The Chairman of the Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), has given assurances that the Commission will collaborate with the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, NANTA, to create a tourism-based economy in the Niger Delta region.
Senator Ndoma-Egba made the commitment when members of the travel and tourism private sector body paid him a courtesy visit at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt.
The NDDC Chairman affirmed that tourism was a huge industry which had sustained the economies of many countries. He declared: “Nigeria is blessed with several tourism assets. I think we can begin to develop a programme with NANTA to showcase the Niger Delta region for the purposes of creating a thriving tourism industry.”
Senator Ndoma-Egba assured that the current NDDC board was desirous of encouraging partnerships, adding that NANTA was well placed to offer the desired partnership with NDDC because part of the mandate of the Commission was to showcase the Niger Delta region to the rest of the world.
He regretted that the Niger Delta narrative had been dominated by sad stories of environmental degradation, militancy and other negative attributes. He said, however, that the NDDC had through the efforts of the Federal Government secured an enduring peace and security in the Niger Delta.
According to him, “militancy is no longer as active as it was in the past. What we have now is a new kind of militancy for development because the region needs development very badly. We believe that development will pave way for tourism to flourish by creating the right environment for visitors to come to the region.”
Senator Ndoma-Egba said that Nigeria must begin to engage the world on a different level, stressing: “We must begin to sell ourselves to the rest of the world. Nigeria is not about Boko Haram and robbery. There is a creative side of Nigeria that we must begin to emphasise.
“We owe ourselves the responsibility to market the lofty sides of our country. These days, it is very common to see Nigerian restaurants in other countries and the world is beginning to know the Nigerian cuisine. So, marketing our cuisine should be a deliberate policy.”
The chairman said that a similar impact was being made in the area of dress-making, which he noted, was also getting the attention of the entire world. “We can conquer the world through our cuisine and fashion,” he said.
Earlier in his address, the President of NANTA, Mr Bernard Bankole, said the association was eager to partner with the NDDC to create a sustainable rural-based tourism economy in which the Commission’s rural development interventions would be on display.
He said: “There is no denying the fact that rural roads, markets, schools and health facilities among others are key drivers of domestic tourism.”
Mr Bankole observed that there was the absence of a facilitator to connect the gains of development powered by NDDC to benefit those who dwell in the rural areas beyond the physical presence of noticeable structures that need interpretation to add more value to the rural areas.
The NANTA President submitted that partnering with NDDC would further give the rural population in the Niger Delta areas the needed opportunity to showcase their arts and crafts, history, agriculture and ecological tourism endowments.