By BARBARA KALU, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday declared open the 61st Meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organization Commission for Africa (UNWTO-CAF) in Abuja by inviting tourists and investors to consider Nigeria as their second home.
The President, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation,Mr. Boss Mustapha, said his Administration has attractive investment incentives for investors in the tourism sector, including minimum tariff on imported tourism equipment, amusement park equipment and materials for hotel construction and furnishing, dedicated transportation for tour operators and equipment for restaurants not manufactured in Nigeria, work permit for foreign workers with specialized skills within the industry and land at concessionary rate by state governments to tourism investors.
He said the Administration, having identified the tourism sector as one of the pillars of its diversification policy, is also investing heavily in infrastructure and human resource development in order to make Nigeria a choice destination for tourists.
”In our efforts at diversifying the economy through agriculture, solid minerals development and tourism, we are investing heavily in infrastructure. This administration has injected US$9 billion to strengthen its investment in power, roads, railway in the past two years alone.
”Also, this government is investing in human resource development through the introduction of the Social Investment Programme that has benefitted 9 million people. These programmes include our Home-Grown School Feeding Programme that is providing one meal a day to 7.4 million pupils in 22 states; N-Power programme that has employed 200,000 university graduates and is about to employ 300,000 more; the Conditional Cash Transfer under which some 297,973 poor homes are receiving 5,000 Naira monthly, and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme that has provided loans to hundreds of thousands of small business owners,” President Buhari said.
The President hailed the ”creative young talents” that have made Nigerian music and films the toast of the world, saying for the Nigerian youths, the best is yet to come.
He commended the leadership of the UNWTO, the Commission for Africa (CAF) and, most importantly, the Tourism Ministers from all over Africa, for considering Nigeria worthy of hosting this event.
Also speaking at the opening ceremony, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who is the host Minister, said hosting the event in Nigeria is a testimony to the achievements of the Buhari Administration, especially in the area of security
”As a matter of fact, four years ago, this meeting could not have been held here. Recall that Boko Haram carried out many attacks in this capital city. The UN Complex, the Police Headquarters, a newspaper house, bus station were all attacked.
”Residents of Abuja could not sleep with their two eyes closed. Today, that is history. There is no clearer evidence than the fact that this event is being held here in the city,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said the Administration is working hard to boost tourism in the country, citing the Visa On Arrival policy, massive investment in upgrading infrastructure and enhancing security, as well as the provision of enabling environment and incentives, including strong public and private sector collaboration and enabling laws for the preservation and protection of cultural heritage, as some of the measures being taken by the government.
He thanked President Buhari for his unalloyed support without which, he said, the hosting of the conference would not have been possible. The Minister said the meeting provides an excellent opportunity to discuss ways and means to promote intra-Africa travels and tourism, leveraging on the continent’s vast and unique resources and our number, for mutual benefit to all member states.
The three-day meeting is being attended by over 500 delegates, including 26 African Ministers of Tourism, the Secretary-General of the UNWTO, who is leading the top executives of the global tourism body, as well as tourism experts and stakeholders.