By Jimoh babatunde
Stakeholders in the country’s tourism industry have picked holes in the proposed Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Act Cap N137 LFN, 2004 (Repeal Re-enactment) Bill, 2017 (SB.429),which came up for public hearing on the floor of the senate, last week.
They described the proposed bill as ‘confusing, vexatious and lacks the capacity and sincerity of purpose.’
NTDC had proposed a bill before the National Assembly in which it sought to repeal the original but controversial act which established it in 1992 as well as insert new provisions into a new law that empowers it to, among others control and expand funding sources for the corporation.
Picking holes in the proposed bill, the umbrella body of travel and tourism operators, the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) contested amendments sought by the corporation.
The FTAN in its own position paper presented on the floor of the Senate by its President, Alhaji Rabo Saleh Kareem, faulted Section 4 (c) Membership of the Governing Board; Section 15 (c) Functions of the Corporation; Section 15 (d) Functions of the Corporation; Section 16 (f) – Functions of the Corporation.
Other contentious portions of the proposed bill, according to FTAN, include: Section 18 – Establishment of a Tour Operating Company; Section 22 (f) and
(g) Funds of the Corporation; Section 26 & 28 – Establishment and object of Tourism Development Fund; Section 29 – Tourism Development levy, which the association said must be expunged from the proposed bill.
Particularly Section 29, titled; ‘Tourism Development levy’, FTAN said the ‘entire prayers sought for inserting this section and clauses into the amendment are ill conceived and would make the Levy inoperable on ground, more so there would be no transparency in the processes.’
According to FTAN, “Tourism Development levy should be collected on the site where it is applicable by the operators and immediately paid into the bank accounts of Tourism Development Fund. Tourism Development levy should be the primary source of funding for the Tourism Development Fund.”
In its position, Travel and tourism writers in the country under the auspices of the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Editors of Tourism (ANJET) said NTDC wants to muzzle everyone in the country, including corporate businesses and tourists, which among others it is proposing to pull money from for the Tourism Development Fund (TDF) and Tourism Development Levy (TDL) in the proposed bill.
“Other than the fact that NTDC don’t have such powers, it also lacks the capacity and sincerity of purpose to do so and administer these funds in a transparent manner and more importantly, it is way of denying the private sector the opportunity to muster funds on their own for their businesses.
“The two provisions are confusing and go against the Tourism Development Bank (TDB), which the private sector operators have been clamoring for and which was later approved by the Federal Government and even contained in the National Tourism Master Plan provisions, which was recently reviewed by the Ministry of Information and Culture.
“Beside these, there are other areas of ambiguities, which make NTDC a busybody in other areas and tend to confer on it powers and functions outside
it and for which it lacks the structure and capacities to carry out.
“For instance, the provision for the establishment for a tour company, which though is not new but for the addition of ‘to operate tour services within and outside Nigeria,’ is in total negation of its primary duties, which is to promote domestic tourism and inbound and not outbound tours,” ANJET said in the statement.
The group called on the Senate committee to do the needful, “That means, it needs to properly scrutinize the document, the various summations during the public hearing, the provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended, the ruling of the Supreme Court of 2013 on the matter of tourism and the extant laws of NTDC 1992,” it said.
Also, commenting on the document, a tourism expert, Dr. Franklin Adejuwon, advised that the bill should treat the NTDC as a regulatory and supervisory agency of government and ‘not an autocratic organization that would begin conflicting with Minister’s powers or encroaching on the rights of the people,’ adding further that ‘tourism is entirely based on human relations and influence. The bill must therefore attend to these tendencies in its contents.’
Adejuwon chaired the Presidential Committee which drafted the original National Tourism Master plan that was adopted by the former President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s administration and launched by Chief Adetokunbo Kayode as then Minister of Tourism and National Orientation.
Continuing, Adejuwon said: “The proposed bill should limit the cooperation to giving guidelines only and follow up with state governments to operate within the guidelines. We should remember when a situation is within the concurrent list, state governments have direct powers to do and undo.
“There cannot be any imposition of powers by federal government in this aspect. Inspectors can only operate through state organisations responsible for tourism. Let us avoid building an empire for NTDC at the expense of poor people who wish to earn a living and provide jobs for other people by investing in the industry.”
Also remarking, immediate past president of FTAN and chairman of its Board of Trustees, Samuel Alabi, who is also a legal practitioner, described the proposed NTDC bill as an ‘illegality.’
‘‘It appears the drafters of the bill are not aware of the import of the Supreme Court judicial pronouncement on the status of tourism in the 1999 constitution as amended. By the Supreme Court decision, tourism has been held to be a residual matter, and therefore, only state Houses of Assembly could validly legislate on it.
‘‘It is laughable that what the Supreme Court had dismantled in 2013 on the basis of the 1999 constitution is now been reassembled by the Senate without first amending the relevant 1999 constitution. It is like reinventing the will, pure and simple,’’ said the Legal Adviser of the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos.