Africa: My Observations on Nigeria’s Tourism Masterplan review- Andy O. Ehanire
VP South-South, ATPN, MD, Ogba Zoo, Benin
The National Tourism Master Plan has been in the public domain for more than a decade. Several sensitization fora have been organized to elicit response from stakeholders, while experts have also been availed opportunities to analyse and review the document.
In a professionally vibrant environment, various schools of thought would have emerged with consistent position papers on the salient issues to be derived from the master plan. Such would evolve into a synthesis of perspectives as to generate a paradigm for Nigeria’s tourism community, but alas, such has not been the case.
The general attitude has been of stakeholders waiting to see how Government would engage the increasingly moribund document, particularly in which direction it will chose to throw money at. I could not have blamed a non-industry appointee who, as Minister, was beset with possible hollowness of the briefings or memos he may have received on the Master Plan, opted publicly to bring back the consultants that crafted the plan to help put Government through the process. The sheer helplessness displayed at such executive policy level did not evoke any embarrassing uproar in the sector, neither did tourism administrators reason that such was an admission of their cluelessness. Further down the line, even our own tourism insider, Edem Duke, could not make anything out of the Master Plan during his entire tenure.
This is the dismal circumstance in which the incumbent Tourism Minister has set up a committee to review the National Tourism Master Plan – a document that has virtually stayed on the shelf, largely unattended, going to fifteen years! Master Plans are actually like a 25 year rolling budget, in which even some lacklustre regimes could still boast of a 20 – 40% performance in, let us say, ten years, but here we are still on the drawing board after all these years, in spite of bountiful resources that flowed through the Tourism Ministry over this period.
This Committee ought to be one set to review the cumulative performance on the Master plan, but behold, it is a Committee to review what to make of the document itself. How else can we not realize all this while that this situation is a major case of policy stagnation for a critical sector as tourism. So, no one should be accused of being rude if it is said that our industry players and leaders have been like lame ducks or a sector peopled by charlatans.
Now permit me to identify the likely “passengers” in this Review Committee.
a. Those who may not have read the Master Plan document at all before their appointment into the Committee.
b. Those who claim to know about the document but have never generated or volunteered any policy discourse on the way forward.
c. Those who have not been asked what they have to contribute to this Review Committee.
d. Those who, though visible as stakeholders, are not known for any original policy initiatives in tourism.
As in my comments on the recent Stakeholder’s Summit on fashioning a Tourism Roadmap, in an article captioned – “Unending Fumbling With Nigeria’s Tourism Policies”, I did question the methodology adopted in the convening of a multitude of diverse stakeholders to undertake a highly technical assignment as a tourism roadmap.
My perception of that event, becomes relevant here again – an opportunity for Government to call for position papers on subject matter, through which it becomes easier to determine those who have something to offer. If such is not the case this time again, it becomes difficult to comprehend the basis on which a Committee was constituted to review the National tourism master plan.
Is it possible that some members of this Committee may fall within the four categories of “passengers” listed above who would now be expected to deliver on an assignment for which they never displayed any serious previous engagement?
On the Master Plan itself, over time, I had drawn attention to the need for a sixth Tourism Cluster for the Niger Delta Region that bears the brunt of oil extraction. I had also pointed out the shocking relegation of Great Benin as a foremost brand for the promotion of culture tourism, in view of its rich history and artefacts that dominate international museums.
Such should be a far more viable site for a Culture Resort, as against an obscure site on the Atlantic coast. I specifically advised Chief Duke on the need to fast-track the Tourism Security Committee, as provided in the Master Plan, while proposing a framework for its implementation, but alas, this endemic challenge was left attended. My Memo number 20 at the 2012 National Council on Tourism sought the repositioning of zoological gardens as one of priority sectors for national tourism development, but at least I got some lip service.
As recent as a few weeks ago, while commenting on one year under the current administration, I touched on the imperative of revisiting this National Master Plan, not for any cumbersome full scale review, but aimed at distilling some Pilot Schemes for immediate implementation within the six geo-political zones.
I did reiterate the need to cement the foundations of our national tourism architecture through a seminal inauguration and institutionalization of the Local Government Tourism Committees, being enshrined in the enabling NTDC Decree. I alluded to the dormancy of the NEPAD Tourism Action Plan as part of a template for community tourism development. We have monuments at the threshold of attaining UNESCO Heritage status in need of restoration; I alluded to the disgraceful neglect of Zoos across the country; mention was made of the desperate need for sanity in our popular markets, etc. The bane of Nigeria’s tourism is a misguided fallacy of seeking to promote or market what is yet to be developed, since as the saying goes, the taste of the pudding is in the eating.
In conclusion, a Master Plan cannot be as daunting to us as rocket science or nanotechnology. For something that is basically about us, it should never have been like an inscrutable deity for which successive administrations continue to swear allegiance with the riddles intact, when in actual fact we may have been sold a dummy. At a price tag of $280.M, such an amount should have triggered an earthquake or tsunami in Nigeria’s tourism industry, if it was not a scam.