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By Derrick Bangura
The Federal Government says that the country is safe to host the first Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry scheduled for Nov. 14 to Nov. 17 in Lagos.
The Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed said this when he featured on a phone-in programme of the Radio Nigeria monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
NAN reports that Nigeria was given the hosting right for the maiden global event by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) at a meeting held at the organisation’s headquarters in Madrid Spain on April 19.
Mohammed said the insinuation in certain quarters that participants and tourists would not attend the conference because of stories of killings and kidnappings in the country are erroneous.
“The security challenge Nigeria is facing did not start today and I must say the Federal Government is rising very stoutly to it.
“We cannot say just because we have insecurity challenge, other sectors of the economy should not be developed.
“The entire world is aware of the challenges we are facing, yet we were singled out for the hosting of the very first global conference and that speaks volume.
“That is why Nigerians should get out the negativity and look at the positive aspect of it,’’ he said.
The minister said that insecurity is a global challenge and countries with worse situation than Nigeria were developing their tourism potential.
“Britain for instance, for more than 40 years, was in the grip of the IRA and that did not prevent the country from hosting global events.
“I recalled that even before the call for peace process in June 1997, Britain bided for the world cup 1996 which, though they lost.
“During our meeting in Spain, there was no issue raised on insecurity in Nigeria as a barrier
“On the contrary, the UNWTO was even expanding the scope of the conference and they did not make a mistake in choosing Nigeria to host the maiden conference,’’ he said.
Mohammed said “what we are saying is that, we have security challenges which we are facing squarely, but it is not enough reason why we should not develop the areas of the economy where in particular we are making waves.
“The Whiz Kid of this world, the Burna Boy, Davido and Tiwa Savage have really shown the world that Nigeria is a hub of the creative industry.
“Hosting this conference is an affirmation of the huge Nigeria’s contributions to the creative industry and the recognition that Nigeria is the hub of the creative industry in Africa,’’ he said.
The minister also countered the argument that the government was not developing the nation’s tourism potential enough.
According to him, one of the most important areas of developing the tourism industry is by building infrastructure.
He said the President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration can beat its chest that as a government, it had done very well in infrastructure development.
“We have constructed many roads, renovated, remodeled and upgraded our airports and we have for the first time revived the rail sector.
“All these will help interconnectivity and for people to move from one place to the other.
“We have also made a lot of milestone in providing regulations and policies that will aid the promotion of tourism sector.
“For instance the Revised Broadcasting Code is to give Nigeria a pride of place in the film and Music industry,’’ he said.
Mohammed reiterated the readiness of Nigeria to host the event come November at the National Theatre in Lagos, currently being renovated at a cost of 100 million dollars made available by Bankers’ Committee and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).