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President Buhari’s Massive Infrastructural Development Has Boosted Tourism In Nigeria- NTDC Boss, Folorunsho Coker

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The Senate has passed the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) (Repeal renactment) Bill 2017 into law. The law, which was initiated to reposition NTDC, is awaiting President Muhammadu Buhari‘s assent. NTDC Director-General Folorunso Coker speaks with Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME on his expectations of the law and its relevance to global tourism objectives.

Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Director-General, Mr. Folorunso Coker, has described the new NTDC bill awaiting President Buhari’s assent as the needed legal framework to grow the nation’s tourism potential. He said the new bill when passed into law will prompt a financial framework that allows the agency to operate as a business entity capable of generating huge revenues for the economy.

He likened the NTDC’s legal framework to the required foundation (the financial framework inclusive) laid in the communication, banking, oil and gas sectors, which resulted in their huge revenue returns.

He lamented that most tourism operators are now unable to access loans from the banks because tourism does not generate individual returns, which may allow it to withstand 25 per cent interest rate. This, according to him, is because tourism is not seen as a serious business.

Coker, who spoke in Lagos, said it is not profitable for the corporation to sit on the fence as a regulatory body and being unable to behave like a private sector concern in terms of understanding people’s needs.

He noted that since he assumed office in 2017, he has refrained from performing assignments on the pages of newspapers, but focused carefully on building blocks on a foundation that will allow subsequent development plans.

“In tourism, the legal framework for the commercialisation of tourism world best practices was not there. The law was really old.  The law has also been handcuffed by a Supreme Court order, so it was not a law that could allow tourism industry generate the kind of revenues the oil and communication industries have. That is the significance.

“With the legal framework required for the financial framework to sit on, with the global best practices locked into that, you can see that the lip services that tourism was paid can not achieve much, except the legal frame work is in place. For instance, tourism operators cannot conveniently borrow from the bank because tourism is not seen as a business, because there is no legal framework that supports it. Now, hopefully that will change as soon as the bill is passed into law,” he said.

According to Coker, despite these challenges, tourism has been very lucky with the on-going infrastructural development (roads, rail, security, power) embarked upon by Buhari’s administration across the country. He added that for every naira President Buhari has spent in making the life of every Nigerian better is what tourism requires.

He commended Nigeria for investing in agriculture, manufacturing, power, rail, road and other infrastructure, noting that the best off taker for these industries is tourism because it consumes almost all the products. “Tourism will create more intense demand for agricultural products, manufacturing, power, etc. and ‘we will see good value for the investment,” he said.

“Every naira spent benefits tourism. Even though tourism is angling for more funds for specific tourism projects, a lot of things are being done that benefit tourism as it benefits the larger society. Also, we have started the process of Tourism Satellite Account, (TSA), which allows you to measure what is going right or wrong,” he said.

On the journey so far, Coker said: “This is not something one would particularly want to publicise. But, in terms of NTDC, I met a lot of historical debts. And with limited funding it was important that I discharge some of the historical debts, but I also kept the organisation alive. The financial engineering was required to balance that historical debts that I did not create, but keep people running and paid off little by little, without fear or favour.” The implementation of that is what attracted the initial protest by staff of the organisation. “If you have very limited resources, you must close loopholes. And when you do that, there will be crisis. In terms of human capital, our focus has been digital. I am glad that the staff have embraced the digital training because the future is digital. Today, the richest companies in the world are not in the oil and gas sector, but digital, where Apple, Google etc. are leaders. Everybody’s life in the future will be disrupted by this new technology.”

Promoting tourism brands

“Within the NTDC’s Tour Nigeria and Nigeria Flavour the digital marketing brands we created, we can generate in-bound tourists from the Diaspora as witnessed in Ghana last month, which might have been subsidised by that government.  By virtue of our population, we have the strength to bring good number of Diaspora to Nigeria. We are pleading for financial institutions to make funding of tourism cheaper for tourism stakeholders because tourism does not generate individual returns yet that allows it to stand 25 per cent interest rate.

“If you go to Dubai or London, most of the tourism facilities are domestic first and foremost, but expanded to accommodate international plugging.

“In fact, Nigeria offers value for money when compared to other cities. As long as we have good value for money, we will get the international tourists. All we need to do is get our fundamentals right. That is what I am trying to do.”

 Tourism Development Fund

 “This is to aggregate the taxes that are due to tourism and allow the identification of tourism tax that will go into the development fund, which will be managed by a board. For instance, if NTDC wants to build a small motel in Gurara Fall, we need to bring a seed money as counterpart fund to execute such project. This is to encourage the host state.

 Use of data for development

 “We have a very good relationship with National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The Bureau examined the performances of tourism related industry in the economy and declared that tourism was responsible for 34 per cent of the country’s GDP and 20 per cent employment generation. These figures are incredibly encouraging to me.

“It is good Nigeria is investing in agriculture, manufacturing, power, rail, road and other infrastructure. The best off taker for these industries is tourism because it consumes almost all the products. Tourism will create more intense demand for agricultural products, power, etc and we will see good value for the investment. By investment, I mean the seed money we need to put into the sector to encourage state and private operators. In fact, the bill is not punitive to anybody as it is more by collaboration than enforcement.”

 Hotel standardization

 “Hotel standardisation and grading across the world are done by countries and not by states. We are going through the motion with UNWTO to put ourselves in a position to grade all our hotels so that we can deliver value for money. We cannot force any state to subscribe to standardisation of hotels because it is in the state interest to subscribe. Will anyone wish to have many standards or one standard that is uniform across board?

 Expectations from the law

“I see a future where NTDC is a technological company in the sphere of tourism regulation just like UBER in the sphere of transportation, Inter-switch in the provision of switching system in the banking sector. That’s is my vision for NTDC.”

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Inclusive Foundation Mourns Veteran Actress, Rachael Oniga

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Inclusive Social Welfare and Empowerment Foundation, a non-governmental organisation has expressed its heartfelt sympathy to family, friends and the entire movie industry over the loss of the veteran actress, Rachael Oniga who died at age 64.

 

 

The CEO of the foundation, Chief (Mrs.) Pat Eleto, in a condolence visit to the family, on Saturday, July 31st, said the news came as a rude shock to many, but she believes that the late actress has created a great impact with her career, and her legacy should never be forgotten.

 

 

In her statement, Chief (Mrs.)Eleto said:

“It is with a heavy heart that I grief with the family of a sister, friend and adviser of Inclusive Social Welfare and Empowerment Foundation.

 

 

“Mrs. Oniga, is one of our great ambassadors, and we were actually working on a project that is meant for the later part of this year when the sad news of her demise came.

 

 

“Death is inevitable, we pray for the repose of her soul, and may God comfort all the people she left behind. We also hope and pray that all her good legacies, be sustained because, she was indeed a pillar of support to our foundation, and also one of veterans that contributed immensely to the growth of Nollywood,” the statement reads.

 

 

A native of Delta State, Oniga was one of the ambassadors of Inclusive Social Welfare and Empowerment Foundation.

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Alaafin Shuns Ooni-Backed Group Over Alleged Anti-Buhari Posture

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ALAAFIN

The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, on Friday, at the last minute, allegedly cancelled an appointment he gave to a Yoruba group, Ooni’s Caucus, on the alleged complaint that members of the group are “notorious critics” of the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

 

 

The Ooni’s Caucus, which was inaugurated at the palace of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, on July 20, 2021, is made of many influential Yoruba persons and is being coordinated by a former Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria, Mr Akin Osuntokun.

 

 

PUNCH learnt that Osuntokun led about 14 members of the group to Alaafin’s palace for the alleged 11am appointment on Friday, but after waiting for about two and a half hours, the influential monarch sent words to them that he would not be seeing them.

 

 

According to a source, who spoke to  PUNCH on condition of anonymity, some of the group’s members who went to Alaafin’s palace with Osuntokun were a monarch, the Olugbon of Orile-Igbon, Oba Francis Alao; a former presidential spokesman, Dr Doyin Okupe; a former commissioner in Osun State, Muyiwa Ige;  a former Minister of Defence, Mrs Dupe Adelaja; a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Taiwo Lakanu,  Oye Oyewumi, Sola Lawal, among others.

 

 

A former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, is also said to be a member of Ooni’s Caucus, but he was not on the delegation to Alaafin’s palace on Friday.

 

 

The source, who is a member of the group, claimed that the group had through the Olugbon secured an appointment with Alaafin since Monday, and the same appointment was confirmed on Thursday, only for them to get to the palace and the Alaafin refused to see them on the claim that they were anti-Buhari and were also loyalists of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

 

 

The source explained that the main purpose of the meeting was for the newly-inaugurated group to get Alaafin’s blessings and to possibly discuss the issue of the embattled Yoruba Nation agitator, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, who is currently being held and tried in Cotonou, Benin Republic.

 

 

The source said, “The Olugbon, a member of the caucus, was the one who booked the appointment, but he said the Alaafin said he didn’t want to see us because we’re notorious critics of the Buhari government.

 

 

“He (Alaafin) confirmed the appointment yesterday (Thursday). But when we got there today, he kept us waiting; after a while, he asked to see the Olugbon. He (Alaafin) didn’t come to see us; we were told he said he wouldn’t see us because we are notorious critics of Buhari’s government and that some of us are close to Obasanjo, who is also critical of the government.

 

 

“We were made to wait for about two and a half hours; he gave us an appointment for 11am; we got there at 11am and at about 1.30pm, that was when it was obvious to us that he wasn’t coming (to see us). But he initially asked to see the Olugbon, who went to see him for about an hour. When the Olugbon eventually came back, he said Alaafin would not see us, saying we are a group that is critical of the Buhari government and some of us are loyalists of Obasanjo.”

 

On whether the group’s mission to Alaafin’s palace was to discuss Sunday Igboho’s matter, the source said, “Of course, the issue (of Igboho) would come up but that was not the purpose of the visit. The issue of Igboho concerns all the Yoruba people but that was not our reason for going to him.”

 

 

On whether the group would try and book another appointment, the source said, “I don’t know; we were all surprised that a Yoruba oba can refuse to see his children on account of not wanting to be on the bad side of Buhari’s government. I would have thought that an oba is supposed to take everybody as his children, whether they are supporters of Buhari the All progressives Congress or the Peoples Democratic Party or whatever party.”

 

 

But when contacted by PUNCH, the Media Director to the Alaafin, Bode Durojaye, said the reason his principal did not see the group was because they did not have any prior appointment with him.

 

 

Durojaye said the Alaafin would be willing to entertain the group if they booked an appointment.

 

 

 

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NMA Reacts As Bandits Break Into, Pick Nurse At Zamfara General Hospital

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Bandits

Suspected bandits invaded General Hospital, Dansadau, Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State on Friday, resulting in the abduction of a nurse and caregiver.

 

 

Residents said that immediately the men stormed the medical facility, the armed men headed to the outpatient ward in search of a doctor or nurse.

 

 

“When they couldn’t find anybody there, they started going from one ward to another. A nurse and a caregiver were abducted. They then moved to staff quarters looking for doctors and nurses but could not find any.”

 

 

“The armed criminals had earlier attempted to attack Maigoge, a community located six kilometres north of Dansadau town.

 

 

“But when they laid siege to the community, the vigilantes otherwise known as Yan Sakai firmly defended the village. The vigilante killed some of the bandits and injured several others.

 

 

“They then invaded the hospital to kidnap nurse and doctors that will treat their injured brothers in the forest.”

 

 

 

Maigoge is one of the few communities in Dansadau Emirate known to be firmly defending themselves against bandits.

 

 

“The staff of the facility are not carrying out night duties now. They only attend to patients at day time. They then move inside the town to spend night usually at undisclosed locations,” he added.

 

 

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association in Zamfara state, Dr Mannir Bature, who confirmed the attack said the association is worried by the unfortunate incident.

 

 

He said they would hold an emergency state officers council meeting on Saturday.

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