The Imo State government has expressed its desire to partner with the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) to develop tourism in the state.
This was disclosed by state’s Commissioner for Tourism, Mazi Uche Ohia during the inauguration of the FTAN South East Zonal Council in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
The commissioner also said the state was taking stock of all its tourism assets in order to develop them.
This, he said, has become necessary looking at current global economic reality which has made the need to diversify into other sectors like tourism to generate income for country imperative.
His words: “This administration vows that many of our tourist sites will be reconstructed, will be rehabilitated and repackaged. We are taking stock of what we have and the next stage is to go into total rehabilitation. To achieve that goal, this administration has struck on the idea of strategic partnerships. One of the reasons I’m here today is because I believe that FTAN is one federation that we will partner with. All the associations that we met on the ground, we are appraising them in terms of seriousness, in terms of viability, activities and dedication to the course of tourism development. This because with what we are seeing in the economic sphere, it is that diversification has come to be the only way out. And when you talk about diversification, tourism is the next best option for all the states in Nigeria, especially those states that are blessed with tourist sites and visionary leaderships to exploit and harness those tourist sites.
“Today, I am going to say to the new leadership of FTAN that Imo State is ready to partner with you in all areas of tourism. Our partnership is not in theory, but in practice. We roll, our sleeves and move into the field and get the work done. “
Ohia also expressed the desire of the state government to host FTAN whenever the federation is ready.
In his respond, the FTAN President, Mr. Nkereuwem Onung thanked the commissioner for the warm welcome and desire to partner with FTAN to develop the state’s tourism assets. The FTAN President also commended the state government on its effort to tackle insecurity in the state as it is a disincentive to tourism. He called on the Federal and state governments to pay greater attention to tourism as it is the ‘low hanging fruits’ that could push forward the government’s economic diversification agenda. He said: “I hope there are developments in our popular Oguta Lake and that there are still animals in our popular Nekede zoo.
“On behalf of the federation, we will like to identify with the governor, government and Imo State people and the entire South East region for the things they are doing to contain insecurity and make life meaningful for us. I also know that when they say insecurity, it is not in all places. That is why when you want to do tourism; you are advised that you use tour operators, because they will show you were to go. Just like the past speaker has said, there is nowhere in the world that is totally secured. And you know, tourism can be done despite insecurity but it is better done with security. So, security information is all we need to be able to go round Imo State and enjoy ourselves. Please let us make sure that this information is always given out. Let tour operation be developed so that it will be possible for people to go round this state without fear.
“Now, for tourism to thrive in any locality, three basic things are necessary. The thing we need is access, and Imo State has it. Another thing we need is the quality of infrastructure. In this issue of security, we need to encourage the government and the private sector and everybody that is involved in it so that Imo State will continue to do well.
“It is high time we realized that the low hanging fruits to develop the economy of the state and this country is tourism. It is high time governments at different levels realize this. That is why we always call on the government and institutions of the private sector to do what they have to do. I am happy I heard the commissioner speak concerning Imo State”.
Onung also decried the ineffectiveness of departments of tourism at the federal level and called on them to buckle up to help develop the sector. He said: “Some of the things we are talking about is that we have departments at the national level who we can’t understand sometimes what they are doing. We have different agencies of government that were designed to develop tourism, and most of them, we can’t understand what they do. If those things continue to happen this way, our country will be left in such a manner that there are no plans. We’ve now come to a situation where we have electric cars. A time is coming when fuel will become no issue for any nation. What is going to happen is that we may have oil that nobody wants to buy. We then come to a situation where the only thing that could have helped us would have been tourism but we have no plans, no development agencies, no strategies, no policies, and my friend the other day told me that there is even no political will to get some of these things done. So, it is time for us to realize that tourism is the way forward for our country as a nation.
“That is why we are still surprised that despite the negative impact of COVID-19 on tourism industry, government is not looking the way of the private sector. These are some of the things that make us look very unserious and quite discouraging for those who are practitioners in the industry.”
The South East FTAN Zonal Council was later sworn by FTAN Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman, Chief Samuel Alabi, who was represented by a member of the board, Ambassador Ikechi Uko. Among those sworn in were: Mr. Ogunyemi Odunayo Julius, Vice President South East; Helen Arine Odumodu, coordinator for Anambra State, Nnenna Ogochukwu, coordinator, Enugu; Ndidi Eeibe, coordinator, Imo State; Dr. Ogechi Blessing Enemuo, coordinator, Abia State; Ifeoma Nwosa, coordinator, Ebonyi; Fortune Okoro, Publicity Secretary; Anthony Uchenna Okoli, Secretary; Vivian Onyinyechi Chukwuma, Membership Secretary, and Innocent Obagha, Treasurer.