The House of Representatives on Tuesday appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to fund the Culture and Tourism sector and harness its potential to unite the country.
Chairman, House Committee on Culture and Tourism, Rep. Omoregie Ogbede-Ihama representing Oredo Federal Constituency, Edo made the appeal at the 2020 Budget Defence of the Culture sector of the Ministry of Information and Culture.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made the budget presentation before the committee.
Ogbede-Ihama said culture and tourism, if properly harnessed and funded has the potential to unite the country, generate employment for the teeming youths and boost national economy.
He gave example of the recently concluded National Festival of Arts (NAFEST) in Benin, Edo state where 34 states participated and how it positively impacted on the economy of the state.
The lawmaker expressed displeasure over the meagre allocation released to the Culture sector of the ministry in the 2019 budget.
“If the ministry can get less than N300 million released to it in a year, it shows that we are not yet serious to priotise the culture and tourism sector .
“The Culture and Tourism sector is as important as the Agriculture sector.
I am making personal appealt to the Presidenr to take the sector very serious.
“Culture drives unity; this is a major sector that will drive the unity of the country, create massive employment and generate fund for the government.
“On our part, we are going to take necessary actions to ensure that this important sector is not taken for granted,” he said.
The lawmaker proposed a joint programme with the ministry to draw a roadmap for culture and tourism, showcase tourism sites and deliberate on the potentials and challenges of the sector.
Ogbede-Ihama also said that the committee would set up a panel to look into how to fill up the vacancies of over 300 personnel that had left the ministry in the last one year.
A member of the committee, Hon. Agibe Ngoro from Cross River commended the minister for the training of festival managers in collaboration with the British Council.
He said taken cue from Calabar festival, Nigeria has comparative advantage over many African countries on constume making for carnivals, which he described as a muti-million dollar business.
Ngoro therefore suggested a line item in the Ministry budget for training of youths on constume making for festivals and carnivals.
He said developing the sub-sector would create massive employment for the youths and generate foreign earnings for the country.
The minister thanked the lawmakers for their encouragement and assured them that he would continue to push for more funding for the sector at the Federal Executive Council.
On the challenges facing the sector, Mohammed said that due to inadequate funding, the ministry was unable to fulfil its obligations in the area of bilateral and multilateral mutual exchange which is its core mandate.
“The ministry belongs to a lot of international/multilateral organisations and finds it difficult to pay its financial obligations as at when due because it has no control over the funds for the payment if these annual dues.
” This is because it is domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Finance and this has resulted to our losing a lot of membership benefits and rights from these organisations.
“The lack of basic infrastructure at our various tourism and heritage sires impedes the growth and development of tourism sector in Nigeria,” he said.
He said there was the need for inter-agency cooperation towards the provision of adequate and necessary infrastructure as well as provision of adequate security at the sites to upscale tourists arrivals.
The minister however, noted that despite poor funding and other constraints, the ministry had been able to leverage on the areas where the country has comparative advantage in the sector such as music, films and theatre. (NAN)