Lai Mohammed Reels Out Tourism Plans For Second Term

Tourism Minister, Lai Mohammed
Minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed

MINISTER for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has disclosed his readiness to set the necessary legal framework for the Tourism sector in Nigeria.

The agenda, according to the Minister was “to build on the gains of the past four years. What you are about to hear is by no means exhaustive, hence we are open to ideas on areas we may have inadvertently left out.”

He added that “we will conclude and launch the National Policy on Culture as well as the National Policy on Tourism.”

The Minister made the disclosure during a meeting with travel journalists/arts and culture writers association of Nigeria in Lagoa on Sunday.

Mohammed disclosed that “We plan to:

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a) – To set the necessary legal framework for the sector, we will conclude and launch the National Policy on Culture as well as the National Policy on Tourism.

b) – Finalize work on the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) Bill and submit it to the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The plan is to create a proper regulatory environment for the sub-sector that has put Nigeria’s name on the global map, thus attracting the much-needed investment to the sector.

c) – Establish the Endowment Fund for the Arts to create a legal framework for the financing of the sector.

d) – Make the National Summit for Culture and Tourism – which we first heon Tue mini April 2016 – a yearly affair, starting from the first quarter
of 2020

e) – Ensure a regular meeting of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) to catalyze the growth of tourism. We plan at least three meetings a year.

f) – Kick-start the implementation of the parts of the Tourism Masterplan that constitute low-hanging fruits.

g) – Complete work on the establishment of Tourism Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), working with the UNWTO. We have already signed an agreement with the UNWTO in this regard.

h) – Institute a unified National Celebration of the World Tourism Day, instead of the current situation in which we have multiple celebrations i) – Hold a National Council on Culture and Tourism in May next year and then hold it yearly thereafter.

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j) – Organize a Regional Summit on Culture and Tourism, starting next year, with a view to working with other countries in the West Africa sub-region to foster the development of the sector.

k) – Continue with our visits to tourist sites and attend as many festivals as possible across the country.

l) – Finalize work on and launch our National Festival Calendar this year. This is to attract more tourists, domestic and foreign, to these events.

m) – Get more sites in Nigeria inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites

n) – Explore private sector branding of the nation’s Cultural Centres abroad

Mohammed, described journalists as critical stakeholders “to any progress we may hope to achieve in this sector” while revealing his plans to working more closely with them in this second tenure.

Reviewing his first term in office as the minister of Information and Culture, Mohammed notes that “there was a misconception in certain circles that we paid more attention to the Information sector than we did to Culture and Tourism. This may appear so because the issues we usually deal with in the Information sector are those that receive the bigger play in the media. But I can tell you, with evidence, that we achieved a lot in the Tourism and Culture Sector, or in the Creative Industry generally.

“Within six months of assuming office (in November 2015), we decided to invite all stakeholders to a meeting, tagged the National Summit on Culture and Tourism, in April 2016 in Abuja, with a view to charting a new path for the nation’s Creative Industry. At the end of the summit, we set up an Implementation Committee to carry out the recommendations of the summit. The review of our Tourism Masterplan; resuscitation of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) and the setting up a Task Force on the Creative Industry are some of the outcomes of the summit.

“We followed up that summit by organizing two other meetings to fast-track the main objective of transforming the Creative Industry which I have regularly described as Nigeria’s ‘new oil’. First, we convened a Roundtable in Lagos that provided stakeholders with the platform to engage in business-focused discussions, with a view to initiating and enabling private-sector-led growth and development of the Industry. Then we held the Creative Industry Financing Conference to articulate ways to source funding for the Creative Industry. Gentlemen, both meetings paid off handsomely. After I led a team of stakeholders to the Inspector-General of Police, the force set up anti-piracy units in all its 36 formations and the FCT, leading to many joint raids and seizure of pirated works, with the National Film and Video Censors Board, We haven’t eradicated piracy, but we have shown the political will to tackle the menace. Another fallout of the meetings is the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI) of the Central Bank of Nigeria to improve access to long-term, low-cost financing for entrepreneurs and investors in the Creative Industry and the Information Technology Sectors. Under this Initiative, you can get a loan ranging from 3 million Naira to 500 million Naira for movie production, movie distribution, fashion, music, etc. Remember, gentlemen, that this happened after I also led a team of stakeholders to meet with the CBN, upon the recommendation of the Creative Industry Financing Conference. Same applies to the granting of the Pioneer Status, by the Federal Government, to the Creative Industry Sector to boost investment in the sector. It was one of the recommendations from the Creative Industry Financing Conference.

“We also decided to engage in partnerships to fast-track the growth of the industry by signing MoUs with the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the British Council. Under the latter, we trained over 100 Festival Managers in Lagos, Abuja and Accra. The next phase in the implementation of the MoU is the mapping of the Creative Industry. Of course, you are aware that when we came on board, Nigeria was just a member of the UNWTO in name. We decided to re-engage fully with the organization, and our efforts paid off richly. First, we were awarded the hosting right of the 61st UNWTO CAF Meeting, which I talked about earlier, and Nigeria was elected as Vice President, Africa, at the 22nd General Assembly of the organization in China.

“As part of efforts to attract attention and infrastructural development to tourist sites, we visited a number of such sites across the country, just as we also attended many festivals. First, we showcased the Eko Atlantic City during the 2016 World Tourism Day and the 2018 hosting of the 61st UNWTO CAF Meeting. Then we visited tourists sites that include Owu Water Falls in Kwara; Rock Painting in Birnin Kudu, Jigawa State; Durbar in Dutse, Jigawa; Calabar Carnival in Cross River State; Puus Kaat Festival in Mangu, Plateau and Ijakadi Festival in Kwara State. In the same vein, we made sure to attend the premieres of many movies across the country in a show of support for the efforts of our brilliant and hardworking producers. The premieres we attended included Genevive Nnaji’s ‘Road To Yesterday’, Mo Abudu’s ‘Wedding Party’, Bolanle Austen-Peters’ ‘The Bling Lagosians’, ‘Hakunde’ by Nadine Ibrahim as well as ‘Oloibiri’. We travelled to London to support ‘Waka’ the musical, just as we supported ‘Saro’ the musical as well as ‘Fela and Kalakuta Queens’, all from the stable of Bolanle Austen-Pters.

“Similarly, we gave strong government support for the hosting of the Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) in Lagos, Nigeria, for four consecutive years. The Ministry also packaged Nigeria’s first-ever attendance of Edinburgh’s Military Tattoo last August. Troupes from FCT, Osun, Kano and Katsina States joined representatives of the military at the month-long event, where Nigeria dazzled the world.”

Mohammed emphasised that the President Muhammed Buhari-led administration did not neglect the Culture and Tourism Sector, as some have insinuated. “rather, we engaged in a lot of activities to showcase the sector and set it up as the nation’s new oil. As we begin a new tenure, we promised to do even more for the sector, working with all stakeholders. This sector, if well harnessed, is capable of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for our ever-creative and energetic youths.”

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