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18th April, 2016.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed during the media briefing held in Lagos

FG sets to use cultural festivals to drive tourism in Nigeria

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has stressed that Federal Government will use cultural festivals in Nigeria to attract tourists to the country for the re-positioning of the arts and culture for tourism advancement.

The minister disclosed this during a media briefing with the arts, culture and tourism correspondents in Lagos over the weekend.

He reiterated the fact that the administration of President Muhammed Buhari is keen on diversifying the economy away from oil, which for many years has been the mainstay of our economy.

"Among the sectors that have been identified as veritable sources of revenue for the nation are the Arts, Culture and Tourism Sectors.

This is why we in the Ministry of Information and Culture are working hard to move these sectors from the margins to the mainstream, and ensure that the rural poor in particular are factored into the Sector's architecture", Lai Mohammed said.

To achieve this, the minister hinted that the ministry intend to leverage heavily on Nigeria numerous cultural festivals in their efforts to boost tourist arrivals.

The minister disclosed that the ministry is currently compiling a list of the top 10 creative arts and cultural festivals in each state of the federation, with a view to creating a year-round calendar of such events to attract foreigners into the country.

For this to be realised, he said positive action must also be taken to ease the procurement of Nigeria visa for intending tourists as a way to encourage more people to come to Nigeria.

"Many countries has simplified their visa issuance processing as a way to woo tourists to their various countries. Ghana is also set to follow the trend as they will be introducing Visa-on-arrival from July", Mohammed hinted.

To champion the course to revive tourism in Nigeria, the minister in his words said "This is why we have decided to call a National Summit on Culture and Tourism, which is scheduled for April 27th to 29th 2016 in Abuja, with a view to charting the path forward.

We are aware that similar efforts have been made in the past, without an appreciable result. The difference this time is our commitment and the different milieu provided by the national imperative to diversify the economy, amidst the crash in the price of oil".

He stated further that: "The ministry is working with various local and international partners, including the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the British Council. We are mapping our creative arts, by which we mean pottery, weaving, dyeing, sculpturing, among others, with a view to reviving them massively through capacity building for those involved and the provision of loans".

The minister added that this will not only create hundreds of thousands of jobs, thus keeping Nigerian people meaningfully engaged, but will also become money spinners for the economy and stem the rural-urban migration.

We are not re-inventing the wheel, since the creative industry has always been with us. What we are doing is to breathe life into the industry and allow it to become a major player in national development, he concluded.

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