CULTURE AND TOURISM AT A GLANCE
Because of the great diversity of people and culture, Nigeria has distinguished herself over the centuries in the field of arts. Nigerian versatility in the arts is so great that it is generally felt that all African nations should view Nigeria as the principal trustee of the most durable fruits of black artistic genius. It is not precisely known when the first works of Nigerian art reached the outside world, but in 1897, following a British punitive expedition to Benin, over 2,000 Benin bronzes and ivories were shipped to England and later dispersed all over Europe and America.
The oldest sculptures found in Nigeria were from the Southern Zaria and Benue areas of central Nigeria. They consist of terracotta figures and figurines made by a people who achieved a high degree of cultural sophistication. These sculptures, together with other cultural elements, have been named the Nok Culture. Evidence shows the Nok people had knowledge of iron smelting and adorned themselves with tin and stone beads, earrings, nose rings and bracelets.
The Nok Culture is dated between 500 B.C. and 200 A.D. The next known phase of Nigerian cultural evolution was Igbo Ukwu bronze casting. Found in the small village of Igbo-Ukwu, near Awka, the casts date from the 9th Century A.D. They first came to light in 1938 and consist of staff heads, crowns, breastplates, pendants, ornaments, anklets, wristlets and chains.About the same time the Igbo-Ukwu people were casting bronze, the ancient Ife people were also producing works in bronze, copper, and terracotta. In the first quarter of this Century, Ife works caused a great stir among world art critics and historians who were unaccustomed to such naturalism in African art.
The best known Nigerian artworks are the Benin Antiquities. Legend recounts how the Benin people learned the art of bronze casting from Ile-Ife around 1400 A.D. Oba Ogunta, the sixth King of Benin, is credited with having encouraged this art in Benin.
Nigeria’s cultural heritage is woven from threads of history and diversity, legend and conquest. Tourists visiting the country will gain insights to a glorious past as well as a promising future, set amid the natural beauty of this diverse country. From rain forests in the south, broad savanna woodlands in the center to a semi-desert region in the north, Nigeria offers a remarkable range of physical beauty in her land and hospitality of her people, ready to be enjoyed by the tourist fortunate enough to choose this land of ancient empires as their travel destination.
Nigeria is a vast country with a population of about 140 people covering about 923,768 sq.km of landmass, located wholly within the tropics. The country aptly described as the ‘Giant of Africa’ and the Heart of Africa is richly endowed with ecological and cultural resources, which are of universal recognition. The richness and diversity of the Nigeria culture is a manifestation of the socio-cultural differences of the over 250 ethnic groups that inhabit the land for ages.
Tourism is one of the growing sectors of the Nigerian economy. The industry was accorded priority status in 1990 when the National Tourism Policy was launched. The main thrust of Government policy on tourism was to generate foreign exchange earnings, create employment opportunities, promote rural enterprises and national integration, among other things.
In recognition of the immense contributions of tourism to the national economy, the country’s Vision 2010 set year 2005 as the nation’s year of tourism. The obvious implication of this development is that tourism policies and programmes will now be aimed at making Nigeria the “Ultimate Tourism Destination in Africa”.
Nigeria offers a wide variety of tourist attractions such as extended and roomy river and ocean beaches ideal for swimming and other water sports, unique wildlife, vast tracts of unspoiled nature ranging from tropical forests, magnificent waterfalls, some new rapidly growing cities and climatic conditions in some parts particularly conducive to holidaying.
Other attractions include traditional ways of life preserved in local customs; rich and varied handicrafts and other colourful products depicting or illustrative of native arts and lifestyle, and the authentic unsophisticated but friendly attitude of many in the Nigerian population. However, many of these attractions are still largely untapped and even at their raw, undeveloped state, they are still being enjoyed by few outsiders, either very rich visitors in quest of exoticism or adventurous people in search of new challenges and experiences.
The lack of required modern infrastructural facilities and in some parts of the country, acute conditions of underdevelopment and poverty can be seen which many potential Nigeria bound tourist may not like to be confronted with. These are impediments to tourism, which the new administration has been tackling since assumption of office. Investors, both foreign and local, are therefore called upon to come and invest in the abundant tourism potentials in the country. The richness and diversity of Nigeria’s tourism resources coupled with economic liberalisation policies will provide investment opportunities in various areas as follows:
- Heritage/Cultural Tourism Resources Development of slave trade relics
- Establishment of museums and preservation of monuments
- Eco-tourism, including Wildlife Tourism Resources
- Development of hiking trails and Jeep tracks in the national parks
- Development of picnic and camping sites at strategic locations within the trail circuit system in the national parks
- Building of tourist lodges
- Building of reception centers at Natural/Physical Attractions
- Provision of cable bus system to take tourist through the very rugged but scenic terrain of the mountains especially in Kanyang, Obudu and Mambilla Plateau Construction of lodge cabins for expedition tourist and rangers.
- Establishment of hotels and resorts near waterfalls, springs, caves and temperate climate areas such as Obudu, Jos and Mambila Plateau.
- Beach Tourism potentials Establishment of boating and sport fishing facilities
- Development of water transportation Provision of educational facilities for water skiing and swimming
- Establishment of holiday resorts along the coasts.
- Development of Amusement parks, entertainment facilities and shopping services
- Development of arts and crafts which constitute symbol of the people’s cultural values and love for nature.
Nigeria has attained a high level of good transportation system especially Airline and Road Transportation, investment opportunities are still needed in water recreation transportation and rail services. An inter-modal transportation system linking roads, railways, air and maritime services is being promoted by the Government as part of the massive programme of infrastructural development.
The hospitality sector of the tourism industry seems to be the most competitive area with the presence of Starwood Hotel Groups, owners of Sheratons, Hilton, Le Meridien, Shangra Lai the Asian Hotel giant in restaurants and many.
Meanwhile, most of Nigeria’s beautiful beach locations are still largely without accommodation facilities, which are good targets for investors in most tourism destinations across the globe.
Like the Europeans and America tour companies invaded the North, South and East Africa by locating tour offices in these regions which enable them to market destinations in their home countries, these are lacking in the case of Nigeria.
Any Company willing to do so for Nigeria will be highly welcome.
Apart from the enormous potentials and investment opportunities in the Nigerian tourism sector, the country’s investment climate at present is one of the most favourable in Africa for a number of reasons chief of which are Political Stability and a congenial macro-economic framework.
The enthronement of a viable democratic system, which guarantees political stability, improves international relations and respect for human rights would in various ways enhance investment opportunities in the country.
The provision of incentives in the 1990 National Tourism Policy were also to enhance private sector participation. These are in the following areas:
Tourism investment atmosphere in Nigeria is now conducive given the abundant resources available, large market, enthronement of enduring democracy, and a package of incentive put together by government. Foreign investors and other interested individuals should take advantage, of the conducive policy environment and incentives, to invest in the Nigerian tourism industry for sustainability and profitable returns.
A Tourism policy was produced in 1990 with the basic objectives to make Nigeria the ultimate tourism destination in Africa.
The main thrust of government policy on tourism, is to generate foreign exchange, encourage even development, promote tourism based rural enterprises, generate employment and accelerate rural urban integration and cultural exchange.
Due to the importance the Nigerian government attaches to the tourism industry, the following strategies were adopted:
Government would ensure that the provision of basic infrastructural facilities, namely, good roads, water, electricity, communications and hotels, to centres of attraction, in order to accelerate their development for the purpose of exploiting fully their touristic value. In furtherance of this goal, the appropriate government agency responsible for tourism promotion and development, shall establish and maintain close liaison with other government agencies responsible for the provision of the infrastructure.
State governments will provide land without any hindrance for tourism development at concessional rates and conditions favorable to investment and the realization of investment thereon. This will necessarily include the abolition of annual ground rent within the period of construction and development of tourism. For orderly development of tourism and tourism product, it is mandatory for all state governments to demarcate potential Tourism Zones and their products from other usage, to avoid undue pollution. 100% equity ownership of companies in Nigeria and repatriation of profits and dividends etc.
In order to boost the level of private sector investment in tourism, it is treated by government as a preferred sector, like agriculture. Government has also introduced such incentives as, tax holidays, tax rebate and soft loans, with long period of grace to potential investors in tourism.
The government has enacted laws and regulations, which govern the activities of the categories of people involved in the industry, like hoteliers, travel agents, tour-operators, car hire services. This is to ensure that their conduct, is not detrimental to the objectives of the industry and the security of the nation, as well as tourists.
To ensure the growth and development of tourism to international standards, government has put in place the following:
Embarked on a massive and aggressive publicity campaign in the country, on the potentials and significance of tourism. Available publicity organs of the government have been utilized.
Publicized and marketed the nations tourism potentials abroad, through Nigeria’s diplomatic missions and the foreign media, international travel fairs and mails.
Simplified issuance of visas/entry permit to intending visitors, such that they can get Visas immediately on application. Tourists arriving our ports with return tickets, are also issued with visas on the spot.
Security agencies, including customs and immigration have been re-oriented to discharge their duties promptly and efficiently, to eliminate inconveniences to visitors at entry points.
The government has put in place the following institutional frame-work.
The Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism has assumed full responsibility for policy initiation and monitoring, and maintains direct links with state governments on all tourism matters. However, the tourism industry is still fully dominated by states and local governments, where tourist attractions are situated.
State ministries implement policies and directories from the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism, initiate projects and control land allocation and development of tourism in their respective areas. The states also regulate the operations of hotels and catering institutions in line with the federal government policy.
These local organs were established to locate and identify potential tourist attractions in their areas. They serve as information centers and provide tourist guides. They also preserve and maintain monuments, as well as museums in their areas of jurisdiction.