The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, on Friday, reiterated the need for Nigeria to diversify its economy from crude oil, urging government at all levels to pay critical attention to the tourism sector as it has the potential to improve revenue and facilitate economic development.
Obaseki gave the charge when he declared open the Edo State Tourism Key Stakeholders Workshop, at the John Odigie-Oyegun Staff Training Centre, in Benin City.
Stakeholders at the workshop include the Benin Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (BENCCIMA); Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria; National Council of Arts; Edo Global Arts Foundation; Cultural Troupes; Directors from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs); Commissioners, and Permanent Secretaries, among others.
The governor said that the country has depended on crude oil for the past 40 years of its existence, noting that there was a need to expedite actions to facilitate diversification of the nation’s revenue base to grow the economy.
He said, “COVID-19 has changed our whole economic structure in the country. We have had to depend on hydro-carbon assets, oil and gas for the last 40 years to drive our economy. This is a mono-economy and we have built our entire system of life and governance around it. Our governance structure in Nigeria relies on crude oil.”
He noted that what Nigeria gets from its oil assets is not enough to sustain the country as the federal government has, in recent times, struggled to get allocation to share amongst states.
Obaseki added, “For us in Edo, we have come to the end of the road as we are deliberating on developing other sources to help raise revenue to develop the economy of the state.
“As a state, we need to diversify our economy to a broad base. And one unique asset that we have as a state is tourism. Edo is strategically located and traffic must flow through the state and we must utilize it effectively to generate revenue for the state. Our focus is for the traffic to stop and the travelers to spend their money here in Edo to boost our revenue. We are looking for things to do to attract tourists to spend their money here.”
He continued: “We have a huge ecosystem to support the tourism sector in the state. Tourism is not all about culture, monuments, ecotourism and business but entails much; a whole totality, and having an ecosystem that supports it. Tourism must begin at home; it's local, and we must have strong tourism that is locally based to attract international tourists into the state.
“We have so many aspects of tourism in Edo and this workshop should, in my view, enable our stakeholders to think about tourism in a much broader sense and understand the players within that ecosystem.”
Obaseki said to boost ecotourism in the state, his administration is working with the National Park Service as it prepares to co-invest in Okomu National Park, noting that the investment will be extended to develop the state’s park in Gelegele.”
A facilitator at the stakeholders’ workshop, Salewa Akomolafe said the focus of the workshop was to facilitate the development of the tourism sector.