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Nigerian Gold mine waiting to be tapped

Compared with her neighbors, Nigeria has made very little strides in the area of tourism, even though the federal government as far back as 1976, promulgated decree 54, which established the Nigerian tourist association. Such has been the weak pace of growth of the local tourism industry that a former minister of trade and tourism, real admiral jubril ayinla, once directed all states of the federation and abuja to submit to his ministry their blueprints for the development of tourism.

Despite this request, which was to enable the government to evolve a concrete policy for the development of the tourism industry in the country, not much has been recorded, to date. This is not to say that one has not noticed greater efforts on the part of statutory bodies and private enterprises over the last six years, or so. But a lot remains to be done. For example, in many parts of the world, tourist guides and road maps are taken for granted. But the situation is very different here. Furthermore, the local transportation system leaves a lot to be desired. In many parts of this globe, rail services are taken for granted but in Nigeria, the traveler that wishes to exploit rail services for his trips would find out that he or she can see very little of this country. Even those places covered by the limited rail network see trains once in a long while.

Another reason for the neglect suffered by Nigeria’s tourism industry had been traced to want of foresight on the part of the elite, who control virtually every sector of the economy and prefer to waste money on foreign travel at the expense of internal tourism. In 1993, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released about 7 million dollars out of the 40 million dollars it approved to promote external trade and tourism in Nigeria. Furthermore, the International Finance Corporation signed a 17.5 million dollar loan agreement with the Tourist Company of Nigeria (TCN) to boost tourism in the country. But what have been the impacts of such support as these? The truth of the matter is that very little can be achieved by industry regulators and operators until public amenities are put on a sound footing.

Although tourism accounts for a rising percentage of the foreign exchange earnings of the nearby Benin Republic, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and so on, in Nigeria, the obverse seems to be the case. For example, a former Bauchi State Administrator, Wing Commander James Kanu, once said, "the country loses more than N10 billion annually".

According to Mr. Andreas Kruger, Managing Director of APK worldwide courier, "Nigeria’s inability to put in place the necessary infrastructure for tourism growth and the lack of promotions abroad hamper mass tourism in the country". High hotel bills discourage mass tourism in the country despite her very rich in tourism attractions, Kruger observed. Furthermore, Kruger also remarked that "the negative publicity launched by the international media against Nigeria also affects the number of tourists’ traffic in the country.

Writing in one issue of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) journal, Maureen Chigbo reveals that "There has been a noticeable decline in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Sub-sahara Africa, particularly Nigeria". In her article, titled Tourism in Nigeria: a neglected goldmine, the author quotes the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Annual report 1996, which states "FDI fell to 2.2 billion dollars in 1995 from 3 billion dollars in 1994, largely due to declining investment in Nigeria". Aside from negative publicity and high hotel bills, other factors that militate against Nigeria’s tourism industry, include frequent power outages, irregular supply of water, religious riots, and inadequate marketing of Nigeria as a worthwhile relaxation spot. A visit to one of the nearby countries would reveal that invaluable sums of money are weekly lost to Nigerians’ migration abroad in search of fun. These tourists could jolly well have spent their money internally but for fear of stress, and unfortunately, security complications.

A trip to the Jonquet part of nearby Cotonou, the Beninese capital, would reveal an unusually large number of Nigerians, who most weekends flee their country for want of regular power supply and flow of water! Most hotel owners in Nigeria are forced to waste much-needed resources on drilling of a borehole for water, and procurement of electricity generators for power. Sadly, very few of these hotels’ proprietors can afford the exorbitant costs of a generator powerful enough to run all necessary appliances. To worsen matters, some of the few lodges that own these mighty generators cannot maintain them. Thus, many hotels’ surroundings are debeautified by cacophonous drones and sooty smoke emanating from some overtaxed and ill-maintained equipment. Moreover, you don’t need to be a microbiologist to know that the water flowing from bore holes drilled by many hotel owners is infected. Guests of numerous small hotels are known to have complained of itches after a bath. Sometimes, green, slimy substances have been seen flowing out of the taps of some of our moderate inns. And as if to rub salt in an injury, these hotels, if they qualify to be so-called, charge at least double the equivalent of what is required to stay in a better spot abroad.

Apart from adulterated water, blackouts, and high tariffs, poor sanitation also conspires against the local hospitality industry. In spite of these shortcomings, Nigeria remains a gold mine as far as the tourism potentials are concerned. One of Nigeria’s greatest blessings in this regard is her ethnic multiplicity, which translates to uncommon diversity as regards cultural festivals and calendars. Outside the traditional sphere, Nigeria also gains a great deal from her geography, especially with regard to vegetation and latitude or topography, which offers both tropical and near temperate climes within the country. Covering an area of over 923,700 square km and a population in excess of 100 million, with the proper harnessing of her tourism potentials, Nigeria could easily exceed the nation’s foreign exchange expectations, after all, the country boasts at least 110 tourist sites. Between the 36 states of the federation and Abuja, the Federal Capital, Nigeria holds more than 250 hotels. Over 100 of these hotels qualify as good. And about 30 registered tour operators could be found around Lagos, the country’s commercial hub.

There are some policy frameworks for the development of tourism in Nigeria. The policy objectives include strategies "to increase the inflow of foreign exchange through the promotion of international tourism, encourage even development of tourism-based enterprises and accelerate rural/urban integration".

The policy also seeks to foster social and cultural unity among the nation’s diverse groups through the promotion of domestic tourism, encouragement of active private sector participation as well as the preservation of our cultural heritage and historical monuments. The policy stresses the need for an aggressive publicity campaign to facilitate the growth and development of tourism. Moreover, the plan seeks to simplify the issuance of visas to intending visitors, and re-orientation for all security agencies including customs and immigration. Apart from the designated tour sites, Nigeria boasts many towns and settlements with a very rich history. These towns include Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Calabar, Ikot Abasi, Onitsha, Kaduna, Lokoja, Kano, in fact, one could go on endlessly.

Calabar: City of brotherly love and sisterly affection Few towns in Nigeria, and elsewhere, can boast Calabar´s credentials when it comes to certain historical and political throw-ups. It was to Calabar that the British colonial authorities sent dethroned Benin Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi. And just when the Efik-Ibibio peoples were beginning to warm up to the opposition Action Group, during those turbulent days of the First Republic, the AG leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, would be sent to prison in Calabar, after trial for a felony. So, Calabar is not new to harboring legendary figures! But Calabar hasn´t always provided asylum for legendary individuals only.

Welcome To Calabar

Whatever her warts, you’re not likely to encounter any honest person, who will not celebrate Calabar as the most important Nigerian city. Calabar is almost crime-free: Talking about violent crimes such as armed robberies, murder, and so on, that is. Aside from her enviable security situation, Calabar has other major pluses.

Writing in one UNESCO publication many years ago, Chief Olusegun Olusola, a former Ambassador of Nigeria to Ethiopia and President of the African Refugees Foundation (AREF) observed among the Efiks a high sense of public hygiene, an innate penchant for aesthetics, and very rich culture. The snigger of some cynics, as regards Chief Olusola’s love of Calabar, might be: ´´What did you expect from an in-law? It is true that the chief is a widower of a late indigene of Creek Town, Calabar, Mrs. Elsie Olusola. Nonetheless, Chief Olusola wasn’t being merely patronizing because of his matrimonial ties to Calabar.

Calabar is also known as ´´the city of brotherly affection and sisterly love.´´ Those who should know, say the Efik woman can pamper a man silly. If there´s any charm involved, the romantic bent of the average Efik lady must be the talisman. For example, in ancient Efik society, a man didn´t have to wash his hands himself after a meal, as ´´Mma,´´ ever so caring, was there to wash her man´s hands and dab them dry.

Possibly leading these virtues, apart from the Efik penchant for cleanliness, is their gastronomy. Across the world, in Lagos, London, the Americas, and elsewhere, restaurants abound dishing out Efik delicacies such as Edikang-Ikong, Ukwoho, Ekpang-Nkukwo, and so on. A lot more goes into these servings than appears on the recipe! Not that there´s any iota of truth to the glib tales of love portion. The magic, in this case, is Efik´s culinary talents.

Efik cuisine is very diverse and tempting. In the course of exploring these tongue-tingling delights, many a man got hooked! This is confirmed by West Africa: The Rough Guide, co-written by Jim Hudgens and Richard Trillo: ´´Calabar soup with periwinkles is famous in Nigeria. Nigerians say if a Calabar woman cooks for you, you´ll never leave town.´´ You bet!

Hope Waddell

Although the first primary school in eastern Nigeria, Duke Town Primary School, was established in Calabar; it is the latter-day Hope Waddell Training Institution (HWTI), that would come to serve as Calabar´s claim to fame in Nigeria´s academic sphere. Though the third-oldest secondary school in Nigeria, after CMS Grammar School, Bariga (founded in Badagry in 1842) and Methodist Boy’s High School, Lagos, established around 1844; HWTI, Calabar was the first secondary school east of River Niger. Founded in 1895, the school is named after the Reverend Hope Masterton Waddell, a pioneer educationist and missionary of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) Mission in Nigeria.

Rev Waddell had actually arrived in Calabar on April 10, 1846, three months after sailing out of Liverpool on January 8. Aboard the ship, ´´Warren,´´ with Reverend Waddell were: Mr. Edgerley (catechist and printer) of the Jamaican Mission; Mr. Andrew Chisolm (carpenter), a West Indian; Mr. Edward Miller (a teacher) and Mr. Waddell´s aide, a black called George. The missionaries arrived four years after various Efik kings had sent requests for evangelists and teachers to be posted to their land. Moreover, the secondary school would only come in 1895, almost five decades after the team arrived. Sadly, Mr Waddell never heard about the dedication of that monument to his name, having died on April 18, 1895, two days after the decision to thus honour him was taken, according to that school’s records.

Other Missions

From the arrival of the Presbyterian Missionaries, in 1846, through the next 50 years, no other Christian denomination operated in Efik land, until 1903, when the Catholic Mission redeployed a Priest, Reverend Father Lejuene from Onitsha to Calabar. The transfer of that French priest was sequel to an invitation to the Catholic Mission, from an Efik Chief Essien Etim Offiong.

In the course of his trips, Chief Offiong, a widely traveled and educated man, had witnessed the contribution of the Catholic Mission to the development of Sierra Leone and other countries. On his return to Calabar, the chief sent an invitation to the Catholic Mission in Fernando Po, to come and establish in Calabar. About 33 years after the Catholic evangelists arrived, that Church set up a now very famous secondary school, Saint Patrick’s College (aka Spaco) and later its sister school, Holy Child College, in Calabar. Numerous other Christian denominations would later follow. Many also opened training institutions, as did a number of individuals and private organizations. Calabar’s educational life has continued to flourish ever since. And a number of tertiary institutions had since taken root here. Towering over most in the arena of Calabar academia are the University of Calabar, the Cross River State University, Calabar University Teaching Hospital, School of Nursing, and so on.

Getting There

One hour after take-off from Lagos, the plane lands at Calabar. From the arrival hall through the parking lot to the streets beyond, there’s no sign of where you are. Neither designation of the airport’s status nor her name, least of all, is inscribed on the complex. The cab driver informs that a few years back it used to be addressed as Calabar International Airport, where planes bound for East African destinations took off or made transit stops. Kaduna´s beauty and the beast

When the British Government took over the Royal Niger Company in 1899 and, consequently, the administration of Northern Nigeria, the regional seat of government was at Lokoja. Shortly afterward, the head of the regional government Lord Lugard began to plan a relocation of the local capital. After a brief station at Zungeru (150 km southwest of Kaduna), Lugard recorded that he found that town in present-day Niger State ´´excessively hot, with much surface rock and mosquitoes.´´ Lugard´s search for a new capital came to an end when Kaduna came up for consideration. The colonial chief was favorably swayed by Kaduna´s cool ambient temperature, which owes to her altitude: 2,000 feet above sea level. Kaduna also offered abundant water supply, and standing along the Lagos-Kano railroad must have proved another plus for Kaduna in Lugard´s view. Then the plans to transfer the seat of government from Zungeru began.

Though that relocation was officially sealed in 1917, Kaduna´s establishment actually began four years earlier, when on February 21, 1913, Lugard redeployed 366 British officers and other ranks as well as over 5,000 African combatants and paramilitary workers (presumably, all of the West African Frontier Force personnel) to Kaduna. Thus, it won´t be wrong to state that Kaduna started as a military camp. To date, the town place as a strategic military post is reflected by the presence of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Command and Staff College, and other security outfits here.

Back to Lugard: After the colonial government moved to Kaduna, he recalled forgetting his favorite walkway in Zungeru. This was a footbridge along which the administrator strolled many evenings with his wife, and using executive fiat the gentleman ordered the bridge, installed in Zungeru in 1880, to be dismantled and brought to Kaduna, where it was reinstalled in 1920. To date, that avenue of love stands. Located on Swimming Pool Road, Lugard Footbridge is one of Kaduna´s more popular tourist attractions.

Lodges And Eateries

A typical city, Kaduna has a surfeit of hotels and restaurants. Near the Central Market or Gari Kasuwa, the tourist would find several eateries, including Nanet, one of Kaduna´s most popular restaurants. Looking for bukas? Turn to Abeokuta or Ogbomoso Street, among many others, for ample doses of amala, ewedu and gbegiri (abula, if you like). In fact, the name of one buka, Amala Dede in the Magajin Gari part of town is self-explanatory. And if you’re curious about the seedy aspect of this town’s nightlife, countless spots in Kabala (both East and West), Rigasa, Kawo, Mando, Magajin Gari, et cetera should clue you in. But if it’s just cold drinks and "small chops" you want, outside of the big hotels, look around the neighborhood of New Nigeria Hotel. Founded more than 30 years, ago, New Nigeria Hotel, stands a few dozen meters from Amala Dede and Ithaka, a particularly popular evening relaxation spot.

For accommodation, find out about Hamdala, Durbar, ECWA Guest House, Gloria Moria, Fina White House, and so on.

Unlike most settlements in Northern Nigeria, Kaduna has no ancient city wall, no emir, and no old mosque. These are indices of the town’s history, and in many ways, Kaduna could well have been a perfect tourist haven but for the occasional morbid upheavals. These, notwithstanding, the aborigines of Kaduna are very hospitable and courteous: and you can’t help but wonder if it is not true, as analysts say, that most of the town’s woes are created by non-indigenes.

About The Authors

Jaya Mckeown

Jaya Mckeown - Jaya moved to Boston from New York to pursue a master's degree in corporate communications at Emerson College. This experience, combined with her undergraduate degree in psychology and teaching, has equipped her with valuable skills that she employs on a daily basis in real estate negotiations, homebuyer and seller education, and successful promotion of the team's listings. Jaya's clients often characterize her as meticulous, proactive, and enjoyable to be around.

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