Senate, Border Closure by FG Divides Senators
Red chambers of the Nigerian Senate

The Senate on Monday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to make the culture and tourism sector a priority in his economy diversification and employment generation programmes.

Sen. Rochas Okorocha, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism made the call at the 2020 Budget Defence of the Culture sector of the Ministry of Information and Culture.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed presented the budget proposal before the committee.

Okorocha, who frowned at the meagre allocation allocated to the ministry in the budget proposal, said the tourism sector if well funded and harnessed has the potential to change the fortune of the country.

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“If Nigeria must make the headway and meet its challenges, the government must prioritise tourism,

“The tourism sector is key to diversification of our economy from the present monolythic dependent on oil, which can no longer meet our needs.

“Most countries in the world today, including China, Korea, UAE. Singapore, Malaysia depended on tourism.

“Nigeria has more natural tourism potentials than these countries which are waiting to be explore.

The Senator added: “It is, however, unfortunate that no significant action is being taken to prioritise the sector and harness its low hanging fruits potentials.

“The annual budget for the sector is a pointer to the unseriousness of the government towards developing the tourism sector.

“It is ridiculous that we are all gathered here to debate on an annual budget of just N731.4 million for such an important sector,’’ he said.

Okorocha appealed to the Federal Executive Council under the leadership of President Buhari to prioritise the sector, assuring that the Senate will take the necessary steps to support the action with appropriate legislation.

He also charged the minister and the heads of the parastatal agencies in the ministry to push forward the right vision and ideas for the sector.

Specifically, he said the music and entertainment industry where Nigeria has comparative advantage must be supported and harnessed for the benefit of the country.

Speaking in the same, the Vice Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Ignatius Longjan representing Plateau South, said the entire budget for the ministry was inadequate.

He said he was particularly worried about the paltry allocation for the information sector of the ministry considering the enormous task.

The Senator said the information sector should be well funded to deliver its mandate of projecting government activities, policies and programmes as well as the image of the country locally and internationally.

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A member of the committee, Sen. Dima Mohammed charged the ministry to be innovative in its budget presentation to the Agency in charge of budget preparation.

He also underscored the need for the ministry and its parastatal agencies to think outside the box in generating money for its programmes and activities.

The minister thanked the committee for their concerns and appealed for their support to improve on the budgetary allocation to the ministry.

“We are glad to have a committee that is encouraging us and we look up to you to help us when it matters.

“Despite all the constraints, we have been able to discharge our duties well and this is because of the passion we have for the job,’’ he said.

The minister stressed that the ministry is underfunded, adding that what they proposed was about ten times of what was approved in the budget proposal before the senate.

He said, the ministry, however understood the constraints of government on resources, saying “budgetary allocation is based on availability of fund’’.

NAN reports that the 2020 budget proposal for Culture sector of the ministry is N731.4 million for capital; 9.1 million for overhead and N2.9 billion for personnel cost. (NAN)

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