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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

Firm hails Abdullahi’s appointment as NITDA DG

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An Information Communication Technology hub in sub-Saharan Africa, Global IT, has hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi as the Director-General/CEO of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

Country Director of the Global IT Rasheed Bakare, in a commendation letter to the President, praised the appointment of 39-year-old Abdullahi, whom he described as a digital guru and an industry key player with passion to improve on his predecessors’ achievements in NITDA.

Bakare said: “Abdullahi, for a couple of years, has shown and proved to be a world-class professional who will use his wide network to take NITDA to the next level, in line with the vision of Mr. President and the agency’s role as the clearing house for IT projects and infrastructural development.”

Global IT advised Abdullahi to live above board and justify the confidence reposed in him by the president.

Abdullahi is a graduate of Computer Science from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT Sloan – trained strategist with 15 years of experience in IT operations, business transformation and solution architecture across the private and public sectors.

He attended Leadership and Management courses at Harvard University in the United States of America (USA), University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom (UK) and IMD Business School in Switzerland.

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THE NATION

Yaba Psychiatric Hospital doctors’ strike enters 4th week

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The strike action embarked on the 31st of July 2019 by the  Association of Resident Doctors, Federal  Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba has entered its fourth week.

The doctors are protesting what they have described as a “severe lack of doctors to provide seamless delivery of mental health service.”

The strike action was reviewed on Monday August 19th, 2019 when the doctors deliberated for over six hours to review their ongoing industrial action.

The review meeting was called due to timely interventions of key stakeholders.

After their deliberations, the resident doctors in a statement made available to the press “resolved to CONTINUE our industrial action to insist on standard mental health  care for our clients and quality work experience for our overworked doctors, until such a time the Hospital Management deems it fit to meet our singular demand!”

Find below their resolutions:

“1. The Hospital Management is insensitive to the plight of over 535 in-patients and 220 outpatients daily who now receive suboptimal, if not pernicious,  mental health service in the 20 days that this industrial action has been allowed to fester without goal-directed interventions

2. The Hospital Management has blatantly refused to replace the annual exit of resident doctors  for the past four years. Instead, they have let  patient load and clinical work increase significantly for hapless resident doctors  whose health and academic pursuits have suffered irreparably

3. In light of the above, the Hospital Management’s insistence on employing only FIVE locum doctors is highly provocative of our demands. It hardly improves the status quo which already puts overworked resident doctors at the brink of academic failure, health challenges and malpractice suits

Our Resolution

We have resolved to CONTINUE our industrial action to insist on standard mental health  care for our clients and quality work experience for our overworked doctors, until such a time the Hospital Management deems it fit to meet our singular demand!

To this end, we call on Nigerian citizens and the  Presidency under the able leadership of  President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the Hospital Management to do the needful in line with the Next Level Agenda of this administration.

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Meet Kashifu Abdullahi, new DG of NITDA and ‘architect’ of cashless banking in Nigeria

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President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi as the new Director-General/CEO of the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA.

The appointment was disclosed by the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media & Publicity, Garba Shehu.

Below is the profile of the new NITDA helmsman

Born on February 21, 1980, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi is a graduate of Computer Science from the prestigious Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi.

Mr Abdullahi is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT Sloan – trained strategist with 15 years of experience in IT operations, business transformation and solution architecture, across both private and public sectors.

He attended Leadership and Management courses at Harvard University in the USA, University of Cambridge in the UK and IMD Business School in Switzerland.

As the 1st Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) in Nigeria’s Public Sector, he is also a certified project manager and solution architect. He also has many professional certifications in networking, telecommunications, service management and Solution design such as: Huawei telecommunications engineer, Cisco design professional, ITIL, Prince2, etc.

He has worked at Galaxy Backbone as Network Engineer, IP Network Field Engineer, Senior Network & Lead, IP Operations Team, and Senior Solution Architect & Lead, Technical Solution Design Team between 2004 to 2013.

In 2014, he joined Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as a Technology Architect, where he dedicated his time to developing Technology Architecture Repository that gives 360 view of the Bank’s IT infrastructure and easy decision on new IT investment. He was part of the team that executed software license rationalization which has increased cost savings for the bank in license annual subscriptions.

Mr Abdullahi was a key resource in the development of IT standards for the apex bank, which has reduced mean time to deploy/integrate new system by over 20%. One of his major achievements as a Technology architect was the production of 7 Solution Architectures for critical IT initiatives that helped in achieving cashless society in Nigeria.

He joined NITDA in 2017 as Technical Assistant to the Director General/CEO. Being the IT regulatory body in Nigeria mandated to implement National ICT policy, he Managed execution of strategy which has increased ICT contribution to Nigerian GDP by over 13% in Q2 2018.

The new DG coordinated Local Content initiatives that has increased ICT local production by over 200% in 2017.

He also overhauled IT clearance process and encouraged shared services among agencies. This has helped Federal Government saved over 16Bn NGN from IT projects.

Mr Abdullahi also oversaw procurement process that has reduced cost of major projects by over 5% in two consecutive annual procurement cycles.

Additionally, he managed project execution that has implemented over 300 IT infrastructure intervention.

Mr Abdullahi is a member of both British Computer Society (BCS) and Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) in addition to many memberships to his credit.

He is a recipient of 100 Leading Telecom and ICT Personalities in Nigeria – By Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).

Mr Abdullahi is from Hadejia, Jigawa State, and he is married with children.

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