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OPINION

Bayelsa: My thoughts on Supreme Court judgement in PDP, Sen. Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo’s case, By Honesty Eguridu, ESQ

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Honesty Eguridu, ESQ

No one saw it coming! I can take a bet for it that not even Senator Duoye Diri and the PDP who instituted the case and got judgment in their favour at the Federal High Court in November 2019, saw it coming.

Just as the dust caused by the decision of the Supreme Court in Imo State is yet to settle, the Apex Court dished out another steaming decision and I dare say the dust created by this recent decision is more intense than that of Imo State. As the news of the decision filtered in, lawyers and “laymen” alike were thrown into panic.

This Supreme Court now seems to specialize in upsetting the status quo in unprecedented manner! A lot of people with various interests couldn’t hold back their emotions; the ensuing confusion knows no bound and it’s still raging … “How can the Supreme Court punish one man for the sins of another man?

A lawyer queried “if Faleke could not benefit from his joint ticket with Audu in the Kogi State 2015 governorship election, why then is the issue of Deputy Governor’s qualification affecting David Lyon now? Did the Deputy Governor get the party’s nomination? I must state here that though some of these questions were raised by learned minds, it must be pointed out that these learned minds must have been beclouded by sentiments and deep rooted bias caused by the disappointment in the sudden turn of events in Bayelsa State.

Members of the PDP who were berating the Supreme Court a few weeks ago are suddenly full of praises for the Apex Court and it is now the turn of the APC to lament and call for a review of the judgment. Typical of the chameleonic tendencies of our political elites. One thing is however sure, by this judgment, the Supreme Court has asserted its independence and impartiality in the Nigerian polity. Like the Lady Justice statue with a blindfold, a set of scales and a sword, which is a personification of justice as being blind to the personality of whoever comes before it for a redress and depicts the impartiality and objectivity of the law in not allowing extraneous factors, such as politics, wealth or fame, influence its decisions.

The Supreme Court has shown that it can dispense justice by being impartial and weighs the evidence presented before the court accurately on either sides of the scales and with the right hand the heavy sword is wielded with strength, swiftness and precision to balance the skewed scale in order to right the wrong complained of and return the scales to their natural state of harmony and evenness.

The double-edged blade of the sword of Lady Justice signifies that justice can rule against either of the parties once the evidence has been measured on the basis of comparison on either sides of the scale. That is the essence of justice; achieving a remarkable feat of balance! That is what the Supreme Court has been able to achieve here.

The case was a pre-election matter instituted by means of an Originating Summons at the Federal High Court by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Douye Diri and Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo as first, second and third Applicants respectively. The Defendants to the suit were Senator Biobarakuma Degi- Eremienyo (Deputy Governorship Candidate of the APC), Mr. Lyon David Pereworimin, (Governorship candidate of the APC), All Progressive Congress (APC) and Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) sued as first, second, third and fourth Respondents respectively. Simply put, the case of the PDP and its aspirants was that the particulars and information of the Deputy Governorship candidate supplied by the APC to INEC in the INEC Form CF001 were false.

They therefore prayed the court to invoke the provisions of section 31(6) of the Electoral Act to disqualify the Deputy Governorship candidate of the APC and by extension the Governorship candidate from contesting the election on the basis that the deputy governorship candidate had given false information by supplying multiple names to INEC.

The documents presented by the PDP and its candidates disclosed that the APC Deputy Governorship candidate, who is currently a Senator representing Bayelsa East Senatorial District at the National Assembly, bore different names in each of his primary school, secondary school and university degree certificates.

The case was contested at the High Court on the basis of the documents presented before the court. Since it was a suit initiated by Originating Summons, it was an invitation on the court to interpret the documents presented before it and apply the provisions of the law accordingly.

There was therefore no room for oral evidence as the documents speak for themselves. On 12th November, 2019, the Federal High Court delivered judgment in favour of the PDP and disqualified the candidates of the APC from contesting the election on the ground of false information supplied by the APC Deputy Governorship candidate. The APC and its candidates appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal upturned the decision of the Federal High court in a judgment delivered on 23rd December, 2019.

In setting aside the decision of the Federal High Court, the Court of Appeal held that the Federal High Court ought to have allowed the parties to call oral evidence to resolve some conflicts in the affidavit evidences before the court. The Court of Appeal also held that the case does not disclose any reasonable cause of action and that the allegation that the APC Deputy Governorship candidate supplied false information to INEC was an allegation of crime which ought to be proved beyond reasonable doubt as required in criminal prosecution.

The PDP and its candidates then appealed to the Supreme Court against the decision of the Court of Appeal. In arriving at its decision, the Supreme Court considered the provisions of section 31(6) of the Electoral Act and Section 182(1)(j) of the Constitution which are reproduced below:

“31. (1) Every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for a general election under the provisions of this Act, submit to the Commission in the prescribed forms the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.

(2) The list or information submitted by each candidate shall be accompanied by an Affidavit sworn to by the candidate at the High Court of a State, indicating that he has fulfilled all the constitutional requirements for election into that office.

(3) The Commission shall, within 7 days of the receipt of the personal particulars of the candidate, publish same in the constituency where the candidate intends to contest the election.

(4) A person may apply to the Commission for a copy of nomination form, affidavit and any other document submitted by a candidate at an election and the Commission shall, upon payment of a prescribed fee, issue such person with a certified copy of the documents within 14 days.

(5) A person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false may file a suit at the High Court of a State or Federal High Court against such person seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false.

(6) If the Court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false, the Court shall issue an order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election”

Section 182 (1)(j) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provide thus:

“182 (1) No person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if –
………………….
(j) he has presented a forged certificate to the independent National Electoral Commission”

In a well-considered judgment, the Supreme Court set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal of 23rd December, 2019 and restored the judgment of the Federal High Court of 12th November 2019. The Supreme Court held that the Federal High Court was right to have decided the case on the basis of the documentary evidence and affidavits before it as there was no conflict in the affidavits of parties. The court also held that both the APC and Mr. David Lyon admitted in their affidavits that the documents brought before the court were submitted by the APC Deputy Governorship candidate and that the multiple names in the documents belonged to him. So clearly there were no conflicts.

The Supreme Court also took out time to analyze the documents and the multiple names of the APC Deputy Governorship candidate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi- Eremienyo as contained in the documents supplied by him to INEC. His name was written as Degi Biobara in his primary school certificate. His WEAC/GCE certificate is bearing Adegi Biobakuma (not Biobarakuma) while his university degree certificate bears Degi Biobarakuma. His MBA certificate has Degi Biobarakuma Wanagha as the name of the same person.

As the Deputy Governor-Elect he is bearing Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo. Space will not permit us here to analyze the different variants of the multiple names contained in the documents of the APC Deputy Governorship candidate submitted to INEC but suffice it to say that the decision of the Federal High was upheld by the Supreme Court to the extent that it is clear before the court that Senator Biobarakuma Degi- Eremienyo supplied multiple names to INEC and he thereby runs foul of the provisions of section 31(6) of the Electoral Act. He was therefore rightly disqualified from contesting the election.

The Supreme court also held that the various affidavits and newspaper publication made by Senator Biobarakuma Degi- Eremienyo to correct and explain the discrepancies in his names in all his certificates is a fraudulent attempt as it is only the issuing authorities of those certificates that can correct any error in them. Now to the big question bugging the mind of most people. How do all these affect Mr. David Lyon and the APC? Why did the court not disqualify only Senator Biobarakuma Degi- Eremienyo and allow Mr. Lyon to simply pick another Deputy governor. The answer to this is contained in section 187(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended):

“187(1) In any election to which the foregoing provisions of this part of this Chapter relate a candidate for the office of Governor of a State shall not be deemed to have been validly nominated for such office unless he nominates another candidate as his associate for his running for the office of Governor, who is to occupy the office of Deputy Governor; and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of Deputy Governor if the candidate who nominated him is duly elected as Governor in accordance with the said provisions.

(2) The provisions of this Part of this Chapter relating to qualification for election, tenure of office, disqualifications, declaration of assets and liabilities and Oath of Governor shall apply in relation to the office of Deputy Governor as if references to Governor were references to Deputy Governor.”

Succinctly put, the logic of the decision of the Federal High Court affirmed by the Supreme Court is that the Deputy Governorship candidate having been disqualified and the time for submission of names of candidates to INEC by political parties having elapsed, it means that the APC has only a Governorship candidate for the election which automatically disqualified the governorship candidate by the provisions of Section 187(1) of the Constitution. The fact that this is the first time a governorship candidate is being disqualified in Nigeria for the defect in the candidacy of his deputy does not make the decision a bad one. The duty of the court is to interpret the law as it is, and what the Supreme Court has affirmed by this decision is the duty of the Court to interpret the law as it is and apply it to each scenario as the case maybe. The law makers elected by the people made these laws and same has been interpreted and applied as it is! The Supreme Court and the entire judiciary therefore deserve the accolade of all Nigerians.

Honesty Eguridu is a Legal Practitioner based in Lagos. He can be reached via his email address: honestyeguridu@yahoo.com

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OPINION

Re: Isa Pantami and ministerial arrogance, By Adewunmi Olaoluwatomi

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Re: Isa Pantami and ministerial arrogance, By Adewunmi Olaoluwatomi
Dr. Isa Pantami, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy

[The article ‘Re: Isa Pantami and ministerial arrogance, By Adewunmi Olaoluwa’ corrects a recent publication by an online newspaper against Dr. Isa Pantami, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.]

 

 

“When one person makes an accusation, check to be sure he himself is not the guilty one. Sometimes it is those whose case is weak who make the most clamour.” – Piers Anthony

It is evidently and surprisingly clear that Nigerian online columnists are resorting to distortion, falsification and misuseof their God-given talents, instead of penning on government policies that make impact to citizens. Unfortunately, few and many others avail to be agents of misinformation and manipulation in their quest to gain cheap popularity. Although the Freedom of Information Act gives one chance to comment on matters affecting the nation, it also stated clearly that unfounded and baseless allegations are not to be entertained.

Last Friday 27thMarch, 2020, a faceless columnist appeared on Sahara Reporters (online newspaper) to maliciously discredit one of Nigeria’s famous and revered technocrats in person of Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), FNCS, FBCS, FIIM.

The writer, knowingly or unknowingly, failed to set aside his irrationality to at least outline the achievements of the Honourable Minister in the Information and Communications Technology sector of Nigeria.

I wish the writer of that unfounded and ill-nurtured article, Emmanuel John, is known to the Nigerian public so that his-behind-the-scene ulterior motive to engineer a rift between highly respected personalities could be revealed.

At this point in time, the likes of Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, should be encouraged, emboldened and cheered for the wonderful job he has been doing since his appointment as Minister by Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces.

The author of that piece seemed to be oblivious to the current realities at the Ministry and Parastatals it supervises.

He has brought himself so low in his move to venomously undermine the personality of Dr Pantami.

The author un-assiduously claimed that the Honourable Minister blocked Professor Umar Garba Dambatta, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), from making a complete speech during the Launching and Commissioning of some projects supervised by the Ministry. He arrogantly stated that, “the EVC’s

Speech was about the complex and how it came into being. The minister, who had earlier evidently lied to the President that it was him who built the gigantic project, could not allow the EVC to tell the President the truth.”

This assertion is false and aimed at damaging the international reputation of Dr Pantami. To set the record straight, the Honourable Minister has never claimed building the said project, but rather asseverated that it was supervised by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy as enshrined in Nigeria’s law.

The author negated his trustworthiness (if he has any) in throwing tantrums, not knowing that it was paramount that whenever Mr President happened to be at an event, timing must be strictly adhered to. In a situation like this, speakers cling to the time allocated to them and limit their presentations.

One will be flabbergasted on the manner the author is trying to create chaos and conflict between the already established synergy among sister Agencies under the Ministry.

In a saner society, faceless Emmanuel John lacks moral and intellectual prowess to comment on matters pertaining Digital Technology, especially to someone whose outstanding professionalism and integrity earned him the highest recognition in the global IT industry: The Fellowship of the British Computer Society (FBCS).

Dr Pantami, as a man for the job, who has served as an IT Consultant to many National and International industries, is also a fellow of the Institute of Information Management (FIIM).

Only fools will sit down and be looking at the sky, believing that it will fall. Dr Pantami’s unmatchable contribution and impact to the growth of Information Communications Technology in Nigeria, through his extensive knowledge and vast experience, earned him elevation to the position of Minister. Because of Dr Pantami’s technical-know-how style in the IT sector, saw the need and recommended to Mr President to rename the Ministry’s name and expand its mandate to align his commitment with President Muhammadu Buhari’s Change Agenda as well as be in line with global best practices. He is largely responsible for the renewed vigour and focus in the industry. He has sustained an unprecedented level of professionalism and compliance in the sector.

To say that under Dr Pantami, either the NCC or its Executive Vice Chairman is being undermined is the highest intellectual turbulence one could have ever imagined. People with accurate mindset will never make such baseless allegations with buttress.

The writer should have checked his words before going to press. His piece contained malicious and dangerous declaration that may land him in jail. Nay, personalities like Dr Pantami are always after the progress of the nation, not stooping to the level of low-key bonehead and jackass.

NCC has recorded tremendous achievements under the supervision of the Honourable Minister, only dickhead could shamelessly deny that. Since Dr Pantami was sworn-in as Nigeria’s new Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, he has been working with strict compliance and cooperation from all the Chief Executive Officers under his Ministry.This led to the directive given to the NCC to block all unregistered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards.

The NCC, through its Director of Public Affairs, Henry Nkemadu, has since informed Nigerians that the Commission has successfully deactivated over two million (2m) unregistered SIM cards across telecommunication networks in the country. This action has significantly curtailed the menace of kidnappings and other crimes perpetrated using SIM cards. This has clearly shown Dr Pantami’s working experience and synergy with Parastatals under his supervision.

In today’s world, especially at a time Nigeria is moving towards diversification from resource-based to knowledge-based economy, the need for effective teamwork is critical for the business. This is what Dr Pantami exhibited in matters relating to his relationship with all the Agencies and Parastatals under his purview. The ability to simultaneously perform as an individual and together with your colleagues or employees in effective teamwork is key to attaining growth and success.

The Minister’s achievements can be seen even by a blind man, which is why the President himself commended him for bringing the Agencies and Parastatals to work together as one, align them to work harder, cooperate and be supportive of one another. He even thanked him for the high level of synergy that has been created amongst the parastatals under the Minister’s supervision.

Nigerians are living witnesses to testify on what Dr Pantami, the Honourable Minister, is doing. He has rejigged the Ministry and realigned its work schedule, encouraged mutual support and shared goals, cooperation and provides workplace synergy among the Parastatals. With this, Agencies and Parastatals are able to feel a greater sense of accomplishment, collectively responsible for outcomes achieved and feed individuals with the incentive to perform at higher levels.

Dr Pantami has become steering wheel in leading Federal Government of Nigeria on strategic implementation of programmes aimed at diversifying the economy. Oil and gas can no longer be dependent upon because countries around the world, especially the developed ones, are switching to digitalization in almost all their means of activities, including transportation.

Dr Pantami’s unprecedented achievements in ensuring that Nigeria lifts itself to reach the required level in the Global Information Technology Development Index can never be overemphasized. He is leading a rescue mission of Nigeria’s migration from natural resource economy to ICT-based economy. As true Nigerians, it is our collective responsibility to stifle any nincompoops trying to distract the Minister; we must not let that happen.

Olaoluwatomi wrote from FCT, Abuja. She can be reached via olaoluwatomia@gmail.com

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OPINION

Isa Pantami: The gang-up against saviour of Nigeria’s digital economy, By Hashim Suleiman

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Isa Pantami: The gang-up against saviour of Nigeria’s digital economy, By Hashim Suleiman

Events have passed in the past week during the Commissioning of the Emergency Communication Centre among other projects associated with the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. Such events have as usual attracted interests from mischievous Nigerians as is always is with progressive stories. The question is: When are we going to learn to be more critical for crying out loud?

What makes one wonder even more is how much such writers do without researched information or understanding of how governance should be in the 21st century. Poorly written pieces laced with terrible grammar are what you see and some of them may suggest to you that it is a paid plot from very less strategic individuals who wish to drag every effort by the superstars of the Buhari Administration for trying to ensure the success of the administration of Mr. President in tandem with the loads of the expectations of the people. Such sponsors don[t have any business being in governance; their motive is other than progress.

People like me would have chosen to ignore such cheap shenanigans of politicisation of every little intent, but I won’t because my love for Nigeria has refused me to be beclouded by sentimental or political considerations on critical matters that pertain to national development and of which my nation so desperately require.

I read opinions suggesting why the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy would not enforce discipline in his Ministry even when the cardinal belief of his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, is discipline. I wish there would be more Ministers in this administration who would take the matter of indsicipline as much as Dr Pantami does. Those cheap opinions only go to show how much indiscipline has eaten deep into us and we must do something about just like I am doing now.

Have we forgotten so soon how some of the populace were insisting on Buhari to be a little more harder on Nigerians as that was the only way we could get Nigerians into shape? Unfortunately, the man was guided by the principles of democracy and resorted to taking things easy. Even at that some people still complain of the fact that he is slow in his approach and what notch. Some others also think he is autocratic and all of them are various opinions of how confused we can be sometimes regarding what we really like and something to further indicate how difficult it is for leaders to bring about change in our society.

Going specifically into the event of the commissioning which created so much buzz, Mr President only chose to showcase his democratic part by allowing his appointees to do what is appropriate in correcting anomalies that he himself abhors. How then are people trying to mischievously pitch the Minister and his principal on the enforcement of the belief of the latter? Can’t you all see yourselves.

I heard and read the speech of the President and in it you could clearly see how he highlighted the synergy that the Honourable Minister had been able to create amongst the Ministry and agencies under its supervision. You could also see that the event that took place there was an idea that had been muted long before then during the unveiling of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, during the e-Nigeria Conference last year. He appreciated the efforts of the Honourable Minister so far in terms of the efforts being put at trying to redirect Nigeria towards the non-oil revenue earner. Dr Pantami or any other well-meaning leader would not allow all such achievements to be rubbished on the alter of politics or indiscipline. The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is today arguably the Ministry with most synergy between it and its agencies. These successes could be the reasons some people, both internal and external, are not happy about.

Talking about who built the facility, even if it was Mango Park that built the facility and is standing with no usage, no sensible leader would come and start to bore people with stories of how it came by, the interest must be of how it was going to be utilised and in this case the matter was under the purview of the Communications and Digital Economy which Dr Isa Ali Pantami superintends over. Was there supposed to be arguments over who did or who did not? How has writing an article become this cheap for God’s sake? We should be bigger than that.
As a matter of education, let me share my little understanding of a Ministry while growing up. Ministries were all in all of the government, every aspect that pertains to issues relating to a particular Ministry were always championed by such Ministry and all correspondences to the President on such matters must be communicated appropriately.

Unfortunately, the recent leaders of the past who themselves were bereft of indiscipline and have also transferred same to the citizenry have reduced ministries to be lower than some parastatals. These issues cannot be disconnected with corruption in terms of which the CEO settles the most if you know what I mean. It is high time such is stopped and we should even be thanking Dr Pantami on efforts to restore the pride and essence of ministries rather than denigrating him.

Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami is the Honourable Minsiter of Communications and Digital Economy and his responsibilities are those of the management of the Communications and Digital Economy sectors of Nigeria. We cannot then choose to drag him down over his attempts to make sure the sector works. Everyone has agreed to the fact that things have changed regarding the responsiveness of all of the arms of that sector and I can challenge anyone to an open public debate on the matter. Researchers and those sensible Nigerians who wish well for the nation would easily agree with me on this. From the NCC to NITDA and NIPOST, this is exclusive of the so many that are on the pipeline and that some of us are privy to. Is this the person we would want to denigrate for reasons bordering on insidcipline which we the citizenry are also absolutely guilty of? Capital NO!

The Honourable Minister before assuming the Ministerial position has had this Digital Economy idea in him as showcased through his performance as the DG/CEO NITDA. For those of you who are blinded mostly by politics and mischief, you will do yourselves and the nation good by visiting Higher Institutions of learning around the country to find out NITDA’s intervention in ICT. One was just recently commissioned at the University of Port Harcourt. Not to mention areas like Data Protection and Regulation Frameworks, Smart Agric policies, Cyber-security and securing for NITDA the ISO27001 certification amongst others. Little wonder why he made commensurate recommendation for the appointment of a Director General who would, in synergy with him and others, help to actualize a digitalized Nigeria. I have once heard where he has said NITDA’s books were open for the public to check and recent checks by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives gave a clean bill to the Agency with commendation too. These are physical achievements and not rhetoric.

He has then catapulted to the Ministry and is trying hard in areas like broadband and SIM security. He has brought the various components of the Ministry to help achieve the very important mandate that does not require jokes, indiscipline and incompetence.

This is also an opportunity to call the attention of the President to the plot of these kinds of individuals, they whip up all kinds of nonsense by trying to take his mind away from the ball. They attack the shining lights of his administration so there can be a failure that they and their paymasters will latch on during elections or for the sole purpose of seeing appointments as avenues for amassing wealth or arena for display of indiscipline and impunity. Indiscipline and obedience of lines of duties must be enforced and the time cannot be farther from now.

Finally, let me call on the citizenry during this season of COVID-19 pandemic to understand that it is time for reflection over the activities of our beloved nation. The lack of certain critical infrastructure is today hunting us and majority of it was the lack of discipline in governance. We cannot as a nation continue to condone indiscipline and corruption, therefore we must be careful the kinds of things we defend or even waste our time on. All energies must be channeled towards identifying people in the likes of Dr. Pantami and support them to continue despite the much resistance that people like those who wrote on the matter present. We must quit the Pull Him

Down attitude and imbibe the Lift Us Up one.

By the way, I still insist on a public debate on this matter because it is no joke and its only through very critical engagements that peoples brains can be developed, not cheaply politicising every issue of development.

  • Hashim Suleiman writes from Abuja. oneheartnaija@yahoo.com
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OPINION

Pandemic tourism or the death of tourism, By Folorunsho Coker

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Coker

I have been recurrently asked of recent whether tourism will still be possible in an era of epidemics or the global pandemic, or whether we are not already witnessing the gradual lights out on an industry that has grown year-on-year in the past decades to contribute more than 15 per cent to the global GDP in contemporary times. Also, the possible demise of a sector that has been growing at almost 4 per cent per annum and which witnessed revenues in excess of $12 trillion dollars in 2017, while offering livelihoods to over three hundred million people, directly and indirectly, across the world.

Closer home, could this be the curtains drawing on a sector that has engaged our exertions, and which the National Bureau of Statistics values as a contributor of some 35 per cent to new GDP, yielding huge tax receipts and accounting for the jobs of over 20 per cent of newly employed Nigerians, formally and informally?
No doubt, our interconnectedness through time has been one of the greatest strengths and achievements in the human experience, which however now appears to be unravelling in this era of the pandemic as also a great source of vulnerability.
While the past few decades have seen humans build enduring communities across geographies – in no less our various Diasporas; across intellectual interests; and even within a virtual continuum enabled by cybernetics and disruptive technologies, yet we are now rudely confronted by the flip-side of having to find means of surviving the shared burden of infection and disease as a global community.
The past couple of weeks have no doubt been deeply troubling in the statistics that regularly assail us across all media – of infection, sickness and even deaths borne on the wings of the dark vector we have come to know as the coronavirus disease of 2019, otherwise referred to by its grim shorthand, COVID-19.
It is also the statistics of how systems are overwhelmed and crashing – whether as health care systems, systems of commerce, stock markets, and so forth. There is even prognosis that the world is about slipping into the abyss of economic recession and the emergence of a new global economic order.
Still, the other side of the story less referred to has been the marvellous capacity for human resilience, not only in terms of the determination to push back on the epidemic through the continuous research for antidotes. Or the increasing numbers of those who are surviving the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, in figures that are many multiples of the mortalities being recorded. But, equally, there is that relentless spirit of overcoming adversity that’s already looking into how to rebuild a post-pandemic world.

In the work that I do, which has now become a source of concern to many across geographies, local and international, we are experiencing one of the lowest periods ever, which a few cynics have unfortunately described as the death of tourism, as the notion of pandemic tourism appears almost as a contradiction in terms, since the human outreach quickly recoils in periods of any sort of upheaval. Even the tourism for remedies becomes more and more impossible as national borders are successively shut as part of strategies of containment.
There is an increasingly vocal concert of opinion pointing to the fear that COVID-19 will very likely trigger a global economic recession in the very immediate future, and it is incontrovertible that tourism continues to be one of the industries most affected in this era of the pandemic…
But could this present circumstance foreshadow or signal the death of tourism? Just looking at the map of the territories that have been afflicted by the coronavirus infection, the rash of luminous red dots furiously populating the earth, calls to mind the situation for much of Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia in those long centuries of the Black Death that begun in the 14th Century when the Bubonic plague struck and wiped out over 70 per cent of the human population then, according to some estimates.
Yet, Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia recovered from those decades, to subsequently pursue a globalisation that has advanced the human experience many notches up till date. Certainly, the world we live in currently has more skills, technologies and capabilities to contain and shorten the run of tragic experiences, whether by natural disaster or biological infections.
Of course, epidemics and pandemics impact on tourism and its related ecosystems most severely, as the instinct for safety in humans leads to restrictions of movement that deeply whittle the businesses of airlines, hotels and restaurants, travel agents, tour operators, and other tourism stakeholders.
There is an increasingly vocal concert of opinion pointing to the fear that COVID-19 will very likely trigger a global economic recession in the very immediate future, and it is incontrovertible that tourism continues to be one of the industries most affected in this era of the pandemic, being that’s its forte is essentially anchored on the continually renewed human relationship with space, mostly requiring very physical acts that enable human connectivity, through transportation and the engagement with hospitality, entertainment, etc.

Now, revenues running into billions of naira and dollars are being lost, productivities are diminishing and so are jobs and livelihoods, with devastating impacts on nations, communities, and families. One needn’t crane far to witness how the states in the Middle East’s huge tourist corridors have been impacted at this time.
But then, is pandemic tourism possible, or have we entered into the age of the death of tourism, even while we have just been labouring strenuously for the rebirth of domestic tourism?
As diseases can now travel with ease, from the most affluent parts of the Far Eastern and Western Hemispheres to the poorest villages in Africa and Asia, with the speed of the Internet and on the back of economic routes, in a manner highlighting our interconnectedness and shared vulnerability, we need to urgently perfect a sturdy system of preparedness; a robust system of healthcare and health management, embedded in a strong capacity for response to and containment of epidemics and pandemics.
This will be a system that has a vigorous early warning and response component that can predict and respond to swiftly isolate and inhibit the outbreaks of local and global infections, while neutralising disease vectors. When this system is fully attained and comes into maturity – as the Federal Government has been missioning passionate after recently and will soon achieve – to serve as a secure buffer against the fears of health challenges or crises, either as epidemics or pandemics, the expediencies of having to shut down national borders in times of global health emergencies would no longer be as urgent.
Pandemic tourism will and can be possible when our state of healthcare preparedness, and the narrative around it, have fully evolved, with institutions having the capacities to offer robust responses to healthcare needs, of both citizens, residents and visitors.
Naturally, narratives around this level of preparedness would have to be communicated as widely as possible, as this is highly crucial in stemming the rampaging fear and panic that haemorrhages tourism to near or total death in periods of crises.
Pandemic tourism will and can be possible when our state of healthcare preparedness, and the narrative around it, have fully evolved, with institutions having the capacities to offer robust responses to healthcare needs, of both citizens, residents and visitors.
No doubt, when health or pandemic crises make landfall in one’s front yard, one gradually becomes isolated as a country, as conventional institutions and establishments start to fail as part of the burden of an unfortunate visitation, driving businesses to closure, and the economy into retraction or outright collapse. With tourism easily being one of the first victims, the picture then gets complicated by surges in the crime rate and the manifestation of other indices of human desperation. But with a renewed focus on preparedness, the corrosive edge of this is blunted, as travel advisories get more detailed and offer information on the national capacity for surviving raging exigencies, without the closure of borders.

Tourism in the age of the pandemic is about taking on the serious business of disaster preparedness, of which ground work has been done in areas such as the Federal Government’s efforts in improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria, coupled with the newer visa collection at the point of entry regime. With the strengthening of institutions to deal with emergencies like pandemics, and the altering of the narrative around a debilitating state of national affairs, there can be no death to tourism in the foreseeable future.
Importantly, in terms of the present situation and the ongoing ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic making an accelerating and vicious run through our country, our institutions have been demonstrating how greater multi-sectoral and multi-agency coordination can make that fundamental difference. This definitely also requires the private sector to keep layering on the efforts of the public sector, to allow for better emergency collaboration in managing and containing this crisis.
More so, data and evidence driven solutions must be increasingly employed to track, monitor, evaluate and grant therapy to the afflicted and needy. With these and the careful application of the knowledge and standards provided by multilateral agencies such as the United Nations, international organs like the World Health Organisation (WHO), and our extremely industrious Federal Ministry of Health, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and the Nigerian “can do, never carry last” spirit, we are on the course to a victorious pushback, if we keep acting responsibly in a collective manner.
Without an iota of doubt, I believe that for tourism in Nigeria, it is still a dawn that holds bountiful promise of the day that is unfolding.

Folorunsho Coker is the Director-General of the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation.

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