By Osa Mbonu
Eighteen months ago, the journey to review the 27-year-old law (Act cap N137 LFN 2004, (Repeal re-enactment) Bill 2017, that established the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) started at a public hearing at the Senate in Abuja.
The new bill, which seeks to replace the existing old law was initiated to reposition the corporation to meet its set objectives and generate revenue that will boost the country’s economy.
Today, the bill is before President Muhammadu Buhari for assent. Director General NTDC, Mr. Folorunso Coker speaks on the journey so far, his expectations of the new bill when passed into law and its relevance to global tourism objectives among others.
Mr. Folorunso Coker has described the new NTDC bill awaiting President Buhari’s assent as the needed legal framework upon which to grow the nation’s tourism potentials. He said the new bill when passed into law will prompt financial framework that allows the agency to operate as a business entity capable of generating huge revenues for the economy.
He likened the NTDC’s legal framework to the required foundation (the financial framework inclusive) laid in the communication, banking, oil and gas sectors that resulted in their huge revenue generations. He lamented that as at now, most tourism operators are unable to access loans from the banks because tourism does not generate individual returns that allow it to stand 25 percent interest rate. This, according to him, is because tourism is not seen as a serious business.
Coker who spoke in Lagos said it is not profitable for the corporation to sit on one side of the fence as a regulatory body and unable to behave like a private sector concern in terms of understanding the people’s needs.
He noted that since he assumed office in 2017, he has refrained from performing his assignments on the pages of the newspapers, but focused carefully on the building blocks of a foundation that will allow subsequent development plans.
“In tourism, the legal framework for the commercialisation of tourism world best practices was not there. The law was really old. The law has also been handcuffed by a Supreme Court order, so it was not a law that could allow tourism industry to generate the kind of revenues the oil and communication industries have.
That is the significance. “With the legal framework required for the financial framework to sit on, with the global best practices locked into that, you can see that the lip services that tourism was paid could not achieved much, except the legal frame work is in place.
For instance, tourism operators cannot conveniently borrow from the bank because tourism is not seen as a business because there is no legal framework that supports it. Now, hopefully that will change as soon as the bill is passed into law,” he added.
According to Coker despite these challenges, tourism has been very lucky with the on-going infrastructural development (roads, rail, security, power) embarked upon by Buhari’s administration across the country, adding that for every naira President Buhari has spent in making the life of every Nigerian better is also what tourism requires.
He commended Nigeria for investing in agriculture, manufacturing, power, rail, road and other infrastructure, noting that the best off taker for these industries is tourism because it consumes almost all the products. Tourism will create more intense demand for agricultural products, manufacturing, power, etc and ‘we will see good value for the investment.’
“Every naira spent benefits tourism. Even though tourism is angling for more funds for specific tourism projects, a lot of things are being done that benefit tourism as it benefit the larger society. Also, we have started the process of Tourism Satellite Account, (TSA), which allows you to measure what is going right or wrong,” he said.