Tourism has been described as a potential tool for Nigeria’s Economic diversification, this is in line with the federal government directive urging Nigerians to produce what they eat locally Stellamaries Amuwa writes.
Whether one calls it a showcase of Nigerian Flavours or display of Nigeria’s tourism assets and products, one may not be completely wrong on both fronts.
That was exactly the message the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) intended to pass recently when it hosted what it called ‘Nigerian Flavours’.
The initiative which was in collaboration with National Institute For Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) and the Ministry of Information and Culture was in line with the objectives of the ‘Tour Nigeria” brand.
Nigerian Flavours showcased the rich culinary diversity in Nigerian cuisine and delicacies. It was an event, whose memory will linger for a long time.
The event featured over 60 food and beverage vendors across the six geo-political zones. Also on display were Arts, fashion and safe children’s games.
Director general, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Folorunsho Coker, said the event is aimed at tactically driving the process of economic diversification in line with the policy thrust of the present administration to support made in Nigeria. Coker said: “The cheapest holiday you can ever have is a Nigerian holiday, where there is no foreign exchange, no roofing charges, no visa, no queuing in any embassy. Believe in what we have here and that is the only way we can grow into global brand that is currently consumed.
“It is all about our cultural expression, food and beverages. We are trying to make the best out of what we have in Nigeria. Our food, music, fashion, and our weather are all great. If we don’t consume what we make we are consuming what others make, it means we are transmitting our income into the earnings of others especially outside the country.”
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Grace Isu Gekpe, who spoke to journalists at the event said, “When I came on board I had to think out of the box on how to promote what we have in Nigeria and through that empower our people. I had meetings with my chief executive and we agreed that we must have a national calendar from January to December, we should have our programmes running especially in Abuja so that people will know what we are doing in the ministry and the product that we have.
“The president said we should begin to eat what we produce instead of eating what others produce. So you can see all what is on ground now are produced by Nigerians and it is an avenue to empower Nigerians.
Some food vendors who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend expressed their satisfaction but said more awareness needed to be created so that an event of that magnitude should have attracted a bigger crowd than what was seen.
A Lawyer turned food vendor, Dagogo Bristol-Keje, who showcased his catering services, stated that Nigerians are blessed with unique ways of life that cuts across, Arts and culture industries, film, rich display of cuisines, fashion styles and festival that exists across different tribes.
Dagogo, who is managing director, Keje Grill City Park said: “After I finished from the Law School and was called to Bar after that searching for greener pasture for years, I decided to establish this catering business so as to assist my mother. Gradually I have embraced the industry. All our produce are locally made and locally spiced. This is my second year in this business.”
Another food vendor, Chef Akin Olabode, VII Bistro Restaurant, said that his kitchen currently have everything to suit everybody. He said: “The aim of coming to this show is mainly to showcase our Nigerian` flavours. So we are bringing out food to Nigerians just the way they will love it.
“I left Nigeria to Dubai for six years but when I came back I decided to settle down here and experiment more on our Yam, garri, coconut, fish and more to make a fusion of Nigerian ingredient and others which is a perfect one. We serve egusi, ogbono, ewedu soup in different parts of the world we fuse our food with international dishes”.
Similarly, Juliet Abrukwe, the managing director Julze Laurels, showcased her made in Nigeria wears. She called on government to give loans to private business owners. “The Nigerian fabric is beginning to be accepted worldwide even foreign celebrities wear Nigerian Ankara now,” she said.
“It has not been easy for us small and Medium Scale Enterprise (SMEs) in Nigeria. The government should help us with loans to enable us cope with the poor infrastructure we have in the country.
“I have to run my generator to be in business and it’s expensive and makes the cost of production very high. You hear people saying made in Nigeria is expensive why should I buy it. Production cost is high for us too I cannot make clothes and sell at lost.”
Among the delicacies displayed at the Nigerian Flavour festival include most indigenous food like, Ukwa, Amala, African salad, Asun (peppered goat meat) roasted plantain and suya.
Some foreign pastries such as sandwiches, hamburgers, shawarma and more were showcased.
Meanwhile, Vicky Eck Chandarn an Indian tourist said: “Nigerians have a very nice culture, I can see a lot of Nigerian dishes some that I have not taken note of since I got into this country about two months ago. I think the organisers should create more awareness.”
Hoomeum Lebebidi known as Homms, a Syrian from Damascus said, “I got to know about this Nigerian Flavour on Instagram so I decided to be here to see for myself. I have been in Nigeria for a very long time it is always nice to be part of whatever is going on here. I am having fun here the weather is beautiful, I love Nigerian dishes and I always encourage foreigners to visit Nigeria and go to the North, East, and Lagos. These are nice places to be.”
Mrs. Flora Goka, Head of Department, Hospitality department, NIHOTOUR, a government parastatal, stated that tourism and hospitality business is the industry that must be taken` seriously to boost the economy of Nigeria. “There is job for everybody to do in this sector. We are promoting our food, dress, dance everyone is represented here. Here in NIHOTOUR stand as you can see, we have our indigenous snacks because our mandate is to train the manpower within the hospitality sector, we train the chef, waiter, housekeepers and even the receptionist.
“As we are here we are creating awareness to let people know that Nigerians have a lot of things that can attract tourists. Here we teach people how to make our indigenous foods like Nkwuobi, Isiewu, Ewedu and gbegiri, miyan kuka and many more all indigenous soups that cover the six geo-political zones we teach them.
“We also train people on tour packaging, ticketing, international programme AITA for last year within Abuja we have trained about 3,000 people, multiply that with about 8 campuses we have. We are showcasing what we have to make our tourists enjoy if possible better atmosphere in Nigeria more than what is obtainable outside the shores of Nigeria.