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President Buhari’s massive infrastructural dev’t has boosted tourism in Nigeria – NTDC Boss, 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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THE NATION

Poly lecturers suspend strike, resume Wednesday

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The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has officially suspended a strike it commenced two months ago.

The union directed polytechnic lecturers to resume duty from tomorrow, February 13.

The suspension of the strike was confirmed by the national president of the union, Usman Dutse, in a phone interview with PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday evening.

The union embarked on a strike on December 12 over the failure of the federal government to implement agreements reached with the union in 2017.

ASUP went on strike in November 2017. But when it reached an agreement with the federal government to implement the recommendations of the 2014 NEEDS assessment, the strike was suspended 15 days after.

The agreement particularly highlighted the need for increased funding of polytechnics. – Premium Times.

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Election scare: Okowa makes u-turn, reviews Uduaghan’s 2015 civil service recruitment

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Delta state Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa has set up committee to review the 2015 civil service recruitment by his predecessor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan in what appears a political strategy to appease those who are seriously angry with his government’s decision to halt the exercise.

This newspaper learnt that the governor has set up a fact finding committee to probe into the exercise in which Uduaghan employed over 3,000 people into the civil service at the last lap of his tenure which was halted by Governor Okowa on assumption of office over alleged irregularities

The decision to revisit the scrapped recruitment exercise which has been a minus to the Okowa’s administration is coming barely 21-days to the Governorship and State House of Assembly election.

A statement signed by the Head of Service, Reginald Bayoko said the state government has set a 9-man Committee to re-examine the 2015 recruitment exercise.

The statement reads: “It is hereby announced for the information of the general public particularly Deltans that in fulfillment of his earlier promise to revisit the 2015 recruitment exercise which was suspended due to alleged irregularities, His Excellency, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State, has approved the commencement of a screening exercise to review the suspended recruitment with a view to lifting the suspension.

“The screening exercise which is to be handled by a 9-man Committee is expected to be concluded within three weeks.

“The action of the government was in deference to public concerns regarding the fate of candidates who might have genuine cases, the continuous exit of staff in the civil service due to retirement and the apparent incremental improvement in the state economy.

“Considering the fact that, the allegation of widespread irregularities in the 2015 recruitment exercise have not been fully debunked, there is therefore the need to screen the affected candidates who participated in the exercise to establish those with genuine cases and ascertain the areas of personnel shortfall, so that those found worthy could be re-absorbed and personnel gap in the civil service bridged.

The Committee has the following terms of reference:

i. to determine the number/nomenclature of advertised posts that were filled;

ii. to screen the candidates, specifying those considered eligible and those not eligible for each of the advertised posts;

iii. to ascertain the number and geographical spread of applicants/candidates involved in the exercise according to their respective local government areas and the genuineness of their certificates/credentials and their local government of origin;

iv. to make appropriate recommendations to government on the number of candidates and categories to be absorbed from those found eligible v. to recommend measures to avoid future occurrence of irregularities in the recruitment process”.

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Presidency backs El-Rufa’i, says ‘he spoke in defence of national interest’

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KADUNA State Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has stirred the hornet’s nest, with his warning that foreigners  should not interfere in the conduct of the general elections.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday threatened to pull out of the peace accord it signed with other parties before the National Peace Committee (NPC) chaired by former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.

The opposition party hinged its decision on the “death threats” issued by the governor, according to it, to officials of the United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (U.K.) and the European Union (E.U.).

But the Presidency dismissed it all as a storm in a tea cup. “There is nothing more to sneeze at”, it said.

Besides, the governor denied calling for violence.

Also yesterday, the EU Election Observer Mission (EOM) said its men were in Nigeria on the invitation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and that they will remain in the country to monitor the elections billed for February 16 (presidential/National) and March 2 (governorship/state Assembly).

Speaking on an NTA live programme El-Rufai was reported to have threatened the foreign nationals who might interfere with Nigeria’s upcoming elections with violent attacks.

“Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene, they would go back in body bags,” he was quoted as saying.

The governor, however, explained himself yesterday, insisting that his comments were not in any way calls for violence, but a defence of Nigeria’s sovereignty.

El-Rufai said he merely stood up for Nigeria’s dignity as against those who would traduce their country and reduce it to a colony in their vain quest for power.

In a statement last night, the Presidency said: “The Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari would cooperate with election observers and would not let the international community down in the conduct of the coming elections.

“The Presidency assures Nigerians and the international community that the President would do everything within his power to ensure free, fair and credible elections in the country.

“We have taken note of the clarification to a reported earlier statement by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufa’i concerning opposition call for foreign interference in our domestic affairs and to say that latest statement by him should rest the issue for good. There is nothing more to sneeze at. The Governor spoke strongly in defense of of national interest. It is clear that El-Rufa’i, our party the APC and all its candidates have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections. They are all of the view that there is no place for violence against local people or foreign citizens in our midst.

“Opposition PDP ought to own up to the mistakes of their own policies for 16 years which have led the country to a sorry pass that has cost lives, jobs and growth instead of dwelling on diversionary issues.”

The PDP’s threat was issued at a news conference in Abuja. Its spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan described El-Rufai’s comments as inimical to peaceful, free and fair elections.

He said: “The PDP is left with no option than to consider a review of its signatory in the National Peace Accord, if no action is immediately taken to curb this trend.”

But a pro-Buhari group, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), said neither the PDP nor its presidential candidate, was genuinely committed to any peace deal.

According to the BMO, PDP’s presidential candidate signed the peace accord reluctantly.

The main opposition party called on the international community to immediately impose a travel ban on El-Rufai for what it described as the inciting comments against peaceful elections.

Ologbodiyan also called on the Gen. Abdulsalami to summon El-Rufai on the threat.

He said: “The PDP holds that any situation that seeks to allow the APC to abuse the tenets of the accord will definitely force our party to review our signatory to the peace process.

“We therefore call on the NPC to immediately summon El-Rufai on his inflammatory remarks against peaceful election in our country.

“In that regard, we might have no option left than to allow our members to defend their votes with whatever that is available to them.

“This country belongs to all of us and no individual or group, no matter how highly placed, can subjugate other citizens, or seek to appropriate any sort of absolutism to himself.”

The PDP also kicked against what it described as an alleged plot by the police authority to redeploy Kayode Egbetokun as Commissioner of Police to the Kwara State Command.

The opposition party alleged closeness of Egbetokun to a section of the leadership of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).

This, according to the PDP, might lead to Egbetokun taking sides in the ongoing supremacy tussle between the PDP and the APC chapters in Kwara State.

Ologbondiyan said: “This is in line with plans by the Buhari Presidency and the APC to effect a mass deployment of top security officers, particularly the police, to intimidate, harass and manhandle Nigerians that will not support the self-succession bid of President Muhammadu Buhari as well as aiding APC thugs to snatch ballot boxes and orchestrate violence in the elections.

“Nigerians are aware of how CP Kayode Egbetokun was posted to Lagos State by the former Inspector-General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, to serve the same partisan interest and how that posting was stopped by the new IGP Adamu Mohammed. Now, he is being redeployed to Kwara State for the same ignoble plot.

“It is necessary to state that the PDP is a party of peace and we are committed to the peace accord. However, the deployment of Kayode Egbetokun as Kwara CP directly negates the principle of the Peace Accord and can only hurt the fragile peace that currently exists in Kwara state.

“We wish to remind the acting Inspector General, Adamu Mohammed, that his acceptability among Nigerians across party line was based on the pedigree, which was presented to Nigerians before his appointment.

“These pedigree and exposure place on his shoulders, the responsibility to be just, firm, equitable and professional in the discharge of his duties. We therefore urge him not to allow his reputation to be mired in controversial political activities.”

The party called on the National Peace Committee to note the alleged infractions by the APC and its leaders to the peace accord.

-THE NATION

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