By Martins Osagie.
There are serious exceptions to many aspects of the new NTDA Bill recently signed into law by the President.
One singular character that is absolutely perverse about the Bill is that it is devoid of any sense of ownership or inclusion of the Private Sector Tourism Stakeholders’ interests.
It purely emanates from the selfish interest of bureaucrats or tourism administrators, along with parliamentarians, whose penchant are forever fixated with creating Establishments for growing the bureaucracy for appointing cronies; then harvesting the inevitably padded budgets, and the clandestine thoughts of how to fleece the fledgling private sector tourism businesses.
From the thoughts of our ace travel writer, Frank Meke, the conversion of the acronym ‘’Tourism Corporation’’ to ‘’Tourism Authority’’, might as well be a clever ploy to circumvent the Supreme Court judgement that expressly puts tourism under the concurrent legislative schedule of States.
As if to seek tacit cooperation of the States in this subterfuge, there is an offer of an alliance for a common purpose as to create fresh inroads into the seeming fertile turfs of State Governments.
To even choose the acronym: ‘’Authority’’, is an irony, because as against the common use of that word, our Tourism Administrators hardly dispense any real value to the private sector, in spite of the humongous budgets they arrogate to themselves.
The recent COVID-19 palliatives that was dangled before distraught tourism practitioners, without eventual succour, is a case in point.
The State Governments could easily fall for this scam as willing allies in a bid to form an easy cartel for emasculating the struggling private sector practitioners. We should expect that the Constitutional Courts will be engaged sooner for the needed legal fireworks.
In the case of the NIHOTORS Bill, it has been reasoned that if the NBA of legal practitioners, the ICAN/ANAN of accounting practitioners, the NMA of medical practitioners, the NIM of Management practitioners and many other such professional bodies can register and regulate their members as regards their own practice, why should the Federal Government continue to maintain budget guzzling agencies to regulate Tourism practitioners – a profession in which they have never proven themselves to be well grounded.
Even the Hospitality and Tourism Institutes run by NIHOTORS can be outsourced more efficiently to the Private Sector if the debt ridden federal government is ready to reduce the cost of governance.
In conclusion, if the aim of these Bills is to create optimal synergy between the Public and Private Sectors in tourism, they should take full cognisance of the interests of the Private Sector practitioners who are the investors navigating the rough professional terrain, rather than the way these Bills were passed through Hearings without noting or accommodating the private practitioners’ interests. In which case, such Bills ought to be jointly sponsored by both Sectors, if they are not to be designed as one-sided, or exploitative of one party.
Core tourism stakeholders, especially the legacy associations (ATPN, NANTA and NHA), have been anxious alb initio about the composition of the NTDC Board in the Draft Bill, as it did not consist of a balanced representation of tourism experts and core stakeholders. It is more of those performing purely ancillary services like Immigration, Customs, Finance, etc, that are favoured in the Bill. It was opined that when politicians are added to this equation of intended statutory public service members, what will be left for tourism representation is of such marginal consequence as to render the Board technically a lame duck.
Most of those being proposed for this supposed “Tourism Development” Board properly belong to a Tourism Facilitation Committee.
A truly tourism development Board should have a preponderance of the Tourism Legacy Associations (ATPN, NANTA and NHA) who have been recognized since the onset of the development of the industry in Nigeria and as reflected in the previous Act. From the new composition of the Board, the majority of its members will be mere bench warmers and invariably end up with the effect of jumping from the frying pan to fire, by being worse than the Act it came to supplant.
A Tourism Board that cannot decode the knowledge gaps that account for the long stagnation of the Tourism industry in Nigeria can only be considered dead on arrival, and, like many others, be invariably consigned to irrelevance.
In conclusion, the Board of NTDA, as a developmental agency, should rightly be composed of more professional industry stakeholders in the Real Sector (as represented by the legacy associations) and the technical experts who can decode the accumulated issues of performance deficits that bestride the industry, rather than swarming it with representatives of ancillary Public Service Agencies and politicians. The former NTDC Act should not be substituted with any discretionary Board composition except to further co-opt those with the technical skills to salvage the Sector from the unmitigated inertia occasioned by subsuming Tourism under a non-business oriented Department.
Martins Osagie, a tourism practitioner, wrote from ATPN Benin, Edo state