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    Iyadunni Gbadebo joins Lagos Tourism Foundation’s board of trustees

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    The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has appointed Iyadunni Gbadebo, the director of sales and marketing for Eko Hotels and Suites, as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Lagos Tourism Foundation.

    According to a statement, the Board of Trustees plays a major role in guiding the activities of the Lagos Tourism Foundation, ensuring the foundation aligns with its objectives and maximises its impact on the tourism sector.

    “With Gbadebo’s appointment, the foundation gains a seasoned professional known for her leadership acumen and dedication to advancing tourism initiatives,” the statement said.

    Chinyere Almona, director-general of LCCI, expressed full confidence in Gbadebo’s ability to fulfil her new role with excellence.

    “Your leadership and commitment to advancing tourism in Lagos will undoubtedly contribute significantly to the success of both the foundation and the chamber,” he said in the statement.

    He emphasised the importance of Gbadebo’s appointment in furthering the chamber’s objectives in the tourism sector.

    “As a member of the board of trustees, Iyadunni Gbadebo will be responsible for overseeing the activities of the Lagos Tourism Foundation, facilitating engagements with key stakeholders, and working towards enhancing the foundation’s impact and reach,” he added.

    He said her extensive experience in sales and marketing within the hospitality industry positions her as an asset in driving the foundation’s initiatives forward.

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    Enugu State bids to host 2026 National Sports Festival

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    Enugu State bids to host 2026 National Sports Festival

    The Director of Sports, Enugu State Ministry for Youths and Sport, Mr Boniface Onovo, said the state has enough facilities and potentials needed to host the 2026 National Sports Festival (NSF).

    Onovo disclosed this in Nsukka on Wednesday while speaking with newsmen shortly after conducting officials from the Federal Ministry of Sports Development, Abuja and Nilayo Sports Management Limited (NSML) Lagos, the Consultant of Enugu State 2024 Marathon and 2026 NSF bidding.

    Onovo said the officials were in the state to inspect existing sports facilities as Enugu State was among states bidding to host NSF 2026.

    The officials started the inspections on Wednesday in Enugu North Senatorial District.
    He maintained that the state had all it required to host the sports festival.

    “Officials from the Federal Ministry of Sport Development, Abuja and Nilayo Sports Management Limited (NSML) Lagos are satisfied with sports facilities seen in Enugu North Senatorial District.

    “They inspected Nsukka Township Stadium, Akanu Ibiam Stadium, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, among others,” he said.

    According to the director, the officials will also visit other sports facilities in Awgu axis and in Enugu Capital Territory before leaving the state

    “After their inspections, I will submit the report to the Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Mr. Lloyd Ekweremadu, who will in turn forward it to Gov. Peter Mbah for necessary actions toward the bidding,” he said

    Onovo explained that hosting of 2026 sports festival would boost economic tourism, expand existing sports facilities as well as market sports potentials and achievements of Enugu State to the entire world.

    “If Enugu State wins the hosting right of NSF 2026, it will not only boost the state’s economic tourism but will also market sports potentials and achievements of the state, as well as expand the existing sports facilities in the state,” he said.

    He appealed to Enugu people at home and in the diaspora to support Gov Mbah’s bid for the state to host the 2026 NSF.

    “Gov Mbah has demostrated in words and actions since assumption of office in May 29, 2023 that he is youth and sports friendly.

    “The recent victory of Rangers Football International in winning the 2023 National League trophy is an eloquent testimony of the governor’s commitment in development of youths and sports ” Onovo said.

    The visiting team also the Enugu Sports Club where they also inspected some sports facilities in the club including the swimming pool, table and lawn tennis ground.

    The Chairman of the sports club, Mr Victor Atuonwu, conducted the team round the facilities in the club.

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    Lola Ade-John: Unearthing Treasures in Nigeria’s Tourism Sector

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    Lola Ade-John: Unearthing Treasures in Nigeria’s Tourism Sector

    Despite the challenges she faced upon assuming her role as Minister of Tourism, Lola Ade-John, with her background in technology and banking, is determined not to rest on her laurels. She shares with Vanessa Obioha her mission to promote Nigeria through its inspiring stories, cultural heritage and abundant natural resources.

    When Mrs Lola Ade-John was announced as a nominee for a ministerial position by President Bola Tinubu’s administration last year, many expected her to be considered for a role in technology given her extensive career in banking and information technology. However, on August 16, 2023, she was appointed Minister of Tourism. Ade-John recalled watching TV when the news broke.

    “I was happy because the pressure died down, but another set of pressure started,” she said on a rainy morning at a private location in Lekki. Dressed in a colourful midi dress with balloon sleeves matched with a pair of medicated glasses, Ade-John exuded confidence, purpose and bluntness with a tinge of humour. She did not shy away from discussing her health challenges upon resuming office, debunking speculation that she had been poisoned.

    “I did not know what was wrong with me. I wasn’t the only one who ate the meal I bought so it could not have been poison.”

    Upon assuming office, Ade-John realised that tourism is quite different from what most people thought. As someone who travelled mostly for leisure or business, she discovered that tourism is more than just an entertainment affair.

    “People mostly look at tourism more from the entertainment business but there is a lot that goes into it before one can say the country is ready for tourism,” she said.

    “Part of our job is to get people to attend these concerts or festivals but how do we measure attendance? We are not yet a digital economy so it’s difficult to gather data on attendance,” she continued.

    The lack of data posed a big challenge for the minister.

    “Where is the data? What are we measuring? How do we monitor? Those things don’t exist,” she said, stating that she went to the National Bureau of Statistics which is slightly different from that of tourism.

    Leveraging her expertise in technology, having worked as a systems analyst in the oil and banking sectors and founded Novateur Business Technology Consultants, Ade-John has embarked on building a database and a website for the ministry.

    “There is nothing on the web that is endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism. What that means is that there is nothing really to showcase Nigeria to the world. Yes, you have the embassies but they also have their websites. We want to have our own website and then link to other websites like the U.K. government did.”

    Ade-John envisions this website as a comprehensive resource about Nigeria, covering everything from the states and the people to the food, festivals, activities, and other interesting places to visit.

    She revealed plans to introduce digital tours.

    “Especially for our children abroad,” she said. “Through virtual reality, you can travel to places as far as Obudu Ranch and immerse yourself in the beautiful landscape and nature. Do you know they have gorillas there? We are working with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation to see what we can do.”

    Funding continues to pose a significant challenge for the ministry, affecting many of the plans laid out by the Nigerian Tourism Development Authority (NTDA) in the past seven years. However, Ade-John remains undeterred, drawing from her banking experience where “you just have to get things done,” she said. “I’m used to getting things done. Sometimes it can be unconventional, other times it can be straightforward.”

    So far, she has been meeting with potential investors and advocating for a tourism development fund to be negotiated with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

    “People that pay for tickets and all that, they need to find a way of separating tourism taxes, and these come directly to the agency or ministry. These can be used to develop and advertise assets,” she explained.

    In the past few months, Ade-John has been up and about, going about her duties with vigour. A week before we met, she was at the United Nations Tourism Executive Council 121st meeting where she represented Nigeria and expressed the country’s readiness to contribute to the global tourism agenda. She has also been touring heritage sites and other destinations across the country that would attract tourists and investors, significantly contributing to the country’s GDP.

    Her main focus, she said, is domestic tourism.

    “We are trying to get investors to use these communities to run these cultural assets.”

    Currently, the minister revealed that Ikogosi Warm Spring in Ekiti and Obudu Ranch in Cross River have already taken off the revitalisation process to attract more tourists.

    “We are also looking at investors for building desert safaris, Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi, Mambilla Plateau in Taraba. We have identified at least the top 20 destinations in the country.

    “Nigeria is such a beautiful place. We are blessed with hardworking, intelligent people and vast natural resources. The only thing we don’t have is snow.”

    Beyond identifying these destinations, Ade-John stressed the importance of infrastructural development in accessing these places. From good roads to flights and electricity, these will, in turn, bring development to the community.

    “Obudu, for instance, is right up on the mountains. They are building an international airport there and this will help develop other smaller industries such as transportation and commerce. Even though some believe that having an international airport there will not be beneficial, I think otherwise.”

    Tourism has a lot to do with culture. Ade-John believes that local communities can benefit from tourism by selling stories about the place and the people.

    “We sell the culture. We talk about stories and we sell stories, and these are accompanied by souvenirs that also tell stories.”

    Having toured most parts of the country, a major concern for Ade-John is the cleanliness of our environment.

    “People dump dirt in water, by the roadside, everywhere. So how do you want to attract people to come to your community if it is dirty? We do not take care of our assets” she said.

    “In the villages and other rural communities, it’s not even about hotels, one can rent out a room. A room can be cleaned up and have mosquito nets to prevent mosquitoes. The villagers can cook good meals, and entertain you. That will give them a good experience.”

    To this effect, the minister launched ‘Doctrine According to Tourism,’ a nationwide campaign that seeks to empower local communities with the knowledge and tools needed to embrace tourism as a catalyst for economic growth and cultural preservation. Through workshops, awareness campaigns, and community consultations, the campaign will actively involve local communities, indigenous groups, and marginalised populations, promoting meaningful engagement and empowerment to ensure everyone has a stake in Nigeria’s tourism development.

    “More importantly, it is about teaching the people our values and we are working with the National Orientation Agency (NOA).”

    Understanding that tourism is associated with other sectors such as health, education, immigration, information, technology, aviation, transportation and so on, Ade-John is often faced with challenges affecting these sectors. For instance, the high cost of a Nigerian visa continues to dissuade tourists from visiting the country. On the other side, she strongly believes that the proposed coastal highway will open up economic opportunities for Nigeria.

    “The coastline starts from Senegal all the way to Cameroon. Imagine the traffic. Some potential investors are already showing interest in building resorts. Nigerians are not good at leisure tourism, it is only in Lagos that we have such.”

    Another tourism asset not yet explored by the country according to Ade-John is history.

    “History is a tourism asset. We have museums that house some of the relics of the 1976 coup and even the Biafran war but we do not showcase or take care of them”.

    She however acknowledged the Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja for their work in preserving the nation’s history.

    Part of her plans for the ministry is to ensure that tourism and history are taught in primary schools.

    “The children need to know our history; that’s what tour operators live on. They live on our stories. If you go to Egypt, they sell their stories to you. Be it papyrus paper or pyramids. They sell stories. We want to sell Nigerian stories.”

    In the hospitality sector, Ade-John is keen on ensuring that the hotels are properly classified and meet international standards.

    “When you say a hotel is five-star in Nigeria, it should be five-star in other parts of the world. We are doing a reclassification, even for street food vendors. We want to ensure that the food is healthy for consumption.”

    Even though her portfolio is not entirely familiar to her, Ade-John is getting herself acquainted with the people who have been moving the tourism sector forward. People like Ikechi Uko, the organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market (AFTM) are helping her in showcasing the hidden treasures that can sell Nigeria to the world.

    “We want to show the country to the right people by promoting these events that celebrate nature and wildlife.”

    A major milestone for Ade-John is to get the federal government to prioritise tourism and its potential to boost not only the image of the country but contribute to the GDP. She recently resuscitated the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) which includes stakeholder ministries and state governments. This, she said, will provide strategic direction and oversight for tourism development in Nigeria. The council will ensure that tourism policies are well-coordinated and effectively implemented across all levels of government. The ministry has also commenced the review of the National Policy on Tourism and Hospitality with over 100 experts partaking in the exercise.

    Touring the country has helped Ade-John discover interesting places such as the hidden tunnel in Epe attributed to the Queen of Sheba, the Koma heritage site in Adamawa, the mountains in Ekiti for hiking, and the King Kosoko Memorial Museum on Lagos Island.

    “These little treasures are all about stories and we have to sell them.”

    By promoting these treasures, Ade-John believes that Nigeria could become a leading global destination by the time she concludes her tenure in office.

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    Kalgwai Fishing Festival set to boost tourism, economic growth in Jigawa

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    Hundreds of participants, residents and guests recently caught a glimpse of a spectacular carnival at the reintroduced Kalgwai Fishing Festival in the Auyo Local Government Area of Jigawa State with winners carting home attractive prices.

    The re-introduction of the festival, after it was last conducted in 2015, was the culmination of a chain of activities for residents and visitors which included water sports contests, fishing contests, Gora (gourd) racing for both male and female categories, swimming and diving competitions. The contests ended with the winners returning home with various prizes.

    The winners who cut across all categories of the contests at the event smiled home with various prices, awards and gifts, which ranged from motorcycles to irrigation water pumps, sewing machines, grinding machines and cash prizes.

    The biggest fish caught at the colourful festival weighed 100 kilograms, followed by 90 and 80 kilograms, respectively. These hauls are bigger than the 78 kilogram biggest fish caught during the popular Argungu Fishing Festival, Kebbi State edition of 2020.

    The Bulama of Kalgwai community (traditional head) Usman Magaji, stated joyously that the re-introduction of the fishing festival was highly commendable. He appealed to the state government to sustain it as a yearly event stressing that it would constitute a veritable tourist attraction for the state and Nigeria at large. Mr Magaji said the direct beneficiary would be Jigawa State which would use the regular festivals to display its rich cultural heritage and what it can offer economically and socially to the country and the world as a whole.

    “The number of locals that will benefit from this festival is unquantifiable. Even now thousands are here and are benefitting from the festival directly or indirectly because the festival is also telling a story about the entire Hadejia emirate

    “We, the people of Kalgwai are delighted over the re-introduction of the festival because it will develop the local skills and improve local economics. With a festival like this, the dam is serving its purposes. It’s improving the lives of the citizens through irrigation farming, rearing of animals, and fishing.

    “The Dam was created during the Muhammadu Buhari military regime and it was rehabilitated under the same Muhammadu Buhari administration when he was elected in 2015,” Mr Bulama stated further.

    Another resident, Sale Computer, from neighbouring Marke community, said the re-introduction of the fishing festival has brought the government closer to the people and could help improve the local populace’s economic fortunes if sustained and organised in league with all relevant agencies at state and federal levels.

    “The festival, if it continues, will also increase the bond between the governor and the people of the area, a testimony to this, is the thousands of people that attended the event.

    “The number of people present here should not have been so because many have forgotten about the festival but because they see the governor as a serious person that is why they are trooping in solidarity to attend the event”, Mr Computer said.

    He recalled how the fishing festival was conducted in the previous year, but later abandoned by previous administrations.

    “The festival was first conducted in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. It was last conducted in 2015. The re-introduction of the festival will help both the residents and the government itself. The winners have won motorcycles, water pump machines, sewing machines, grinding machines and others.

    “Women were not left behind in this display of cultural heritage, we are thankful to His Excellency, Governor Umar Namadi for the re-introduction of the festival because it will increase our rural economy and create opportunities for the locals,” Mr Computer said.

    Dan Gambo Maitaru, whose group caught the biggest fish, said the contest was successful and pleaded with the governor to sustain the initiative. Mr Maitaru believes the regular staging of the festival as an annual event would help to address some of the problems in the rural communities including rural-urban migration.

    A hotelier from Dutse, Ahmad Maigari, said he came to the fishing festival to buy fish for his guests, some of whom he said were expatriates who preferred natural fish from the river.

    “The fish here is not an iced fish or mechanised fish; it’s natural river fish, fresh from the river. The taste is different from what you have from the mechanised and iced fish. That is why we usually come over here because a lot of my customers prefer this type of fresh fish from the river, Mr Maigari said.

    Also, at the event, the Emir of Hadejia, Adamu Abubakar-Maje, advised the government to expand the fishing festival competition to other riverine areas in the zone to accommodate more contestants.

    The emir who was represented at the event by the Galadiman Hadejia, Usman Abdulaziz, said the contest if expanded to other areas will give the locals a sense of belonging and improve their financial incomes.

    Umar Namadi, the state governor, said that agriculture, including fishery and aquaculture, is one of the priority areas captured in his administration’s 12-point development blueprint aimed at addressing mass poverty in the state through agricultural engagements. He stressed that his administration would enhance such occupations in the state in order to make the youth gainfully employed.

    Mr Namadi said after he came on board mid 2023, the state government stocked three water bodies in the state with 90,000 assorted fingerlings. Each of the water bodies in Birnin Kudu, Ringim, and Hadejia zones was stocked with 30,000 assorted fingerlings. He stated that the aim was to achieve an exponential growth of the fishery sub-sector in the state for the overall benefit of the people, especially their fish protein need for consumption and business.

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