Ogbeide-Ihama decries neglect of tourism sector
A member of the House of Representatives, Engr Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama has decried the neglect of the culture and tourism sector of the economy. Speaking in an interview with The Guardian, the lawmaker remarked that the development makes a mockery of the quest by government to diversify the economy.
Ogbeide-Ihama who is the Chairman of the House committee on Culture and Tourism stated that the situation was worsened due to the poor funding of the sector over the years. He argued that government stand to make immediate gains from the sector since could strengthen the unity among Nigerians.
The lawmaker, who represents Oredo Federal Constituency of Edo State on the platform of the opposition peoples democratic party (PDP), argued that the development of the sector could provide employment opportunities to the unemployed and earn the country monies from exports of locally made cultural materials.
According to him: “Well basically I will say in terms of development and growth, it has not been too fantastic. And why am I saying this is because this administration has said clearly that it has become imperative to diversify the economy.
“However, in President Buhari’s policy direction in terms of diversification, I think he is more focused on other areas like agriculture and solid minerals. While I have no fault in diversification towards these sectors, I strongly believe that the tourism and cultural part of 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 imbibe 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 a wonderful tourist destinations. But they are all lying neither dead nor are not rehabilitated,” he said.
He continued: “But funding is a fundamental problem in the sector. And I will use every opportunity in every forum to call on the federal government to realign their strategic and policy plan by bringing culture and tourism sector to the front bear because it would ordinarily bring our people quick jobs which would bring about empowerment; it would showcase Nigeria in a good light; it would serve as a form of unity especially at this point in time when we have agitation from various parts of the country.
“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 booting 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?
“If you as ask me, for the sector where I chair which is culure and tourism, it is a double barrel disappointment. The releases trickle in. The budget as we all know has not been funded and the culture and tourism sector is not an exception.
“And funding in itself in the sector is way, way below. The difference between the first budget – 2016, and the second budget of 2017 is virtually less that 5 percent. So, I was opportune to be on the floor twice when Mr President came to present the budget and in his statement and speech to both Houses, he stresses on agriculture and solid minerals development and they got a chunk of allocation.” He urged policy makers around Mr President to draw government’s attention to the sector regarding the potential and how it can be harnessed.
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