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Akinbile-Yusuf takes stock as Lagos gets practical with Tourism development

By Maria Diamond
08 October 2022   |   5:14 am
Right from the inception of his administration, governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was clear on his vision to turn Lagos into a major tourism destination in Africa.

Right from the inception of his administration, governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was clear on his vision to turn Lagos into a major tourism destination in Africa. With Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf as Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, activities of the ministry were deliberately structured towards positioning the State as a major destination, where the private sector can confidently invest its resources to advance the tourism and entertainment sectors.

It would be recalled that the press briefing organised to commemorate the second anniversary of Governor Sanwo-Olu in office last year, the commissioner disclosed that the ministry was already working on a Tourism Master Plan that will serve as a pathway for the implementation of every tourism activity in the State. She assured that the plan would change the narrative in the State’s tourism sector and ensure uniformity of government programmes, plans and policies in the development of tourism.

Indeed, Lagos has move from mere rhetoric to taking practical actions towards making the state a major tourism destination in Africa.

Speaking during a recent tourism roundtable discussion with members of the media, Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf thanked Governor Sanwo-Olu for the opportunity to lead the ministry over the last three years, even as she rolled out the achievements of the ministry in almost four years.

According to the commissioner, the achievement of the ministry in positioning Lagos as a major tourism destination in Africa wouldn’t have been possible if the Governor didn’t include the creative sector in his T.H.E.M.E.S agenda and focus of his administration.

“The current state of entertainment, arts, and tourism in Lagos state isn’t standing alone, but part of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s T.H.E.M.E.S agenda that follows the roadmap for the continued growth of Lagos state. In close to four years, we haven’t worked in isolation as the ministry of tourism, arts, and culture. You can’t talk about tourism without discussing security and transportation amongst other things. So, we collaborate with other agencies and ministries to achieve all these feats.”

Akinbile-Yusuf, who took media executives down memory lane on the activities and achievements of the ministry despite the pandemic, said, “We came in and COVID-19 struck. But despite the effects of the pandemic, we have been able to sustain the industry, even though our ministry works with the sector that has been majorly hit by the pandemic. In Lagos State, we decided to hold the virtual concert despite the pandemic just to prove that we can’t be held back as entertainment, tourism, arts, and culture will continue to thrive in our economy.”

She recalled how governor Sanwo-Olu approved the constitution of a COVID-19 Pandemic Review Committee to assess the impact of the pandemic on the tourism sector in Lagos State. The committee, which was chaired by Joke Silva, recommended and got approval for the sum of N1billion as a single-digit soft loan for the tourism and entertainment sector in the state to cushion the effect of COVID-19.

In furtherance, a 50 per cent rebate on registration and renewal fees for hospitality and tourism establishments were given in 2020.

“After the pandemic, Gov Sanwo-Olu released a fund of N1billion to ensure that the sector, through the support of our ministry, returned to life. We have continued to engage stakeholders in the industries, because our firm believe in the essence of the private sector as we believe the tourism, arts, culture, and entertainment sectors are private driven.”

She continued: “We also ensured proper regulation of the sector, because of our firm beliefs that tourism, arts, culture, and entertainment are our oil, which we can export and leverage to boost our economy in Lagos State. We created Lagos State Creative Industry Initiative and under this body, we decided to leverage on capacity building for youths because the governor believes so much in the youths and everything that has to do with young people is dear to him.

“We also believe that if we develop the younger generation, we can export more talent, hence we partnered with different reputable stakeholders and industry practitioners, including EbonyLife Academy, Del-York Academy, Africa Film Academy, and Temple Studio.”

As of September 2022, the partnership has trained close to 3000 youths in the creative industry and those trained in filmmaking had some of their films premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.

“Our resolution is to ensure we support all these youths in their different endeavours; we believe that they will contribute in immense quantity towards the GDP of Lagos economy as well as Nigerian economy,” she noted.

From bagging the World Guinness Record for laying the largest cupcakes mosaic in world, to the establishment of a special interest-free loan for filmmakers tagged ‘Lagos film fund,’ refurbishing and officially commissioning the Glover Hall theatre, and erecting the John Randle Centre for Yoruba culture and history, Akinbile-Yusuf is of the opinion that governor Sanwo-Olu deserves all the accolades for further putting Lagos on the world map through tourism.

In 2021, the governor launched the Lagos tourism Master Plan and policy to lay the foundation for developing a comprehensive and sustainable tourism strategy with a focus on Lagos’ rich culture and heritage, community development, heritage management, preservation, and revenue generation.

“The Master Plan that was available before our administration was not properly presented, hence, we had to go back to the drawing board to make it suitable and fit into the overall plan of the administration. At my first stakeholders’ meeting after we came on board, the previous Master Plan was rejected, so, we had to go back to the drawing board to ensure the plan aligns with the administration’s programmes, as well as the stakeholders’ suggestions in ensuring we achieve success,” Akinbile-Yusuf said.

The trained pharmacist also opened up on other groundbreaking achievements of the ministry, including the Lagos Cultural Village in the Alimosho area and the Lagos Film City in the Ejinrin area of Epe.

“While Governor Sanwo-Olu has approved a six-acre land for the project, the ministry has done the video, 3D visualisation, architectural design, floor and roof plan, and aerial video of land mass for the development of Lagos cultural village, Alimosho,” she noted. 

In the same vein, the state government entered into a PPP arrangement to develop the Lagos Film City, including committing 100 hectares of land at the proposed Project site located at Ejirin, in Epe Lagos State.

“We are making frantic efforts to benchmark Lagos State with tourism destinations in other countries and not other states in Nigeria. Although this might take a while to attain, I am bold to say that the journey has already started. In the next few years, with the implementation of this Master Plan, Lagos would be one of the top five tourism destinations in Africa. We are open to investors partnering with the ministry to establish a vibrant and innovative tourism destination as well as achieve a greater Lagos,” she concluded.