THE Senate on Thursday said it would push for the separating tourism and culture from the Ministry of Information.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, made this known in his speech at the opening of a public hearing on the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Act 2004 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2017.
Senator Saraki, represented by the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Bala Na’Allah, said that the sequestering of NTDC from the Ministry of Information and Culture was imperative to enable the tourism sector enjoy autonomy for rapid development.
“Our ministries have never been helpful in anything developmental. So, the long and short of the story is that the Senate wants to give freedom to the parastatals, particularly the culture and tourism sector,” he said.
In his remarks, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Tourism, Matthew Urhoghide, said that investment in tourism was very crucial in view of the dwindling government revenue and the current recession.
The Chairman of the committee disclosed that diversifying the economy was imperative following the contraction in the country which was occasioned by the fall in crude oil prices.
Senator Urhoghide noted that the NTDC Act is characterised with inadequacies and shortcomings because it had never gone through any form of review or amendment since it was enacted, in spite of several years of socio-political and economic changes.
He explained that one of the things the NTDC Bill would achieve was to abolish the existing Act and re-enacted a fresh one.
Urhoghide explained that the re-enactment, when concluded, would change the nomenclature of the establishment to Nigerian Tourism Development Authority.
Associate Editor (Tourism) of the Nigerian Tribune Newspapers, Comrade Wale Ojo-Lanre, corroborated the decision of the Senate to sequester the Tourism Ministry and locate it under the Presidency.
The former Chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalists (Oyo State Chapter) and Chief Press Secretary to the former governor of Ekiti State, Chief Segun Oni, said: “For all we are doing here not to be in vain, there must be a separate Ministry for Tourism. That is the practice, globally. I made the plea the last time I was here. I am begging again. Please sir, Senate, let us have a separate Tourism Ministry.”
Meanwhile, proprietors of hotels in Nigeria, who attended the public hearing, have appealed to the Senate to save them from multiple taxes by state and local government councils across the country.
They supported the move by the senate to empower NTDA to harmonise all tax collections.
The President, Hotel Owners’ Forum, in Abuja, Chike Ezeudeh, said hotel business in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had become difficult because of taxes.
He said that they were subjected to over 30 different levies by the FCT authorities and the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).
“in Abuja, we are levied N29 million, N20 million, N15 million and so on, on a yearly basis by the various tax collectors.
“This is the reason we are kicking against the one per cent-per-room levy proposed in the bill, although we strongly support the move to empower NTDA as sole collector of taxes from hotels,” he said.