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Daniel Ayantoye writes about how insecurity made many holidaymakers to avoid many tourists centres in the country
A tour guide, Tolu Adesola, who has been in the business for about 13 years, restricted her movements to some parts of the country to protect herself and client tourists from kidnappers and terrorists due to the country’s level of insecurity.
She lamented that that insecurity ravaging many parts of the states was affecting the nation’s tourism as tourists avoided states with amazing tourist attractions.
Narrating an incident, she said, “Someone came to make an inquiry in January this year with a plan to visit some tourist centres in December. When he came, he wanted to go to the North but I told him I couldn’t embark on the journey because of the spate of insecurity on that axis.
“Security is affecting tourism business. When the citizens are scared of travelling, are foreigners the ones that will want to go to states in the North and other parts of the country for sightseeing? Lagos is still safe like Abuja, but many other states with tourist sites are being avoided by tourists who fear being kidnapped for ransom or killed by terrorists. The government has much to do by providing security and infrastructure to make the country safe and grow the tourism industry.’’
Another tour operator, Mr Terseer Adamu, said that most operators were now operating below 20 to 30 per cent due to the worsening insecurity in the country.
Adamu said, “It didn’t just start, reduction in tourism business didn’t just start. It started around the time Boko Haram started. It got worst with COVID-19 pandemic. I can tell you that the last three years has not been encouraging. Most operators have practically been operating between 15 to 20 per cent.’’
He further said that due to insecurity, visits of foreign tourists had reduced greatly, adding that those who come into the country were mainly for business and not sightseeing.
The tour guide said, “The kind of tourism that is thriving now is business tourism where tourists come into Nigeria primarily not for leisure but for business and corporate events. For domestic tourism, it is worse; people only travel within their own area. They no longer want to travel far. If you are in Lagos, would you want to travel to a tourist destination in the South-East, North-East or North-West given the level of insecurity in the country? Domestic tourism still happens but people stay within their region. But people that come into Nigeria for leisure tourism have stopped doing so.’’
He stated that his country laid off workers to save costs as the business was no longer thriving. According to him, he works alone and only uses contract employees whenever it’s necessary.
In his narration, another tour guide, Rotimi Adelola, lamented that his client tourists had reduced significantly from what he used to have.
He said that prior to COVID-19 pandemic, business was poor but worsened with insecurity which added to the mix.
Adelola said, “Before now, during peak periods when Christmas, Easter, Independence and other notable celebrations approach, we would have close to 70 to 100 clients. And out of peak period, we would have between five to 10 clients, but now when COVID-19 came and insecurity emerged, we could go several months without any clients. Now, even during peak periods, we barely have a reasonable number of people. I believe that the cause of low turnout and patronage is insecurity. No one is willing to travel by road for tourism, people only travel for essential services. Until our roads are safe, local tourism will continue to suffer and decline.’’
A tourist, Oluwabami Olumide, said he was used to touring tourist destinations but had to stop movements especially to the northern part of the country because of insecurity ravaging the country. Olumide stated, “With the issue of kidnapping, one cannot trust anybody anymore. Also the issue of tribalism is there. I have to watch the places I go to.’’
Another tourist, Godspower Ubogu, said, noted that the country’s insecure state would not allow him to visit some places in Nigeria. He added, “I cannot put my life under risk. It is mainly because of insecurity. People love to explore irrespective of the distance but because we have poor security, it becomes an issue and this discourages some of us from going beyond some places.’’
Worrying insecurity reports
In a report by The PUNCH, 3,478 were reportedly killed and 2,256 abducted across the country between December 2021 and June 15, 2022.
The report obtained from the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations, an American think-tank, revealed that the victims were killed by non-state actors such as terrorists, gunmen, robbers, cultists and security operatives, among others.
Almost every part of Nigeria has had its fair share of reported attacks. Most of the attack is occasioned by Boko Haram in the North East, banditry in North West, farmers/herders crisis in North Central, insurrection in South East, oil bunkering and militancy in the South-South and sundry crimes in South-West.
Some countries in recent times issued travel advisories to their citizens to avoid going to some places in Nigeria. One of them, the United Kingdom, warned its citizens to avoid at least 12 states in Nigeria. The states include Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states.
Also, the government of Canada in a travel advisory advised its citizens against visiting North-West, North-Central and the Niger Delta. It stressed that the areas were ridden with terrorism, armed attacks, kidnapping, inter-communal and sectarian violence.
Some of the tourists centres in the country include Kajuru Castle in Kaduna State; Gashaka-Gumti National Park in Taraba and Adamawa to the border with Cameroon; Gurara Waterfalls in Gurara, a local government area in Niger State; Ibeno Beach in Akwa Ibom State, Kainji National Park in Niger and Kwara states; The Kamuku National Park in Kaduna State, and the Mambilla Plateau in the Taraba State.
Others includes The Mount Patti Hill located in lokoja, Benue State; Nigerian National War Museum in Umuahia, abia State; the Ngwo Pine Forest; a pine forest near the centre of Enugu State; The Ogbunike Caves in Ogbunike, Anambra State; Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa State, and the Yankari National Park, Bauchi State. Also, in the south-west some of the tourist centres are: Bar Beach situated on Victoria Island, Lagos State; Idanre Hill or Oke Idanre in Idanre town of Ondo State; Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, Ogun State; Agodi Gardens in Ibadan, Oyo State; and Osun-Osogbo a sacred grove along the banks of the Osun river, Osogbo, Osun State.
A poll on May 27, 2022 by the NOI Polls Limited, a country-specific polling service in West Africa, which conducts periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues, reveals that the security situation in Nigeria was arguably the worst after the civil war.
Similarly, the global peace index for 2021 compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace ranked Nigeria 146th out of 163 countries with a score of 2.712, while among sub-Saharan African countries the country was ranked 39th out of 44 countries examined in the region.
Despite the whooping sum allotted to security by the Federal Government yearly, the macroeconomic indicators, investment inflow in all sectors of the economy including tourism had reduced.
The security budgets from 2016 showed the progression from N1tn security budget to N2.4tn in 2022.
Similarly, in 2021, the Police Trust Fund commenced, and in March, N11bn was approved for the fund and another N74bn approved in June.
As of 2020, over $40.6bn worth of foreign investments were diverted from the Nigerian economy due to insecurity according to the global terrorism index.
Nigeria, in the last decade, has been heavily investing in the procurement of high-tech military equipment, especially aircraft and warships.
Owing to the upsurge of insurgency, banditry, and other criminal vices, Nigeria, under the six years leadership of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), gave the Air Force its biggest upgrade.
Since Buhari assumed office in 2015, the military had taken delivery of a total of 32 brand new aircraft, with the latest being the 6 X A-29 Super Tucanos – the first batch of a total of 12 – that arrived on Thursday, July 22, 2021.
Lull in the sector
One of the cultural celebrations considered to be the biggest in the ancient city of Ife, Osun State, Olojo Festival, experienced low foreign tourists this year than that of 2021 due to insecurity.
The Lowa Adimula of Ife, who is the second in line among palace chiefs to Ooni, High Chief Adeyeye Adekola, earlier told Sunday PUNCH that foreign attendees could have stayed away due to the insecurity in the country.
He said, “Many foreign tourists that didn’t come may have stayed away due to the security challenge in the country. It is only the brave ones that came for the festival. Many are scared of the kidnappings, banditry and others facing Nigeria presently.’’
On April 19, 2019, Kajuru Castle, located in the Kajuru local Government Area of Kaduna State, was attacked by bandits and two tourists, a British national, Faye Mooney and a Nigerian, Matthew Oguche, were killed and five others abducted.
Three years since the attack, the dazzling architectural masterpiece, styled in the European and German formation with exotic facilities in the once attractive resort had become a shadow of its former self as the premises had been abandoned for fear of a reoccurrence.
The castle’s Manager, Mr Basil Bature, told our correspondent that the management was re-strategising before reopening the facility.
He said, “We are still looking at what to do and how to come up with new plans. Yes, the attack affected us. It was a serious issue. In fact, it was God that saved me because I was in the house when they attacked but I survived by a whisker. We are not operational now and we are still strategising.”
Kidnap-for ransom has become a booming business in Nigeria. The Nigerian National War Museum, located in Umuahia, Abia State, has also been affected by insecurity in the South-East region.
The museum which has a collection of objects of traditional and modern warfare equipment in display such as warships, military aircrafts, armoured tanks, bombs produced locally by Biafra during the civil war, used to be a tourist destination for holidaymakers, students including graduands of the Nigeria Defence Academy, Zaria. But patronage of the place has dropped.
Speaking during an interview with our correspondent, the museum curator, Mrs. Evelyn Osuagwu, said patronage had reduced, noting that the situation was affecting business.
“I won’t be able to give you the statistics off hand but so far, patronage is low. Tourists don’t come again and it is affecting us. Almost all the tourist sites in the South-East are affected.
“Like the Nigerian Defence Academy, Zaria, when the graduands are passing out, they used to visit the war museum. But now, they no longer come to the place. Since last year, they have not been coming because of the insecurity in the region. Certainly, patronage is low compared to the past. Also, due to insecurity, people are afraid to go out and it has affected our operations seriously. The fear as you know the museum preserves the war relics of Biafra, and that of Nigeria, this issue of the Indigenous People of Biafra, people attach negative perception to the place. ‘’
A wildlife park located in the North-East, Yankari Game Reserve, Bauchi State, has been experiencing low patronage as tourists were afraid of visiting the place because of insecurity.
The beautifully constructed edifice parades several attractions and facilities including sights of various species of animals, water springs, relaxation lot, guest house, and shopping mall.
The reserve’s officer, Muhammed Mustapha, said the low patronage was taking a toll on the business.
He said, “Unlike before when there was no problem of kidnapping and banditry. Now, some tourists, after they have booked ahead, would call back to inform us that their security team advised them against visiting the area. The patronage cannot be compared to what we have before due to the insecurity in the country. The low patronage also affected business around the reserve. Because there are less numbers of clients, the shopping mall there also doesn’t record sales like before.’’
Our correspondent who visited the National Museum of Unity, Aleshinloye, Ibadan, Oyo State, spotted some pupils going on an excursion.
The museum, which stores cultural artifacts from different ethnic groups in Nigeria, has several infrastructure, amongst which include five art galleries.
The curator, Mrs Oriyomi Otuka, who said she resumed work three weeks ago, took our correspondent round the facility.
The facility is housed by tree banks, five fully air conditioned art galleries, has a children’s play park, restaurants and event hall as well as shops where visitors can purchase items.
She said the facility had no security challenge because it has the office of the Department of State Services as a neighbour.
Speaking on patronage at the facility, she said, “Last year as we know we were still coming out of COVID, patronage was quite low because there were lockdowns. This year, the situation of the country as you have said affected visits to the museum because people are more interested in getting the basic needs first; housing, food and shelter.
“But we are encouraging them to understand that this is also essential because education is important. You need to know who you were, who you are and where you are going and this is what the museum stands for.”
Also, Manager, Erin-Ijesha waterfall, Adegoke Olalekan, said the waterfall located at Oriade LGA of Osun State recorded worse patronage in 2022 than previous years due to the country’s economic situation.
He said, “The patronage has reduced drastically compared to last year. In 2020, there was COVID-19 but despite the fact that there was a lockdown, we still had patronage in December when we opened the waterfall. We had an encouraging patronage compared to this year that there is no lockdown. It is not encouraging to be candid as nothing is improving. When people cannot afford to feed themselves, they cannot think of going to tourist centres. When people have food to eat, they can think of something else.
The tour operator, Adelola said that the rise in inflation had contributed to the unavailability of disposable income for people to carry out other activities such as buying essential commodities.
According to him, the fund most people use for entertainment, tourism, travels or holidays is no longer available due to inflation.
He stressed that essential commodities such as transportation, electricity bills, school fees and most importantly foodstuff had increased in prices.
“Tourism is not an essential commodity, people will first look at the basic things first; feeding, clothing, shelter, security and any other thing before they would think of going for holidays. So the government should look at the economy, look at how to bring down inflation, so that people can have disposable income for holidays. The third thing is infrastructure. The state of the roads needs to also be improved upon. Some tourism sites are in a dilapidated state and they are not even marketable. I can market Erin Ijesa, Olumo Rock, Zuma Rock, Obudu and others but if the necessary things are not put in place, tourists will be discouraged from going there.”
Stakeholders weigh in
In his contribution to the issue, a professor of Archaeology and Tourism Studies at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University. Awka, Anambra State, Emejulu Ifeyinwa, said that tourism had been undermined by the country’s insecurity and dwindling economy.
According to her, both inbound and outbound tourism need urgent attention as they have been badly affected by the country’s security challenges.
She stated, “For you to have an attractive tourism programme, you must welcome visitors from outside because they are of immense benefit to the economy. Tourism thrives on security, when people are not assured of their security, they can never come to your destination no matter how interesting your sites are.
“When you engage in tourism, you engage in home away from home. But the thing is that people are afraid to visit destinations where they don’t have assurance of their safety and this is one area where Nigerian tourism is being negatively affected.
“If you take out time and check the tourism receipts for the various destinations that exist, you will know that we have an all-time reduction in tourists visiting Nigeria. People are no longer coming. People are afraid of going to their villages and you are talking about tourist attractions.
“Yes, there is also a bad economy, all these things are related. Look at the price of commodities and transportation. For those of us who have relaxation centres, the amount we buy a goat today is what we used to buy a cow before now. A good chicken now costs as much as between N15, 000 and N20,000. How many people can afford it?
“So if people don’t have money to take care of their basic problems, how will they talk about going to sites? People are struggling to make ends meet. And even best paid civil servants are struggling to make ends meet. There is no way the tourist sites in the various communities will not be affected.
“If I don’t have money to take care of my health, to feed my family, take care of my transportation needs, I mean anybody would see me as unserious if I start talking about engaging in tourism. Everything is affected. The government should establish a good welfare policy to turn things around so that our people will be okay and key sectors such as tourism that have a great benefit to the Gross Domestic Product of the nation would be significantly revived. The average Nigerian should be able to feed themselves before we start talking about tourism.’’
She urged the government at all levels to prioritise the tourism sector, noting that the sector would contribute to the development of the country if given the required attention. She added that nothing kills tourism like insecurity.
Also, a security expert, Nnamdi Anekwe-Chive, said that banditry and kidnapping had caused a major setback for the sector in the country.
He stated that tourism would always suffer because the areas where tourists were supposed to visit had been under siege of kidnappers and terrorists.
Nnamdi Anekwe-Chive also urged the government to overhaul the national security architecture and carry out a comprehensive reform of internal security to provide a safe and secure country.
On his part, a professor of Economics at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Edet Akpakpan, said that tourism and economy were interwoven in terms of relationship, stating that one affected the other.
Akpakpan said, “Tourism helps to boost the economy but it is only a healthy economy that promotes tourism. What an economy needs to be able to attract visitors is security. Tourists contribute a lot to the economy but tourists don’t go to an economy in which they don’t feel safe.
“Insecurity is a terrible thing to happen to an economy; that is why we must fight it at all cost. No one can undertake investment in the tourism sector when there is insecurity because investment is something you do and look up to the future for returns.’’
In her view, National President, Nigerian Association of Tour Operators, Ime Udo, said that the tourism industry was blessed with many facilities to be a major sector in the country, adding that it was undermined by the country’s insecurity.
Udo stated, “There is much to sell as a product in tourism in Nigeria, but insecurity is one of the issues affecting the promotion of tourism in Nigeria. Tourists no longer feel confident and safe to travel to some major tourist destinations in Nigeria and surprisingly we find out that many of the areas where insecurity thrives are places that have much to offer to tourists and not only outbound tourism but to tourists within the country.
“Regardless of who we are, be it based on religion or tribe, we have something to offer based on our cultural values and we are not taking that into cognisance in trying to curb issues of insecurity. Tourism is one of the major issues we will use to curb insecurity. Nigeria is more than ripe for tourism because we have been able to build our brand internationally, from sports to music, to culture and everyone wants to identify with Nigeria in one way or the other, and this is one of our major selling points. Why are we not focusing on it and why is the government not partnering with the tour operators to ensure that our brand is being sold and that we get the maximum arrivals that we need into Nigeria on a daily basis. We can do it.’’
On her part, President, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye, said apart from security challenges and economic downturn, Nigeria was not a tourism destination because the sector had enjoyed low concentration from the government.
She added that Nigeria tourism wasn’t growing due to the government’s lack of interest in the sector.
She said, “We cannot say insecurity is affecting tourism in Nigeria. Insecurity issues generally, yes its affect tourism generally I agree 100 per cent but nobody can categorically tell you this is how it affected Nigeria tourism because Nigeria tourism don’t have a percentage level. There is no percentage scoring.
“Insecurity issues in Nigeria are not bigger than what is happening around other parts of the world. I am not saying we do not have an insecurity issue but it’s not more than what other parts of the world are experiencing. The crisis is a global crisis in terms of economic and security. Our domestic tourism is not there yet. Nigeria tourism is not growing because they are not interested. They are not seeing tourism as a tool to take us out of this tourism situation. Tourism can give back to us but unfortunately the people that are heading the tourism department do not know the power of tourism and if at all they know they are not interested in pursuing it.
“And I think they know what tourism can bring but the question is why are they not pursuing it? Tourism is one industry that doesn’t put money in one man’s pocket alone. The money and resources in tourism is shared. Government will make theirs, travel agents will make theirs, people will make theirs including traders, farmers and everyone. It is not what one person can claim its profits.’’
Besides, the spokesperson for the Taraba police command, SP Usman Jada, said that the command had taken serious mapping of areas under threat and applied strategies to make sure that there was no threat to tourists coming into the state.
According to him, the Commissioner of Police in the state has directed security beef up at all major areas in the state to ensure adequate security of lives and property through proactive policing.
Also, the Zamfara State Police spokesperson, SP Mohammed Shehu said, “The command under the leadership of Commissioner of Police, Kolo Yusuf, is fortifying security as well as improving visibility patrols in all the tourist, recreational and other vulnerable areas. Similarly, raiding of criminal hideouts through intelligence-led policing is being improved and sustained with collaboration from the stakeholders.’’
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