because all the anticipated developments will surely be on land and so what we did first was to revoke the entire allocated land,” the Commissioner told Sunday Vanguard.
He said investors are already showing interest on the site and that, of particular interest is an individual who has shown interest in erecting an electronic board on top of the rock.
Vatsa remarked that the abandoned multi-billion Naira hotel started at a site close to the rock some 20 years ago, is now receiving attention.
According to him, his Ministry was discussing with the hotel managers to complete the project or give it to the state government.
Tourism, he stated, cannot thrive without standard hotels hence the need for a befitting hotel around Zuma Rock and the idea of government also taking over Shiroro International Hotel, Minna.
ZUNGERU: This town can as well be described as the forgotten former capital of Nigeria.
The amalgamation of the country took place in this town in 1914. Azikiwe, Ojukwu, prolific writer, Cyprian Ekwensi, among other prominent Nigerians, were also born here. But a visit to the town will make students of history weep because of the neglect by successive governments.
Vatsa, while commenting on the neglect, said the state government had taken steps to transform the town and immortalise the eminent people born there.
“All the structures of the Lord Luggard era have been identified and will be developed. The first step has been taken by sending an official from my Ministry to the National Museum in Lagos to get the real pictures the way they were because we discovered that, because of the neglect, most of these buildings have fallen but we want to put them back the way they were, get the real design and build them back the way they were,” he remarked.
The Commissioner also disclosed that the Ministry is planning to showcase the 36 states in the country because the plan is that each of the states should build its cultural design to showcase the Centre of Amalgamation as a symbol of unity of the country.
Vatsa explained that plans are underway to also build a resort there, to host national and international conferences.
“We want to develop Lord Luggard International Library there too and we are planning to go into partnership with the British Embassy in Abuja so that researchers will have the opportunity of going to the library to carry out their work from all parts of the world in Zungeru. If you go to Zungeru today, you will feel sad with the total neglect by the previous administrations but with the interest the present state administration has shown to tourism, the town and by extension all monuments there will be revived and tourism will flourish in the state”, he stated.
“One thing also very interesting is that it was in Zungeru that Lord Luggard got married and so, it is a place that can bring unity, bring in newly wedded couples to have their honeymoon thereby keeping the spirit of love glowing and further cementing the relationship between the old and young couples.
“Besides immortalising Luggard, some of the prominent Nigerians whose birth are traced to Zungeru will also be remembered.
“Just like the proposed Lord Luggard Library, if the proposed Conference Centre eventually comes to fruition,we can decide to name it Zik Conference Centre within the Centre of Amalgamation. We will also name some buildings after Ojukwu and other prominent Nigerians who are so historical or linked to Zungeru.
“Many of our fallen military heroes still have their names on their tombs and we will not only leave these names on the tombs but also name the proposed chalets after them in order to immortalise them for their fight for the oness and unity of the country”.