Nigeria is blessed with tourist sites and festivals like the Sukur Heritage Site, Adamawa, national parks, Ikogosi Waterfalls, Ekiti, Osun-Osogbo Festival, masquerade festivals, among others that attract both local and foreign tourists to states where the sites are located.
Unfortunately, the national parks have been converted to criminal hideouts, especially the Kumuku National Park in Kaduna State, and other tourist sites lack good infrastructure to boost tourism due to lean financial resources at the disposal of tourism managers.
At the 10th Edition of the Abuja National Carnival, now the Nigeria National Carnival, two years ago, the federal government disclosed plans to commercialise the carnival as a creative sector through a Public Private Partnership arrangement while the government provides conducive environment and incentives to local and foreign investors in the sector.
The president, who was represented by the immediate past vice president, Namadi Sambo, enjoined the private sector to key into the project, stressing that despite the security challenges the carnival had contributed to national cohesion, intercultural understanding, and display of our creative potential. To rescue the situation, a cross section of stakeholders that spoke with LEADERSHIP Friday admitted that government should hands off from the management of sites, festivals, and destinations, saying that there was a need to commercialise them for improved revenue generation and efficiency.
The president of the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), Chief Tomi Akingbogun, advised the federal government to provide enabling environment for businesses to grow, adding that previous administrations wasted millions in hosting the carnival without achieving meaningful results.
“Unfortunately, the Abuja Carnival is not supposed to be run by the government budgeting an amount for the participants to rent trailers, tie few yards of clothes around it, and blare unrelated music, disturbing the city for days. What we are losing to corruption cuts across the sectors. For instance, the stadia are in a very bad shape but if you approach the managers to lease it so that the private sector can operate it for a certain number of years and bring in international or local investors, they will demand millions from you , yet they get budget from the government,” he said, noting that the private sectors have been trying to break the barriers to privatisation which they believed would rescue the destinations.
Also, the president of Hospitality & Tourism Management Association of Nigeria (HATMAN), Mallam Aliyu Badaki Ajayi, maintained that privatisation remained the best solution to rescue the destinations, insisting that most government businesses are poorly managed.
According to him, “It’s only when you make the environment friendly for tourists that you can record significant profit because making destinations private sector-driven will attract good managers.”
He regretted that most government commercialised services and agencies were either sold or leased to incompetent friends and cronies as managers.
“If you live it in the hands of government alone, it will be bereft of good maintenance culture and the little revenue that comes in will be shared among the mangers or diverted to private pockets with little or no contribution to government coffers,” Ajayi said.
Reacting, the director-general of the National Council for Arts & Culture (NCAC), Mrs Dayo Keshi, said that a majority of the festivals were deeply entrenched in the people’s culture, adding that government has a role to play in developing structures, especially the culture and heritage of the people.
“The private sectors should be fully involved in cultural festivals though the festivals will be conceived and delivered by the people because it is their heritage though they can turn it around and make it commercial,” she said.