IT is heartwarming to note that in spite of daunting security challenges facing the nation and its infrastructural deficits the tourism sector has continued to expand its contributions to the economy.
Statistician-General, Mr. Yemi Kale, who heads the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, NBS, broke the cheering news last week Tuesday that the tourism sector contributed 34 per cent to the nation’s gross domestic product and 20 per cent of employments generated in 2017.
He made the disclosure at the 61st United Nations World Tourism Organisation for Africa, UNWTO-CAF, in Abuja. When the UNWTO-CAF’s Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili paid a courtesy visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, his media aide, Mallam Garba Shehu, claimed in a statement on the President’s behalf: “I am pleased that the country is now sufficiently safe and secure and the message should go out to the world for all tourists and business travellers”.
The President’s efforts to positively market Nigeria to promote tourism is well understood and commendable. The President of every country is its number one salesman. Many Nigerians have in the past three years, expressed their dismay that President Buhari often said things about Nigerians, especially while on foreign tours, which did not put the country out in good light.
The particular issue of Nigeria being “safer and more secured” should be taken with a pinch of salt. It is true that Abuja, the Federal Capital, has gone without a terror attack or bomb blast since 2015. The same goes for Kano, which was a hub of Boko Haram terror some years ago. But Abuja and Kano do not represent the overall national picture.
There are clear evidences that insecurity has ballooned in recent years in every section of the country with more kidnappings, herdsmen’s attacks, killings by bandits and cattle rustlers and other forms of violent crimes. We cannot afford to relax in the false euphoria that Nigeria is now “safer and more secured”. If that were so, the National Assembly would not reach a joint resolution calling on the President to “give the service chiefs marching orders” to tackle the problem which has acquired intractable proportions.
The increase in the GDP contribution of tourism to our economy is a great testimony to the bounties awaiting this country if we stabilise our security and upgrade our infrastructure. Nigeria is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Tourism is growing in spite of our challenges. It will grow even faster if we work harder to overcome them.
Tackling our security problems decisively should be a deliberate strategy towards diversifying our economy of which tourism is an invaluable component.