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Canvassing better deal for culture, tourism

By Kabir Alabi Garba
08 May 2016   |   4:00 am
The saying that invention is always driven by necessity captures the latest quest by the government to diversify the economy through culture and tourism.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, Mattew Urhoghide (left); Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; and Chairman, House Committee on Culture and Tourism, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama at the summit

Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, Mattew Urhoghide (left); Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; and Chairman, House Committee on Culture and Tourism, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama at the summit

The saying that invention is always driven by necessity captures the latest quest by the government to diversify the economy through culture and tourism.

And this quest got a refreshing dimension last week, in Abuja with the convocation of a three-day summit that attracted stakeholders of diverse background in the creative and tourism industry.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who declared the summit open, assured participants of creating required enabling environment for arts, culture and tourism to thrive and develop with emphasis on massive upgrading of infrastructure and the provision of security.

Represented by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah, the President promised to encourage public and private sector participation and partnership in all the desired areas, including transportation, as well as, Beach and Resort development in a deliberate effort to develop tourism as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification of the economy.

“As a result of the combination of various factors such as the sharp drop in the price of oil, combined breakdown of protectionist policies and changes in social relations, countries are compelled to look for alternative sources of revenue and employment.

“Tourism therefore, is a resource of development and means of providing an additional opportunity for a non-industrialised country like ours, to diversify its economic base for the betterment of all,” he said.

While urging participants at the Summit to develop appropriate policies and the right attitudes towards achieving the desired goals, President Buhari underscored the role of culture and tourism in integrating communities and promoting peace and harmonious co-existence among the diverse cultures in Nigeria.

“Tourism brings individuals and human communities into contact and, through cultures and civilisation, has an important role to play in the diversification of any economy.  Tourism also has the capacity to assist the world inhabitants to live better together and thereby contribute to peaceful co-existence between peoples and cultures,” he said.

According to the President, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture has a critical role to play in leveraging on the diverse cultures in Nigeria to inculcate the tenets of the nation’s cultural values of integrity, honesty, sincerity and God-consciousness in the citizens.

“It is therefore my hope that your deliberations will focus on the need to make use of culture and tourism as instruments of social mobilisation for national revival. I charge the Ministry of Information, Culture and National Orientation to effectively liaise with other relevant Ministries and Agencies to work out appropriate programmes including actions and measures that would help in fighting the scourge of these social vices brought about by the collapse of our value systems,” he said.

In his address, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said his ministry in the last six months had taken a bold step to convert the nation’s huge cultural and tourism potentials into vast opportunities for revenue generation and job creation.

He expressed happiness over the collaboration the ministry has brokered with the British Council and the Tony Elumelu Foundation “to achieve our objective, in practical terms, move away from paying lip service to these Sectors in order to harness their potentials,” he said.

Alhaji Mohammed also disclosed that the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has agreed to work with Nigeria to develop a two-year plan to help boost tourism in the country, which he described as a major breakthrough, considering that Nigeria has not even appeared on the radar of the global agency for several years now.

He said the culture and tourism sectors are not just about creating jobs or earning revenues, they also help to stem rural-urban migration, foster unity, ensure holistic and inclusive growth as well as reduce crime.

The Minister said in its effort to reposition the entertainment industry, his ministry has set up the ministerial committee on the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) with a view to fast-tracking the process of passing the MOPICON Bill into law in order to give the movie industry better wings to fly higher.

He called for a holistic approach by all stakeholders to surmount the challenges impeding the development of tourism in the country in order to create a conducive environment to attract tourists into the country.

“Developing the tourism sector requires the collaboration of other stakeholders, notably the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior and those responsible for infrastructure, the security agencies, the tour operators, etc. We also need to push for a friendly visa regime, like designating certain countries whose citizens can obtain visa on arrival. This will boost tourist arrivals tremendously.

“The challenge before us, ladies and gentlemen, is to work out long term strategies to develop our Culture and Tourism Sectors and move them into the mainstream of the economy, while not failing to design ways and means of plucking some low-hanging ‘fruits’ along the way,” he said.

In addition to provocative remarks in form of a presentation entitled The Killing Culture of the Neo-Nomadic by Prof. Wole Soyinka, read on his behalf by Dr. Wale Adeniran of Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo, Osun State, there were four paper presentations interrogating the theme of the summit, Repositioning Culture and Tourism in a Diversified Economy. The galaxy of experts from the academia and the field engaged the various papers deeply while exploring various possibilities in order to actualize the overall goal of the summit.

At the end of deliberations, the following recommendations were considered and adopted:

The Culture and Tourism sector is a big industry; it cuts across many sectors, namely, agriculture, business, transportation, health, sports, aviation, Women, Youth, Information, Technology, Architecture, etc. It is arguably the biggest. Nigeria cannot afford to fold her hands while other Nations are reaping the immense socio-economic benefits derivable from this global vibrant sector.

Consistency and continuity in government policies at all levels are non-negotiable to develop tourism. To this end, Nigeria should muster the political will to accord culture and tourism preferred status to effectively develop it.

Participants during the summit                                                                                                                                                                                                PHOTO: Ladidi Lucy Elukpo

Participants during the summit PHOTO: Ladidi Lucy Elukpo

The Summit observed that to create a positive image for our national buildings, private cooperate offices and edifices, there is a compulsory need to adorn them with Nigerian artworks in order to empower arts creators; and that measures be put in place to protect the nation’s cultural sites during times of conflict by engendering communal ownership of such sites.

The Summit also noted the need for Nigerian Cultural Icons, both living and dead, to be celebrated so as to inspire the younger generations to strive hard for excellence.

That action on the reviewed Cultural Policy for Nigeria and the Endowment Fund for the Arts has been unnecessarily delayed.

That Data Collection, Research and Documentation by Culture Practitioners are key for effective planning to attract private sector patronage for the Culture Sector.

That the Culture of African Time, which has pervaded collective psyche be done away with and replaced with a conscious time management attitude to promote national development.

The current name of the Ministry does not properly portray Nigeria as a country where culture and tourism is at the front burner of development.

Job creation, rural-urban integration, peace and unity are critical for national development. A viable Culture and Tourism industry is sine-qua-non to the realization of these lofty objectives. Thus, the Summit noted the need for all stakeholders in the industry should work together to project the culture and tourism sector positively.

The Summit noted the immense contribution of the oil sector to the national economy but warned that Nigeria’s dependence on oil without exploring other economic opportunities had triggered grave consequences such as, loss of biodiversity, climate change, dwindling foreign exchange earnings, etc. Accordingly, the challenge is to build a resilient economy, which would exploit the abundant culture and tourism potentials in the country.

The Summit observed that the development of sustainable culture and tourism is complex, intricate and varied. Consequently, participants noted the need to put in place workable Public Private Partnership (PPP) strategies. Government needs to create the enabling environment, e.g., critical infrastructure and appropriate legislation for private sector participation. Moreover, the incentives listed in the National Tourism Policy and the reviewed Cultural Policy for Nigeria should be implemented to serve as impetus to the sector.

In view of difficulties encountered by prospective tourists, businessmen, conference participants, pilgrims, travellers in acquiring Nigerian visa, the Summit called for more friendly visa regime.

In recognition of the strategic role of security to sustainable tourism development, effort must be re-doubled to provide the much needed confidence for tourists and travellers visiting Nigeria.

As the driver of culture and tourism the world over, the private sector should leverage on the government’s incentives and take full advantage to accelerate development in the sector. To do this, the private sector should be more involved in policy advocacy, campaign and sensitization programmes, even at international fora.

Participants observed that the Tourism Development Fund (TDF) and the National Endowment Fund for the Arts are long overdue. Action must therefore be taken to establish and make them functional for effective development of the sector.

For maximum efficiency, all relevant agencies in the sector must be aligned. In this regard, the Summit called for the transfer of the Nigerian Copyright Commission from the Federal Ministry of Justice to the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.

As it is the practice in some notable tourism destinations in the world, man-made culture and tourism assets, such as amusement parks and other creative wonders should be encouraged within the cities so that tourists can enjoy existing superstructures, such as, hotels and allied tourism related facilities in the cities.

The Summit noted the need for Nigeria’s core values to be reintroduced into the school curriculum. In this regard, the teaching of history and the inclusion of relevant cultural components in the curricula of education in Nigeria at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels must be enforced. In addition, the teaching of Nigerian indigenous languages should be given priority.

The Summit recognised the rich cultural heritage of Nigeria. It however noted that over the years the country seems to have lost the tenets of cultural values, integrity, sincerity and moral uprightness. In order to address the situation, it called for cultural rebirth that will reposition Nigeria as a domain of moral sanctity and light not only for the African continent but for the global community.

The Summit noted the undue emphasis on some so-called professional courses such as medicine, engineering, law etc; at the detriment of the natural endowment of children. This situation does not augur well for creative arts, culture and tourism knowing well that creativity rules the world today. Governments and parents should emphasize the importance of creativity which is the bedrock for ingenuity and success for sustainable development.