Insist the government has done little to boost the industry after the COVID-19 lockdown
Tourism stakeholders have bemoaned the state of the industry following the pandemic lockdown and questioned why Nigeria is keen to host the United Nations World Tourism Organization conference on cultural tourism and creative industries, describing it as “wild goose hunting with no benefit to Nigeria”. ”
They said the tourism industry has stalled, even as policymakers around the world look for ways to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the recovery Nigeria has not been properly managed.
Earlier in 2022, the Federal Government had signed an agreement to host the first World Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry in Lagos from November 14-17, 2022.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, signed the agreement in Madrid, Spain, together with the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili.
He had assured me that the country would organize an innovative event.
He described the signing of the agreement as the clearest indication to date of Nigeria’s commitment to hosting a successful conference, officially titled “UNWTO’s 1st Global Conference on the Linkages between Tourism, Culture and Creative Industries: Pathways to Recovery and Inclusive Development”.
He said the global conference would confirm Nigeria’s status as a creative industry hub in Africa and help reposition cultural tourism and the creative industry as an engine of growth not just for Nigeria or Africa. Africa, but also for all the countries of the world.
Mohammed said the conference would boost the creative industries, which the UN says generate annual revenues of $2.25 trillion and support 30 million jobs worldwide.
He commended UNWTO for organizing the conference and granting Nigeria the hosting rights.
In addition, UNWTO Secretary-General, Mr. Pololikashvili, assured that the UN agency would immediately launch a global publicity campaign for the event as part of efforts to ensure its success.
In an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, issued by the Chairman of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, they said that Nigeria has no moral right to host the conference because he hasn’t done much to promote tourism here.
Tourism stakeholders said: “The priority has not translated into the physical reality and transformation of our sector, which is globally recognized as a multi-tiered industry and the largest employer of labor with every “one” in 10 jobs in the tourism sector. ”
They noted, “the Ministry responsible for Tourism; the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, and the Minister responsible, Alhaji Mohammed, have neglected tourism to say the least, without basic policy direction, programs and activities fully initiated and/or in partnership with the private sector to drive tourism to improve its contribution to the country’s gross domestic product.
The letter also states that the department and the minister appear to have an outspoken contempt for domestic tourism and to work with the private sector as a fulcrum to change the narrative and disruptive innovations in the sector, as has been done under other climates.
“Even in the difficult times of COVID-19, when most Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were working closely with the private sector to devise palliative strategies for survival, the Minister and the Ministry did not considered wise to woo the private sector.
“The minister’s only reaction was to set up a ‘controversial’ creative industry committee to work out palliatives for the sector.
“Unfortunately, the recommendations of the committee and the review committee are now gathering dust and cobwebs in the minister’s ‘golden’ cabinet; neither disclosed nor recommendations implemented.
Almost two years after the inauguration of the post-COVID-19 initiatives implementation committee for the creative industry, artists and culture workers are still waiting for their own palliative. The committee was inaugurated on August 18, 2020.
The Guardian has learned from government sources that creatives should wait a bit longer as the government cannot currently fund the package.
The sources said that “the government is still working to secure the necessary funds and when they will be available; it will surely be paid to creative workers.
In March 2020, most cultural institutions closed shop and events were postponed or cancelled, either voluntarily or on the recommendation of the government. These included libraries, archives, museums, film and television productions, theater and orchestra performances, concert tours, zoos, as well as music, art and exhibition festivals. The tourism industry was practically dead and needed recovery plans.
Recognizing that the pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on jobs and that many people have been temporarily or permanently out of work, governments around the world have begun to introduce measures to support workers and businesses affected by COVID-19 that apply to all sectors of the economy, including those working in the cultural sector.
Governments noted that fiscal stimulus and charities for artists would boost growth. The Federal Government, at the time, said it was working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to provide palliative and strategic intervention to the creative industry to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on the sector. .
Already, the government had put in place measures to tackle the impact, which include different financial interventions including N50 billion targeting households and micro and small businesses. The interest rate was also reduced and a moratorium was announced on principal repayments for CBN response facilities.
The government has also announced an additional N100 billion response fund in the form of healthcare loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals intending to expand/strengthen their capacities, as well as identification of a few key local pharmaceutical companies who will benefit from financing facilities to support the supply of raw materials. and equipment needed to boost local drug production and 27 billion naira to save existing aviation industry organizations and jobs, through a targeted stimulus package and accelerate the establishment of a national carrier led by the private sector.
Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed noted that the creative industry is a major part of the Buhari administration’s economic diversification policy, as it creates the most jobs after the ‘agriculture.
“Overall, the pandemic has been very severe for the creative and entertainment industry, but the government is reaching out through CBN to provide palliatives and intervention to cushion the effects of the pandemic,” he said.
Mohammed said that due to the challenge, “so we decided that instead of solving this problem piecemeal, we should do it holistically for a more positive outcome”, noting that the creative industry is a very critical sector of the national economy.
Drawing inspiration from Europe and America, the federal government approved the appointment of Ali Baba, Segun Arinze and others to a committee of creative industry players to advise it on the best way to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry.
The committee, which was headed by Atunyota Alleluya Akpobome, professionally known as Ali Baba, had Anita Eboigbe of Nigeria’s news agency, NAN, as its secretary. The other members of the Committee were Bolanle Austen Peters, Charles Novia, Segun Arinze, Ali Jita, Baba Agba, Kene Okwuosa, Efe Omoregbe, Prince Daniel Aboki, Chioma Ude, Olumade Adesemowo, Dare Art Alade and Hajia Sa’a Ibrahim.
The committee’s mandate included assessing the expected impact of the pandemic on the industry in general and advising the government on how to mitigate job and revenue losses in the sector, as well as create relief for small businesses in the industry.
According to the Minister, the committee must also suggest the type of taxation and financing that is best suited to the industry at this time to encourage growth and also advise the government on any other measures or measures that can be taken to support the industry. industry.
Following the submission of the committee’s report, the minister gave an assurance, noting that “we will study the report and begin its implementation in earnest.”
Listing the government’s callousness towards the sector, he said: “Our sector was already grappling with an infrastructure deficit and financing opportunities before COVID-19 hit and then this ‘slowdown’ that followed. The results? Our government has said it’s looking for money, which is understandable, but other governments are passing infrastructure bills and funding their various communities to get the economy moving again, we’re here passing policies that are contrary to growth and development.
The letter said: “Unfortunately, the minister did not feel the need to work in this direction, especially given our particular situation; with our bleeding economy and tourist destinations plagued by insecurity that does not trust tourists and investors to revamp our neglected tourism.
“On the contrary, what we have seen over the last seven years is that the minister and the ministry have focused more on just attending international events and UNWTO meetings, and therefore, are become “specialists-in-waiting” in lobbying for hosting rights for any UNWTO-related events without putting into perspective the economic costs and benefits to the country.
The letter concluded: “We, the private sector, strongly believe that this global conference is of no benefit to Nigeria and our tourism industry. It’s rather selfish and more personal aggrandizement and these can be deciphered from a critical analysis of the current state of our tourism and culture.