From Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara has said there must be urgency in diversifying the country’s economy in order to improve its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and earn foreign exchange.
In his welcome address, yesterday, being the first day of sectoral debates in the House of Representatives on key sectors of the economy, Dogara noted that the time for paying lip -service to economic diversification was over.
“With the fall in crude oil prices, Nigeria really has no choice but to stop paying lip-service to the urgent need for diversification of sources of revenue for Nigeria.
“The acute scarcity of foreign exchange, power supply challenges, falling GDP, fuel scarcity are some of the current matters of urgent national importance to be fixed. It is our belief that Nigeria possesses the human and material resources required to successfully transform our economy and earn the needed foreign exchange for Nigeria. It is time for Nigeria to develop and transform into a knowledge-based economy. Indeed, ICT, agriculture, solid minerals, culture, tourism and entertainment; trade, investment and manufacturing; taxation and finance policies; science and technology; efficient Infrastructure such as power, transportation, etc have huge roles to play in the diversification of the Nigerian economy,” he said.
Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed blamed the negative perception of Nigeria as an insecure and corrupt country, years of negligible investment in basic infrastructure and tourism attractions for the slow growth of the tourism sector. Mohammed decried the fact that certain Western nations which he did not identify, are quick to issue travel advisories against Nigeria.
He said this contributed greatly to the low turn of tourists annually.
The topic for yesterday’s debate was: “Diversification of the Nigerian economy: real sector development.”
He said the Federal Government had taken cognizance of the role of the culture and tourism sector in the move to diversify the economy and it will exploit diplomatic channels to ensure that countries are more circumspect in issuing negative travel advisory in respect of Nigeria.
According to him if countries such as South-Africa, Israel, Brazil and Colombia which have similar challenges of insecurity and are confronting corruption still record a high turn out of tourists, Nigeria can do the same.
The minister also said the Buhari administration was committed to making investments in basic infrastructure and tourism infrastructure such as museums and upgrading historical sites as these interventions are critical to making the sector contribute to the country’s GDP beyond its current 1.5 percent.
Mohammed appealed for the support of the House for the enactment of a law for the National Tourism Development Fund which he said will be the legal framework for funding capital projects in the sector.
On his part, House Minority Leader, Leo Ogor urged that the federal government match words with action in order to make Nigeria stand out in the world tourism market.