By AZUH AMATUS
Despite the current economic recession, Nigeria’s future is bright, as the country diversifies its economy away from oil, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said in Lagos on Tuesday.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 2016 World Tourism Day in Eko Atlantic, the city that is being built on reclaimed land on the Bar Beach, the Minister said there is no better testimony to Nigeria’s bright economic future than the new city.
”It takes an investor to have a great confidence in any economy before putting hundreds of millions of dollars into a city like this. Those who can see the bright stars in our horizon, beyond this temporary cloud of difficulties, are investing in the country even as we speak,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said that as the Federal Government works day and night to pull Nigeria out of recession and put the country’s economy on the path of sustainable growth, ”it is becoming increasingly clear, like President Muhammadu Buhari has admonished, that we must think out of the box.
”We must find other sustainable means of earning foreign exchange outside of oil, to grow our country’s GDP and create jobs for our people. Agriculture and mining are viable options, but tourism is the low hanging fruit in this regard, and we must not hesitate to pluck it.”
He said the choice of Eko Atlantic City as the venue of the 2016 World Tourism Day celebration is significant, adding: ”While I will like to reiterate Nigeria’s readiness to explore and exploit tourism for the benefit of its economy, I can confidently add that Eko Atlantic City has what it takes to drive tourism in Nigeria. And this is just as well, because while the role of the government will be to provide the enabling environment, the private sector will drive the growth of tourism”.
The Minister called Eko Atlantic City ”a tourist haven” which has what it takes to drive tourism in Nigeria
”The city will boast of 450,000 residents and 300,000 commuters (daily), which is a boon for the myriad of businesses to be located in the city. In addition, it will have a registered Free Economic Zone to encourage economic activities.As you are also aware, shopping malls attract tourists the way bees are attracted to honey. The shopping mall here in Eko Atlantic will be the largest of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa. The 10 million square metres of space in the city will also boast of an impressive retail layout for shopping, vast amenities for entertainment, such as food courts, cinemas and playgrounds, an ample parking space and a canal that can be used for water transportation and water sports.
”Nigerians who are looking for relaxation spots and exquisite shopping malls will no longer need to jet to Dubai and similar destinations, because Eko Atlantic City will be a better destination than Dubai. This is not a joke! Whereas you can only comfortably soak in the sights and sounds of Dubai for a maximum of four months every year due to the prevailing inclement weather there, Eko Atlantic City offers – in addition to the massive shopping mall – 365 days of sunshine and clement weather. This is an added incentive for foreign tourists. In short, the city will have everything you need for tourism to thrive: security, modern infrastructure, good weather, uninterrupted power supply, potable water supply, etc,” he said.
Addressing the theme of this year’s World Tourism Day celebration – which is TOURISM FOR ALL: PROMOTING UNIVERSAL ACCESSIBILITY, Alhaji Mohammed said Eko Atlantic City that is shaping up as one of Nigeria’s top tourist destinations would be accessible all: the rich and the poor, the young and the old as well as men and women.
Quoting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said everyone has the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis, the Minister said the new city would also not discriminate against the aged and the physically challenged.
He appealed to investors to cash in on the Federal Government’s massive investment in infrastructural development to help turn the country’s numerous tourist sites to tourist attractions.
Earlier, the management of Eko Atlantic made a video presentation of the budding city to the Minister, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule (who stood in for Governor Akinwunmi Ambode), their entourage and the media, after which they were all taken on a guided tour of the city, whose first resident is due to move in next month,
According to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the World Tourism Day has been held annually on Sept. 27th for the last quarter of a century, to foster awareness of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic impact.