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Examining NASS culture and tourism committee

By Yemi Olakitan

Though we are supposed to be grateful for everything, the lack of accountability and respect for our collective aspirations and yearnings for a successful and sustainable cultural tourism environment makes me sick.

I worry about culture and tourism laws. I cry at the dislocations and wilful thievery in government tourist circles, which weak and inadequate tourism and cultural laws helped enthrone.

Between 2015 and this year, there were no monitoring functions or actions to expose unethical management of cultural tourism assets and services, nor were our elected officials holding town hall meetings to update stakeholders on the industry’s health.

Our two-chamber National Assembly committees on culture and tourism have failed us. Both houses are chambers and synagogues of corrupted signatories to our tourism failures, monies theft, and misapplication. They enable the perpetrators, so they can’t see themselves. Instead of assisting the sector deflate unsuccessful and drowsy tourism agency directors’ egos, both committees’ leadership inflated and influenced them to philistine challenge.

In eight years, our legislative committees have shied away from their duties, instead rubber-stamping obsolete and deviant tourism policies, enabling agency heads to neglect the sector, and encouraging wasteful and heartless funds releases on pedestrian fancies in the name of tourism. How can serious legislators, acclaimed lovers of Nigerian rural poor and communities, watch, listen, and approve funds to agencies like Centre for Black and African Civilisation, Gallery of Arts, National Theatre, and whitewashed Film and Censors Board for eight years without qualms about their poor performance? What can we do with finances for a Ministry of Culture that spent its time hunting for occasions to welcome foreigners to tea parties while the industry it claimed to lead remained inert and breathless? Since the ministry and some of its moribund agencies have made merry-making and awards a national habit, can the NASS committees explain why and how these deceitful conundrums would help us recover tourism?

These “Honourable gentlemen” may think eight years is eight minutes.

Senator Rochas Okorocha and Representative Ogbeide Ihama are tough Ninth Assembly members. Okorocha, a former governor, global education influencer, and philanthropist, fears no foe and has scored many firsts across human liveability indices, but cultural tourism legislation and oversight need refreshing reforms and legislative contributions to sustain the industry.

Civil engineer Omoregie Ogbeide Ihama, a two-term Edo State congressman representing Oredo, is the House Culture and Tourism committee boss.

Ihama, a construction engineer with a keen eye for detail, has failed to explain how tourism funds and projects were implemented nationwide. He is handsome and sociable, but he has failed to convince industry stakeholders on cultural tourism legislative engagements and deliveries.

He represents us but not others. I’ve seen him in cultural garb, proudly cultural yet disappointingly influencing our cultural tourist failures.

Ogbeide Ihama is young but has not influenced cultural tourism projects that benefit youth and rural areas.

In eight years, neither committee has reached out to organised private sector leaders. Even for cultural tourism, no public hearings.

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