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THE ORONSAYE C'TTEE'S RECOMMENDATION TO MERGE NIHOTOUR AND NTDC

By NBF News
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TOURISM industry stakeholders body, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria [FTAN], has expressed reservation on the recommendation of the Presidential Panel on Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, headed by former head of the Civil Service of the Federation Mr. Steve Oronsaye to scrap or merge the only public training tourism institution in Nigeria with another agency in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation perceived to be barely delivering on its mandate.

The committee, it was gathered, recommended the merger of National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism [NIHOTOUR] with the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC] with the latter elevated to a commission and would be charged of marketing, promoting, regulation as well as training.

The committee noted that it was wasteful to continue to allow NIHOTOUR to operate as a separate parastatal in  its wisdom since 'it has not been able to justify its existence as the capacity building arm of the tourism industry'.

The prescription to effect alludes that NIHOTOUR's existence amounts to sheer waste  and amounts to government funding an institute that claims to provide capacity for hospitality and tourism services when indeed, there exists many private firms providing same services. It reportedly felt that an enlarged tourism commission would be able to handle the functions performed by NIHOTOUR, including regulation.

The committee's recommendation, it was gathered, was reached without due consultation with the private sector who is at the receiving end of the recommendation, if implemented.

Apart from the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism [NIHOTOUR] being the only such institution in Nigeria, its  mandate  has  more urgent attention than that of the NTDC.

Across the country, the so called private institutions are run by people who are not qualified to do so and as a leading travel and tourism journalist in Nigeria, I can confirm that almost all the establishments do not recognise these qualifications.

As aptly put by the President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria [FTAN], Chief Samuel Alabi who also doubles as Hospitality Personnel Services Employees Associations [HOPSEA] president, said government  to reduce cost tmerge some parastatals or agencies but government also has a social responsibility to create jobs and opportunity for its citizenry,

He said would not subscribe to the  merger  because it would not be productive. Again, there is nowhere in the world that a  tourism agency is made a commission, much more a country that has no structure, foundation, lacks human capital among others to run and manage an efficient and effective tourism industry.

Just like most practitioners have noted and advised, a critical review of the sector and the NTDC 1992 Act does not empower it to do training.

According to Alabi, going ahead with the proposal is like the popular Tiv dance of one step forward,two steps backward.

He also noted that the Tourism Master Plan Implementation Committee of which the tourism federation is a member provides for a training college or university and that FTAN's position was, since there is in existence for well over 20 years a training institute, referring to NIHOTOUR, it should be upgraded to that of a college or the university that is to be created. This is also the position of the federation .

Alabi wondered, why a country where over 85 per cent of the travel and tourism workforce are  untrained  to have its only institution merged with another agency.

Also, Mr. Tejan Nyang, Director of Gambian leading travel and tourism training institute noted that, Nigeria needs training schools that their certificates would be accepted across West Africa and beyond and according to him, NIHOTOUR is just that platform.

There is no doubt that the institute has  faced a lot of challenges, but its  management has been able to weather the storm over time.

NIHOTOUR which was established in 1987 through a tripartite agreement between the United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], International Labour Organisation [ILO] and the Federal Government saw the commencement of training activities in 1988. In the beginning though, where there was  critical man-power shortage, the institute was made a department and the training wing of  the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation[NTDC] before it gained autonomy in 1998.

Thereafter, the mandate of the institute has been widened to provide technical skills and vocational manpower need for the hotel, catering and tourism workforce in Nigeria.

The institute has also trained and served as one of few centres for International Air Transport Associations [IATA] examination in Nigeria and has prepared thousands of Nigerians that now work mostly with travel agencies, tour companies and even airlines.

NIHOTOUR since it became a full fledged parastatal has performed fairly well than the NTDC that is to be elevated to a commission .

In Kenya, Utalii College, National Tourism Institute of Tanzania based in Arusha and Rwanda Tourism University College to mention but few are some of such public colleges and institutions across Africa that run side by side with their national tourism board or authority; and one wonders why Nigeria with over 150 million people and 40,000 hotels and hospitality establishments should not have a professional college or university.

In the last 12-years, the NTDC has not added any value to Nigeria's tourism development, marketing and promotion efforts, rather, the leadership has always being a burden on the sector.

Mr. ONORIODE GEORGE, publicity secretary of FTAN, wrote from Lagos.