Though plans have been made by successive governments, Nigeria’s arts, culture and tourism sectors have been left undeveloped, making it burdensome for new governments to tackle it holistically. SAMUEL ABULUDE writes on the challenges and plans of the present government to unearth the goldmine in the culture and tourism sector.
As Nigeria of today is in need of development on all fronts, the culture and tourism sector is not left out. The potentials of Nigeria’s tourism sector are not in doubt, the problem has been how to harness and sustain it. The President Muhammadu Buhari-led government plans to diversify the economy and look beyond oil as our revenue. The minister of information, culture and tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a media interactive session with journalists recently, noted that the present government plans to develop the arts and tourism sector to be able to generate revenues from it. He noted that government alone cannot fund the sector, hence the need to attract investors for the sector.
“Present realities show that the government can no longer fund the arts, culture and tourism sector. Budget allocation to the culture and arts industry cannot cater for the industry. What we intend to do is to attract funding from the private sector. In developing the arts, we need to engage the people around the arts. We need to train our festival managers. Culture drives tourism hence we need to take a closer look at our culture industry. We are doing a mapping to realise our top 10 creative arts and culture festivals. Tourism is a multi-cultural issue and The British Council and Tony Elumelu Foundation have promised to assist us to train our festival managers. A small sum of money from the budget was set aside for NCAC,” the minister said. He also said the government was working with the Centre For Black African Arts And Culture (CBAAC) to ensure development of the arts and culture industry.
The NCAC, a federal government organ is charged with the responsibility of coordination, development and promotion of the living arts and culture of Nigeria at national and international fora. During the interactive session, a journalist pointed out that the seven arts and craft centres scattered across the country are not functioning. The minister promised to look into it.
National Arts Theatre remains government property
The National Arts Theatre in Lagos remains a government property. This much was reiterated by the minister at the discussion. The arts theatre has been earmarked for development and concession. The minister said that the issues with the contractor developing the theatre would be resolved. He added that government would generate revenue from parts of the edifice that will undergo concession.
“The National Arts Theatre cannot be maintained by allocation from federal government. Three attempts were made so far by the federal government in 2000, 2006 and 2013. I’m aware of what transpired and we are moving forward on the matter. National theatre will remain a property of federal government. Development of fallow areas will give revenue to the government. National Endowment for arts bill is to be pursued,” he said.
As regards the national monuments, the minister was of the opinion that an industry has to be created around our tourist centres and monuments. The nation is rich in natural and cultural resources that can be harnessed, developed and maximised. The Waterfalls located around the southern belt, the Nigerian slave routes, Wild life, games reserves, arts and crafts, festivals and national monuments and museums and products that can yield huge funds when developed as a tourist attractions. To develop them will be a daunting task but achieveable with well outlined plans and policies by the federal and state governments. This is the new oil that must be developed, marketed and exported.
“If we create an industry around Olumo rock for example, the people that live around it will benefit and thus protect the national monuments. A lot of our monuments can be made tourist centres and we have them scattered in different geographical areas. The people around the monument need to be engage and this will provide job and employment for hundreds of people. There is a spiritual connection between the people and monuments. Osun groove is another example. In making an industry from these centres, we must not alienate the osun worshipper from their worship objects.The Edinburg festival realizes 87 million pounds a year. Nobody has exported the Calabar Carnival abroad yet. So we hope to develop the cultural sector which in turn feed the tourism sector.
The tourism sector and challenges
In the tourism sector of Nigeria lies a goldmine but the present economic and security challenges hamper it. According to a document from a scholar, industry representatives indicated that almost 99 per cent of international tourism in Nigeria is business or conference .. The main generating markets are Great Britain, Europe, Africa/India, and neighboring West Africa States. The need for a strategic approach to tourism is identified as the most important factor in facilitating the development of sustainable tourism in Nigeria. Investment in tourism and particularly the supporting infrastructure is considered to be a priority. The need for professional ground handling arrangements is also acknowledged. Tourism development is as old as Nigeria’s history, but is a sector fondly remembered in theory rather than practice. There is no clear cut plan for evolution of the sector and these greatly scares away potential investors.
If the present government needs to make changes, then a lot needs to be done in creating an enabling environment. Speaking about the tourism sector, the minister spoke about packaging our tourist centres for the outside world. He noted that Nigeria must become a tourist friendly nation in all respects. “We must train our officials at the airports and embassies to be tourist friendly and accommodating. Our visa regime must be overhauled. Takamanda forest reserve in Cross Rivers state is the richest biodiversity forest in the world. Yet it takes 10 hours from Calabar to Takamanda. We need different agencies, ministries working together to make the tourism industry function. There will be an improvement in tourism sector towards the end of the year,” the minister noted.
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