…Says Sector Sitting on Cage of Unexplored Potentialities
By Emmanuel Elebeke
Federal government says it is prioritising the Nigerian tourism sector because it believes that the sector with its huge potentials would in the nearest future be the next oil and gas in revenue generation for the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alh. Lai Mohammed stated this on Tuesday, when he paid a working visit to the National Tourism Development Commission, NTDC in Abuja.
Alh. Mohammed charged the leadership of the NTDC to double its efforts in exploring the untapped potentials in the sector and leverage the new policies of government to reposition the economy.
‘‘Tourism is not just sight-seeing, tourism is the entire creative industry: film, music, astronomy, beaches, fashion, photography and monuments. NTDC is not just the apex organization for tourism, is actually at the centre of all these tourists activities.
‘‘The Act mandates it to develop, promote and market tourism in Nigeria. You need to understand this significant role the law has saddled on you.
‘‘This government believes that in the nearest future, NTDC which used to pretend is going to be the next oil. And when oil would have dried up, the creative industry with our cultural heritage, our music, fashion, astronomy, food etc. will always to attract people to Nigeria to come and visit them.’’
The minister who expressed optimism in the potentials of the sector, said the ministry had gone through the challenges the NTDC is facing and tried to proffer solutions to some of the challenges, assuring that the Visa-On-Arrival Policy of federal government would bring a big boost to the sector.
He insisted that there are huge potentials in the Nigeria’s tourism sector that should attract people to Nigeria which if developed could increase the nation’s GDP and increase revenue generation.
‘‘At NTDC, you are sitting on a cage of unexplored potentialities. You have the mandate and I believe you have the capacity also to harness the huge potentials of Nigeria to attract people to Nigeria because there are many reason why people should come to Nigeria.
‘‘We are a country of colours, 250 ethnic groups, blessed with different culture, beeches, all round good weather, film industry that has become global and number two in the world and talented artists. Today, we are the dinosaur of this industry, fashion, people also come to Nigeria every day for religious tourism.
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‘‘This is why you are important. You need to attract people to come and see what Nigeria is made of, what we can offer on the global stage. Our industry is the fastest growing sector in the Nigerian economy today, employing 1million people but has capacity to employ several millions more. Our film industry is probably the least untapped.
‘‘Today we have 53 cinema house with less than 200 screens but for a population of 200 million people. We need a minimum of a 1,000 cinema houses and 6,000 screens.
‘‘You can imagine if Nigeria made $53m million last year from the film industry under 200 screens, how much more when we have 6,000 screens. Our music is growing; we are looking at $56million next year.
‘‘We need to work harder so that we can actually actualise the potentials of this industry and make it not just the fastest sector in Nigeria but also increase our GDP from 1.24%, the industry accounts for 2.24% of our GDP. This can actually grow to 3% of the GDP.
‘‘We often underestimate the impact Nigeria is making towards civilization. A month ago, the Oxford dictionary, admitted 25 new words, which are Nigerian words like banana. This shows that the world cannot afford to ignore us for the good reasons,’’ the minister said.
On the part of federal government, he said they had made contributions that will enable people to come and visit Nigeria through the Visa-on-Arrival policy. This according to him, has actually boosted the tourism industry in a manner that any African can come to Nigeria to do business before obtaining visa.
He charged the NTDC to embrace the policy to harness all the opportunities and potentials in the sector of the economy.
Earlier in his address, the Director General of NTDC, Mr. Fororunsho Corker said that the agency has been focusing on a framework that would reposition it on a new path of growth.
Corker, who stressed the importance of a new legislation for the sector pledged his commitment to partner with the ministry to ensure quick passage of the new law
‘‘With what we have discussed, I am optimistic that tourism will be on the front burner of federal government’s priority. NTDC has been focusing in the last two and half years been focusing on the new framework because it is important to have a framework for tourism exploration.
‘‘When we found oil in Nigeria, we needed a framework for oil exploration and that is why we have oil exploration companies today. That activity generated a lot of wealth that we needed a banking revolution. That is why we have the new generation banks.
”Now we have a digital framework for promotion of tourism, information and sharing of our culture is now through digital medium. And we believe that with a framework for tourism, tourism will move rapidly to do what GSM did to old NITEL in terms of development.
‘’We feel that our corporate governance needs to improve, we have been through the legislature to pass a law for ascent, some specifics were rejected. The ministry and the agency are going to work hand in hand to achieve this goal,’’ the DG said.