How government is killing tourism sector, by Ogbeide-Ihama

Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama

House of Representatives member, Engr Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama has decried the negative projection of Nigeria as a haven of criminals and terrorists. Ogbeide-Ihama who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Culture and Tourism claimed that government is hampering development of the sector.

The lawmaker noted that the situation was worsened by the fact that authorities are not doing enough to reposition the sector. The lawmaker who represents Oredo Federal Constituency of Edo State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) noted: “Well I think insecurity is a scenario that we inflict on ourselves. First of all, at the onset of this administration unfortunately the government itself sold out the impression to the international community.

“I know Mr. President made a number of trips where he talked about corruption, the severe insecurity that he has to battle and all that. These are statements that leadership would make that could affect investors, that could affect tourists.

“Anyone coming to Nigeria will think twice if the leadership itself can put before the international community a corrupt system, an insecure environment. Take for example, shortly before Mr President left to address the United Nations recently, there was the Python Dance military campaign in the south East.

“Some of us were able to read comments in the social media from different parts of the country. Up north is Boko Haram, and now in the South East is python dance and they were termed terrorists. So how does it resonate to the international community?

“How does it affect bilateral relations in terms of business, tourism, and all that. So if you already say in the North of the country there is Boko Haram, in the South East it is python dance, whois going to come here?

“We are who were are and we can only be as good as we what we make of ourselves. No doubt the insecurity level is unacceptable but it is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is a global trend. World giants like the US today still faces the challenge of protecting her citizens from terrorists attacks.

“The UK experienced a series of it in recent weeks, yet these are giants but how many times have they come out to condemn their country? So I think we must begin to paint ourselves positively to the world and at the same time put checks and balances to the security issues.”

He wondered why government did not include the culture and Tourism sector, alongside agriculture and solid minerals in its quest to diversify the economy. According to him: “I strongly believe that tourism and cultural should be part of it as, it would yield faster results. Solid mineral to me is a long term diversification process, as well as in yields. However the culture and tourism aspect is a faster way to boost and jump-start the economy. Culture is a way of life.

“It is imbibed in us and we are very rich in it from the north to the south to the east to the west. So, we are a diverse nation with diverse people with cultural differences, ethnic backgrounds and different religious backgrounds and we have wonderful tourist destinations. But they are all lying either dead or are not rehabilitated.

“If you look at Lokoja here, just close to us, a confluence town where Rivers Niger and Benue met. That is such a historic destination that government needs to know how to remodel something there that will attract people. If you look at Niagra falls, it is actually a fall separating Buffalo New York in the US and Toronto Canada, in Canada.

“So when you are on the other side of the bridge, you are in the US. When you are on this side of the bridge you are in Canada. You do not have an idea of how much income both the US government and the Canadian government make from tourists who troop in on a daily basis from both ends just to see the wonderful Niagra Falls. “So a very simple example is the confluence town. Remodeling that place will attract a lot of tourists and I can keep naming on and on. The great Benin Kingdom, the mould, which serves as the defensive mechanism of the kingdom in the past. Today, there are encroachment here and there, no preservation, nothing.

“If you go to the North as well, it is the same. Even the home of the late Sardauna of Sokoto, where he was unfortunately assassinated is something that could call for history. Look at our national theatre today, it is in disarray. So we have a lot of heritage sites, historical monuments. Most of them need face lift, they need access roads to get there and of course, security won’t be left out. But funding is a fundamental problem in the sector.

“The things that would unite us again together as one should be a focal point. It’s a one-stop shop. Culture and tourism sector – wealth creation boosting the economy, unity even in our diversification and all these are attributes that would come out of it. So why won’t government give attention to it?”

Stating that he had been able to use his vantage position to impact positively on his constituency, he noted: “I can tell you today that schools in my Oredo Federal Constituency students can now recite the National Anthem in Bini language. We have a programme from the junior and senior secondary and competition among schools. They can speak the language; they are good in dress making, and have acquired skills in bead making.

“And we have been able to empower my constituents on how to bring back skills of ours in bronze casting, wood carvings and how to encourage them and empower them in more production of it.

“For example, we have attracted universal basic education to my constituency where we have succeeded in building a full model school boarding system sitting on 44 plots of land in a place called Okhuoromi community in Iyekogba. It has a dining hall, it has classroom area, hostel facility, it has staff quarters,sporting facility and fenced round. And there is the Health Centre in Ulemo Community, Iyekogba, Oredo Federal Constituency.

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Ogbeide-IhamaTourism sector


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