With less than few days to Nigeria hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) First Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industries, which is billed to open on November 14 spanning November 17 at the newly renovated National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), has again reiterated its opposition to the staging of the event, cautioning it members and other stakeholders in the culture and tourism value chain to stay clear of the gathering.
This was contained in a press statement signed by the President of FTAN, Nkereuwem Onung, in which the federation, which is the umbrella body for tourism operators in the private sector, adduced reasons why the operators are not taking part in the event.
It would be recalled that in July this year the body wrote an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on the conference, stating why Nigeria should not host the event and also addressed a press conference on the matter. However, it should be noted that since the federation made public its stand on the conference, neither the Presidency nor the Ministry of Information and Culture headed by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had addressed the issues raised by FTAN.
Not deterred by this, Onung stated in the press statement that the action of the Presidency and that of Mohammed has authenticated the federation’s claim of disregard and neglect of the tourism sector and the plight of its operators by the Nigerian government.
Noting further that the determination of the minister to host this conference is at the expense of the sector, which he said is at its lowest ebb in its history due to the total lack of attention to it by the federal government.
According to Onung; ‘‘UNWTO conference holds no good for the country other than using scare taxpayers money to fete a few government officials to a hosted buyer event that would not attract any tourist to the country.’’ He added that; ‘‘it is a wild goose chase of no benefit to Nigeria and Nigerian cultural tourism and creative industries.’’
Onung clearly stated that; ‘‘the conference is a jamboree as it offers no enriching prospect or benefit for the development and promotion of Nigerian tourism and that of the operators,’’ noting that; ‘‘what the nation needs is far beyond symbolic show or circus display which the conference represents.’’
He pointed to the fact that the minister has shown so much disdain for the culture and tourism sector that he has never organised or attended any of the sector related activities this year.
He gave an instance of the World Tourism Day celebrated in September 27, which was supposed to be spear headed by the minister. But that the minister neither rallied the sector toward celebrating the day nor monitor any of the events staged across the country. The one held in Calabar, Cross River State was attended only by some heads of parastatals under the ministry.
He also pointed out the forthcoming 35th edition of the National Festival for Arts and Culture, Eko NAFEST 2022, which is holding in Lagos between November 7 and 13, almost the same time with the UNWTO event. Despite being under the charge of the minister, he has not one day shown any concern about the event while pulling every rope to garner resources for the organisation and promotion of the UNWTO conference at the expense of his primary responsibility.
Yet, Onung said the minister is not bothered by the implication of this unfortunate development, noting that this is not surprising as the minister has never attended NAFEST in over his seven years as minister and not doing so this year again, means nothing to him, as he is more interested in anything that has the toga of UNWTO on it and not Nigeria.
Speaking further, Onung said that is lamentable that President Buhari has kept Mohammed on the job and tactfully supported a man that in all the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) is a total failure as a minister in charge of culture and tourism, as neither the nation nor the operators have benefitted from his over seven years stint as a minister.
‘‘No investment into culture and tourism business in the last seven years from the government,’’ he cried, noting that; ‘‘This is one of the issues that bother us.’’ He then queried the need for hosting the UNWTO conference; ‘‘What is the benefit of the conference to Nigeria and Nigerian tourism?’’
In the statement, he further noted that the reason why the federation is crying out again is for the public to know that contrary to the news making the rounds that the private sector and FTAN members are not part of the conference as they are not supporting the charade by Mohammed to further pauperise the sector, its operators and Nigerians.
‘‘This is to set the record straight and for people to know that the federation is not part of Mohammed’s charade as it has resolved to entirely boycott the event.
‘‘If we keep quiet this charade will continue and people will not know the pains of the private sector. It is of no use and benefit to us and they have not told us about it and we really don’t see the need for it.’’
Unperturbed by this development, Onung in the statement said the federation is soldiering on with its solo effort of developing the sector by conducting its scheduled businesses and activities for the month of November.
One of such activities, he noted is the hosting of its yearly Nigeria Tourism Investment Conference and Exhibition (NTIFE) billed for November 15 in Abuja.
He called on all operators in the culture and tourism sector not to be worried by the action of the minister but to be more focused and determined to succeed in their various businesses as they have survived the last seven years without any support from the minister and the current administration.