The Director General of Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Dr Sally Uwechue-Mbanefo has pointed out that even though there are security challenges in the country, such phenomenon has not hampered tourism, saying that security challenges have long been a global challenge.
Dr Mbanefo therefore advised Nigerians to be a forward looking people with a zest and passion for conciliation, co-operation and co- habitation.
With such a large population of young Nigerians, the NTDC boss said this should be the wish, desire, and prayer of every parent, indeed every adult Nigerian.
Mbanefo was speaking on the topic: “Growing Nigeria’s Economy Beyond Oil and Gas” which she delivered at the Nigerian Bar Association Annual General Conference held recently in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.
According to her, Nigeria should take advantage of her youthful population to help make the great by deploying their globally recognised creativity, intellectual prowess and entrepreneurship to solve their existential problems and create wealth for the benefit and happiness of all. To her, these are the conditions under which tourism can flourish whilst also adding its quota.
Emphasising on the need to increase Nigeria’s production capacity by investing in and encouraging sectors that are labour intensive such as agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, Mbanefo said “Nigeria, for instance, presently has 80 million phone users, this constitutes 80 million markets if explore with each unit potentially yielding streams of income. This is a huge market”.
On the devaluation of the naira, the NTDC DG said “regardless of whether our exchange rate is $1 to N1 or $1 to N400, the ingredients of Success remain timeless and changeless and applicable in Nigeria today as it was in the Nigeria of our founding fathers”.
“The virtues of hardwork, discipline and diligence will always stand one in good stead. Exchange rate is neither a deterrent to success and growth, nor a hindrance to creativity, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship. Interestingly, every devaluation yields new and varied opportunities, hence the dictum “necessity is the mother of invention”, she added.
Mbanefo equally reminded the audience that NTDC will continue to champion programmes that seek to advance and empower the youth, stressing that “as this, time and again, has proven to be the soundest investment any people can make on behalf of their beloved nation and its progeny and simultaneously the best hedge against divisiveness, against secterianism, tribalism, and against vacuous and gratuitous proto-religionism”.
Supporting the anti-corruption drive of the federal government, Mbanefo said Nigeria cannot build an economy where corruption is the “working capital”.
“To this end we cannot over emphasize the importance of our fight against corruption. It is felt in some quarters that we may be sacrificing the economy while the fight rages. This is most emphatically not so because the fulcra of our economic policy namely: privatization and liberalization; both would gain very little traction if the general socio-economic landscape is not de-corrupted or sanitized”.
She however, pointed out that even more monumental is the hearts and minds war being waged against the background of the federal character of corruption, saying that these are not times to discourage Nigerians and investors alike but interesting times of change and consequently the mother of all opportunities.
Mbanefo further added that NTDC has made a lot of success stories in the areas of entertainment: Nigerian music, Nollywood and community empowerment as recorded in the Calabar Carnival, Argungu Fishing Festival and Osun Osogbo. Others are: Sango, Eyo Festivals in the South West; Ofala and New Yam Festivals in the South East; Durbars in Katsina and Kano while impacts have been made to Mambilla Plateau in Taraba for the North.