Keynote Address By Minister Of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at the 9th National Council on Tourism, Culture And National Orientation in Dutse, Jigawa State



Permit me to start my address by thanking our host, the Executive Governor of Jigawa State, His Excellency Alhaji Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, his entire cabinet and the good people of Jigawa, for the warm reception and the hospitality they have accorded us since our arrival in this beautiful city of Dutse. We are also grateful for the support from the Government of Jigawa State towards the hosting of this 9th Edition of the National Council on Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.

  1. Your Excellency, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to address you on this auspicious occasion of the National Council for Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, with the theme “Tourism and Culture as Panacea for Nigeria’s Economic Recovery’’.
  2. Right from the onset, this administration was clear in its determination to enhance the economic fortunes of Nigeria through the diversification of the country’s economy, with a view to reducing poverty, creating jobs, stimulating revenue generation, ensuring effective utilization of local resources and providing sustainable peace and security. We had no choice, considering the drastic fall in the price of oil, the mainstay of our country’s economy.
  3. This is why we have consistently been evolving policies and programmes to explore the tourism and culture sector, in collaboration with our partners and stakeholders, to reposition Nigeria’s economy. Against this backdrop, the theme of this year’s meeting is apt and in tandem with our Administration’s avowed commitment to boosting the economy through the non-oil sector.
  4. As you are all aware, culture and tourism are intrinsically intertwined, and both sit on a tripod: The government, whether federal, state or local, which must provide the enabling environment; the local community, who are the custodians of their culture as well as tourist sites and the private sector, which is expected to make the necessary investment to lift the sites.
  5. It is heartwarming to know that all the 36 states in Nigeria, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, are endowed with diverse cultures, heritage and tourist attractions that hold very high potentials to generate employment for our teeming youth and revenue for the government. In other climes such as China, Brazil, India, United Kingdom, United States of America, France and Egypt, to mention a few, culture and tourism have been mainstreamed as vital parts of the economic agenda, which do not only generate income and sustainable employment for their citizens, but have redirected the energies of their youths for productive ventures. We can and must replicate same here.
  6. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is on this premise that I convened a National Summit on Culture and Tourism in Abuja in 2016 for the stakeholders in the sector to proffer workable framework to engage culture and tourism as a catalyst to stimulate Nigeria’s economy towards the path of recovery for national growth and development. I must quickly add that our efforts in this regard have started to yield some positive results, as we have since been implementing the recommendations of that summit.
  7. Let me state here that the Federal Government of Nigeria, in its effort to diversify the economy, has recognized the Creative Industry, of which culture and tourism are integral parts, as a key sector to create jobs and wealth and to earn foreign exchange, as reflected in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017 to 2020. Realizing the need to build capacity in this industry as a prelude to other things, my ministry has signed a number of MoUs, including with the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the British Council. We have started implementing the MoUs with the training of Festival Managers.
  8. It is also gratifying to note that the ministry, in its bid to reposition the sector, has established fourteen (14) Cultural Industry Centres with necessary facilities across the six geo-political zones of the federation to serve as skills acquisition and capacity building centres for our teeming youth and women, with the aim of creating wealth, generating jobs and boosting our National GDP.
  9. We, therefore, need to key into the fact that the Culture and Tourism Sector is gaining more recognition and visibility and evolving economic activities capable of reducing extreme poverty, creating jobs and generating revenues for national growth and development.
  10. It is a common knowledge that all the States and Local Governments have unique products, festivals and outstanding tourism sites. I, therefore, wish to also encourage all the Managers of Culture and Tourism at the State and Local Government levels to make the necessary efforts to develop these products and tourism sites in partnership with the private sector, in order to attract both domestic and international investors and tourists. It is also important to streamline these programmes and festivals in order to strategize and synchronize them for effective participation
  11. I want to posit here that a major challenge facing our tourism industry is the need for packaging into products that can be marketed and sold. We leave things to nature too much in this part of the world and that holds no value. Let me explain: Upon my arrival in Dutse yesterday, I visited a major tourist site, the rock paintings and caves of Birnin Kudu. These rocks and the paintings on them date back to centuries, and they tell the history of the community in which they are situated and also give insight into how they lived. For example, the paintings on the rocks, which are beginning to fade, could not have been possible if the people did not have some form of superior technology. As I told the curator of the sites, it is necessary to first preserve the paintings before the sites can be packaged for tourists. Fortunately, he told me that the community is working with a number of international foundations in that regard.
  12. It is also important to say that we must boost domestic tourism in the country. The challenge we face in this regard is how to increase the number of Nigerians who travel within the country for leisure and entertainment. How do we make them feel secure enough to want to travel across the country. Are the tourist sites well packaged enough to attract tourists? I raised this issue during my visit to the Birnin Kudu rocks yesterday. I tasked the community on the need to provide toilet facilities, restaurants as well as arts and crafts shops near these sites, so that the tourists can get some comfort and the local community can benefit from the influx of visitors to the sites.
  13. Concerning international tourism, we have realized that our clear competitive advantage is our Film and Music industries. Whether it is Nollywood, Kannywood, or Afrobeats. Consequently, we will be harnessing them to promote our country as a tourism destination. Seeing our sites, people, culture and cities through films and music video should spur many to want to explore the country. That’s why we have reached an agreement with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the global news channel CNN to showcase Nigeria globally, from the perspective of our film and entertainment industry. Indeed, packaging, marketing and thinking outside the box is the future of tourism.
  14. Talking of packaging and marketing, I make bold to say we, and I mean all the 36 States and the FCT, have the products to boost domestic and international tourism. Again, the challenge is how we package and market them, how we leverage our rich cultural heritage to boost tourism. The case of Durbar is a good example. Honestly, this is one cultural event that can sustain any community, any state that engages in it. It has the capacity to create jobs, to generate wealth, to rake in foreign exchange and to boost our GDP. As part of our activities in Dutse yesterday, His Royal Highness, the Emir of Dutse, hosted us to a mini-Durbar. It was a most colourful, magnificent, culturally-rich and mesmerising event! This event, if well marketed, has the capacity to catalyze our tourist industry. Similar events abound all over the country.
  15. May I at this juncture inform the tourism stakeholders that the UNWTO has granted Nigeria the hosting right for the 61st Commission for Africa (CAF) meeting in Abuja, Nigeria. The meeting is scheduled to take place from 4th-6th June, 2018. I wish to use this platform to urge all stakeholders to synergize with the ministry for a successful hosting and to take advantage of this meeting to showcase their products to the international community.
  16. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, may I reiterate that this august gathering – which is seen as the apex policy and advisory body on matters relating to culture, tourism and national orientation – has the huge task of evolving more enduring and viable policies and programmes capable of taking Nigeria to the next economic level and to achieve the aspirations and objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Your efforts in this regard will not only increase visibility for culture and tourism, but will redirect the energies of the Nigerian youths to utilize local resources for economic empowerment, sustainable peace and security.
  17. Distinguished participants, may I at this juncture challenge the Culture and Tourism stakeholders to revisit the existing Policy documents (National Policies on Culture and Tourism), pick up the responsibilities apportioned to each one of us and implement such without delay. The responsibilities of the Federal Government, States, Local Governments and the Private Sector are clearly outlined for implementation in these documents. However, the policies are being reviewed in line with international best practices and will be presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval as soon as the reviews are concluded.
  18. Finally, I urge you all to savour the traditional hospitality of the good people of Jigawa State. Take time out from your busy schedule to visit places of interest, like the rock paintings and caves of Birnin Kudu and the centuries-year-old palace of the Emir of Dutse. I have been to both since my arrival here yesterday, and I am the richer for it!
  19. I wish you all fruitful deliberations.