Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Minister of Informationand Culture, Lai Mohammed, has fired a riposte at the Unites States of America for issuing a travel warning to its citizens against to 20 of the 36 states of Nigeria.
The report released by the Department of State last week, advised Americans on the risk of kidnapping, robberies, and other armed attacks in north, central and southern parts of the country.
Mohammed scorned the report while hosting a delegation of the Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN).
He said the report was in bad taste as it projected Nigeria in negative light to the rest of the world, insisting the country is safe for investment and tourism.
According to him, in spite of the security challenges in the Niger Delta region and the North-east, Nigeria remains a beautiful environment inhabited by people of acclaimed quality.
Mohammed, who warned the Nigerian media to desist from negative news capable of hurting domestic tourism, faulted the report and insisted that the US is not insulated from security issues as it is faced with gun laws, indiscriminate killings of African Americans by police that fuel rioting and wanton shooting of school children across the country.
“There was a report in the media that 20 states out 36 states in Nigeria are not safe. Who said so? The United States! Is there any week that they are not killing people in the US, either through shooting in schools, on the drive ways or suicide attacks or by race motivated killings? How can you tell us that 20 out 36 Nigerian states are not safe? It is just not correct. There is no part of Nigeria that is not safe today. If they are telling their people not to come to Nigeria, it is not for our media to help them in echoing it, ‘’ Muhammed said.
He tasked the ATPN led by Kabir M. Malan to engage in business of perception management, saying that tourism makes substantial gains when the country is better perceived globally.
Mohammed said the ministry had recommended for the resuscitation of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) involving all stakeholders across ministries, departments and agencies with a view to fashioning out a holistic approach towards the development of tourism in the country.
He also urged leaders to do more to promote domestic tourism in Nigeria by spending their vacation in the country, as leaders in other climes do.
He said the country had made giant strides in the effort to market its tourism asset through the recent adoption of a new national tourism Master plan by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
One of the landmarks of the partnership is the desire of UNWTO to market tourism in Nigeria by arranging a world international conference on tourism in Maiduguri with theme “Tourism as tool for Peace and Reconciliation.’’
Muhammed said the UN agency was happy that peace had returned to the northern part of the country, which informed the resolve to hold the conference in Nigeria as they have they successfully organised similar events in Sri Lanka which also grappled with security challenges.
He said tourism is a source of employment and a means of maintaining stability as there will be security when people don’t migrate from the rural to the urban areas.
Malan, who decried the lack of an enabling law regulation of tourism practice in Nigeria, pleaded that students be encouraged to travel round Nigeria at highly subsided rates. He also appealed that investors should be encouraged to set up tourists’ camps, bed and breakfast guest houses and accommodation across each state of the federation to provide cheap and secure accommodation.