By Benjamin Omoike
Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, has stated that the state is seriously considering and working toward water tourism in Its bid to boost and explore the vast tourism potentials of the state.
The Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Tourism, Arts and Culture, Solomon Bonu, who said the ministry was well on its path to ensure revival, development and completion of tourism sites in the state, despite the effects of the pandemic, assured that no stone would be left unturned in achieving this feat.
He reassured that old tourism sites and abandoned projects were already being worked on – and were indeed, on the path to revival – to be given back to residents. He listed some of these sites to be the Global Memorial Hall, Freedom Park, Pen Cinema, among others.
He said: “The Ministry of Tourism is working on the promotion of water tourism and is on the verge of phasing off obsolete boats and replacing them with more modern facility standard boats. This will be done in conjunction with the Lagos State Ferry Services, LAGFERRY. We will be dredging the waterways further, so as to accommodate the kinds of boats we are looking at.
“With good channelisation of the waters, and proper routing, you’ll discover that the entire Lagos can be accessed and viewed from the water or boat within hours, without having to step foot on land. This will save foreign tourists the stress of having to go through the situation on land.
“As much as we are reviving old monuments and sites with tourism potentials, to bring them up to scratch, we are also looking at partnering with those who are willing to partner with government to start something new, by harnessing the vast tourism potentials in our state. All over the world, Public-Private-Partnership has been helping shape and move the tourism sector forward, and we don’t intend to be left out of it as well.
“Government’s responsibility is to create an enabling environment for such partnerships and investment to thrive, and we are ready to just that.”
Against the backdrop of the pandemic and its ravaging effect, he stressed that his ministry is fully into citizens engagement, which has limited activities because of physical contact.
“Although the covid 19 had succeeded in slowing the ministry’s projects down but the revival progress is going at a pace. Events have been hosted virtually, such as the Ileya Digital Party, using the Lagos State Theatre at Oregun, where some key artistes in the entertainment industry performed, and of which the live show was streamlined on TV.”
“In all, we remain committed to the T.H.E.M.E.S agenda of the Governor of Lagos State, Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, of which tourism and entertainment is the 5th pillar and the Governor has focused his full attention on it, due to the fact that Lagos State is the home to all entertainment and entertainment personnel in Nigeria, as this industry can be seen as another source of generation of income that has grown to harness the full engagement of the people,” he said.
He further stated that the vision is to make Lagos State a tourism destination, hence, the ministry’s hand-in-hand collaboration with LAGFERRY, in order to promote domestic and water tourism.
Regarding security and challenges in the cosmopolitan city, he said the Governor had made the issue a priority and was doing his absolute best, as could be seen since the administration came on board.
“The Governor has, in turn, set meetings to discuss the challenges and has effectively implemented security precautions and personnels. He has procurred vehicles for these personnel to ensure that the state is safe, which will attract more investors and tourists. Thanks to Governor Sanwo-Olu, there has been room for improvement.”
He stated that from the time of Governor Babatunde Fashola, there been focus on Badagry town, which he said, was pivotal to tourism in the state, considering its significance, especially in relation to slave trade in Nigeria.
“The Fashola administration did a lot to revamp Badagry, because of its attachment to the slave trade in terms of tourism, but unfortunately, the following administration was not quite able to establish some of the projects on ground. However, this present administration has begun to complete some projects.”
The Special Adviser went on to describe these projects as ‘Tourist Havens’, upon completion and that the pandemic had opened new light to ‘domesticate our tourism’.
He assured that actions will be taken once the crisis is over.
According to him, the revenue to be generated from tourism cannot be quantified, as it had the potential to generate billions of naira.
“The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture is coming up with a programme to employ tour guides in the State and the Lagos State Government is also looking at improving transportation system, whereby new standard vehicles will be brought into the country, of which the people employed to drive them will undergo training, so as to effectively entertain tourists with the tales, beauty and history of the tourist sites in the state.”
He advised that stakeholders and individuals in the Tourism, Arts and Culture industry should pay taxes in order to support the ministry, citing examples of several established hotels which have failed to follow necessary requirements of the state in terms of registration. He said this will in turn, give the ministry the ability to rate and classify the hotels into stars.
“If tourism is given total attention, it will produce more money than the oil sector,” he said.
He appealed to the Federal Government to look into the roads leading to Badagry, which are in a state of disrepair, as work had not yet fully been carried out, although the contract had been awarded. He encouraged investors to invest in Lagos State tourism sector, stating that Public-Private-Partnership, PPP, is the way forward for the state to develop tourism.