Agbonmire Ifeh: The Nigerian Government is Killing Our Tourism Sector
The government of President Mohammadu Buhari has to appoint a lover of tourism, a capable technocrat, to save this sector from the quicksand it is in.
I stopped travelling, and then I stopped writing, hence my absence here. The bleakness of the state of travel in the country got to me. I started travel writing to spread the virus of travelling, to show the beauty of this our dear motherland Nigeria. But the morbid state of almost all of our destination spots got me despondent. I saw little or no effort to improve the condition with this current government, so I gave up. I apologize to myself, to you and to these places. No potential likes to be untapped. It cries out, and the crying out is what is making me write this piece to resolve my issues.
Nigeria is immensely blessed. Every state in this country has many tourist destinations built and packaged by Mother Nature; but we have left them under-utilised. The 774 local government areas have some potential in tourism that can rake in millions of naira, but most of these LGAs are sitting idle, waiting for allocation from the national cake, which they share among themselves with little or no positive output.
The players are sleeping. With what I have seen, I can categorical say—and I won’t change my mind at least for another 50 years—the Nigerian government has no business doing business. The current mentality and culture is inimical to development and progress. They see the business of governance as an opportunity to loot and share money. The resources of governments are not seen as raw materials that should be converted to positive assets. So the whole sector should be handed over to the private sector to run, and the government should focus on policy making and providing security.
This is the agenda anybody in charge of tourism should be working on. Whether minister of tourism or head of our tourism agency, and anywhere down the line. We can’t keep sleeping on how much we can make from this sector. We need to learn from the Dubai miracle. This is the place they go to when they want to relax and travel, but they can’t think of reciprocating this in their country.
The sector is a mess. Our musicians go to shoot their videos in fine places outside the country, while we have similar things scattered across the country. Our celebrities do destination marriages in South Africa, Dubai and everywhere but in this country, because the sector has been left to die; only the burial is left to be conducted.
The industry has mad potential; any improvement will lead to massive earnings to the government, especially as they have been making less revenue for some time now, due to the declining state of the oil and gas sector.
We need money. We need to make more money. And we need to make money from different sectors. One of the sectors that promises big gains with little effort is the tourism sector. Therefore, a state of emergency must be declared now in this sector.
The things we need to fix urgently are security, awareness, and the decaying infrastructure in all of our tourist attractions. Obudu Cattle Ranch, which is one prime example in Cross River State, has fallen apart. The roads are so bad that it takes twice the time it used to take to get there. And when you do, you may meet the workers on strike. Kajuru Castle in Kaduna State, which has been a shining star because it’s run by private hands, is suffering from the security situation on the Kaduna-Abuja road. It was in the news recently that the castle was stormed by kidnappers and they took some people.
I can go on and on, and I will encourage my readers to list the ones they know in the comment section, so that if the right people are reading this, they will know things to work on.
Travelling is my passion. I like the art and business of travel. In recent years we have seen a resurgence of travel companies, and I have this burning desire to start one. These companies are suffering; it is hard to market places that are unkempt and unsafe. It is sad when a travel company has to be praying that nothing goes wrong on a trip. It kills their zest and harms their bottom-line.
The government of President Mohammadu Buhari has to appoint a lover of tourism, a capable technocrat, to save this sector from the quicksand it is in. The telecommunication model has to be adopted in this sector, and we pray that his efforts to fix our security yield good dividends for the growth of this sector. May God bless Nigeria.