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Why I moved motion for demerging of Culture and Tourism Ministry —Senator Raji Rasaki

•Set to train tour guides in Ekiti

The chairman Senate Committe on Culture and Tourism, Senator Fatimat Raji-Rasaki says her conviction in the potency of tourism as a vibrant alternative source of revenue actuated her motion in the Senate calling for the demerging of the Ministry for Culture and Tourism from the Ministry of Information and national Orientation.

Senator Raji-Rasaki who spoke with TTM in her Ado-Ekiti residence said: “We are being challenged as a nation by the urgent necessity of locating and grooming alternative sources of revenue for the country. The development rate of this nation has suffered stagnation and truncation, just because of the mono-economy which depends on oil and oil alone without being reinforced by other sectors of the economy.”

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She disclosed that : “As a Nigerian who has not only travelled throughout the length and breadth of this country visiting and sightseeing the wonderful topography with its numerous tourism potentialities,  and who has also experienced inter-continental globetrotting which enabled me to understand the import of tourism, I have the conviction in me that if Nigeria as a nation can take the political will and develop its tourism sector, we shall be saved from the torment and humiliating circumstances which the drop in the price of crude oil in the world market always foists on us when there is oil gloom.”

Senator Raji-Rasaki revealed: “As the chairman of Senate Committe on Culture and Tourism, I have taken my time at reviewing the tourism trajectory in Nigeria. I have read about its development and efforts at making sure that at least, this sector grows. I also have seen that the only time that tourism enjoys a noticeable rise was that period when a separate ministry was created to midwife this sector. This is the truth. But that period, there was a political will to develop and enhance tourism. So the modicum of success then could be attributed to the new ministry, with a distinct minister and a minister of state and an agrarian commitment to the implementation of a national policy on tourism. Then, there was a presidential committee on tourism which the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was the chairman and I read how he attended the meetings. The then finance minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, was a member and other ministers whose ministries were heavily connected with tourism development. It was then, that Nigeria initiated the Abuja Carnival which was well organised. Then, Nigeria hosted successfully Africa Tourism Minister and many others just because there was a ministry and a minister.”

She added: “I did not stop at that. I made a case study of four countries which have made progressive advancement in tourism and which has effectively explored the tourism sector to reinforce the economy of their countries. I did not pick France, US, the UK or Germany, which can be cited conveniently, but Kenya in East Africa, South Africa, Malaysia and Ghana in West–Africa. I studied these countries well and I found out that tourism was a major revenue generation source. And how did they do this? Apart from creating a separate Ministry for Tourism with a substantive minister, these countries ensure the creation of a legal framework which arms the sector and gives   practitioners a focus of direction and creates confidence of purpose in business tourism. Also, these countries invested heavily in tourism infrastructure that entices both the buyers and sellers of tourism. Also, these countries ensured adequate funding of the sector. It will amuse you that the total budget for the tourism sector in Nigeria is not amount up to three per cent of the fund for marketing and promotion in one of these countries. Yes, it is so bad”

Senator Raji-Rasaki said: ‘Thus, the first task before us is to ensure that there is a legal framework for the sector. And this we have been doing. I have to mention the former chairman of this committee, Senator Uhroghide and the other members of the committee who worked tirelessly at making sure that NIHOTOUR and NTDC Bill are being processed. You see, it is not funny that a tourism institute, which has existed for almost two decades was operating without any law? Even, the NTDC has been operating with the proboscis of antiquated and archaic laws. But all of these are being taken care of by the members of this committee. We are also working on other bills which will arm and give legal teeth to some associations, interest groups and professional entities within the sector. These and others were the steps taken by those countries which we are today referring to as tourism advanced countries. The fact is that , if we want to advance and make tourism an alternate source of revenue generation for this country, we must do and establish those fundamentals which are necessary for it to germinate, grow and blossom.”

She pointed out that “I am sure the incoming President Muhammed Buhari will  demerge the Culture and Tourism Ministry  from the Ministry of Information,  Culture  and National Orientation, for my motion is a clarion call, not to call for a new law to create a new ministry because the ministry had been created once and was just merged . So my motion is to call the president to demerge the hitherto Ministry of Culture and Tourism from where it was lodged in.”

Senator Raji-Rasaki who represents Ekiti Central senatorial District disclosed her intention of empowering some graduates in her senatorial district: “I know the import of tourism via empowerment, wealth distribution, employment and revenue generation. And I have decided to empower certain numbers of unemployed graduates within my senatorial district in the art of tour guiding. I have engaged professionals in tourism and tour guides as well as consultants who will put my people through. I have embarked on the sensitisation for applicants and by the end of the programme, we would be able to empower some of these jobless graduates professionally and profitably.”

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