Malfeasance in Nigeria’s apex tourism authority.

The Nigerian Tourism Development Authority, formerly Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) has been underwhelming in the development and promotion of Nigeria’s attractions and destinations while been yanked off the radar of public scrutiny in recent years and for good measure.

The apex tourism authority has however lived up to expectations in promoting malfeasance, job racketeering just as it has found ways to short-circuit due process within its internal administration.

The government of former president Muhammadu Buhari clearly did not prioritise tourism as a major contributor to Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy hence not even a mention of the word, “tourism” which was duly consigned to the obscurity of an opaque ministry called, information and culture superintended by a certain Lai Mohammed with the latter supervising at least 9 parastatals under the ministry including NTDA, National Orientation Agency, Centre for Black African Arts and Civilisation, Museum and Monuments, National Institute for Cultural Orientation, NIHOTOUR, National Council for Arts and Culture, Gallery of Arts and National Troupe.

Taking full advantage of its seeming nonexistence amongst an avalanche of duplicates in the scheme of things, the NTDA supervised by one Mr. Folorunsho Coker, former deputy chief of staff to current President Bola Tinubu during his spell as governor of Lagos state, has severed all ties with tourism stakeholders, the media, relevant interests and everyone that matters as far as tourism promotion is concerned.

Strangely so, NTDA has not only seen it’s capital and recurrent budget shrink in the last 7 years for a chronic lack of activity, it’s key performance index (kPI) has remained nebulous with major players distancing themselves from the agency that has suffered from a dearth of ideas and initiatives.

The Director-General, Mr. Coker has however been busy engaging with little traction on social media especially Instagram and the analytics remain unimpressive. He opines that as a tech savvy DG, tourism can be sold on new media with nothing to show on ground. This lack of rigorous thinking and lazy approach has obviously not paid off. Nigeria still lacks viable tourism content despite the sector being the world’s largest income earner.

For an Agency on its kneels, it is intriguing to note that the management of NTDA recently somehow employed over 40 staff without adhering to due process which according to extant rules must involve advertising vacancies on National dailies and conducting transparent exams/interviews for eligible Nigerians to benefit.

Interestingly, this reporter did a basic investigative background check and can authoritatively confirm that most of the employees are either children of management staff or friends and cronies of the DG who has remained consistent in flouting due process.

Thankfully, the House of Representatives has vowed to abolish waivers in recruitment exercises in Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, of the Federal Government noting that this has led to job racketeering just like has been going on in NTDA.

The House called on MDAs to respect federal character in carrying out recruitment exercises to enable participation across board and to encourage fairness, justice and equity.

Taking maximum advantage of its lack of public scrutiny, the NTDA recently concluded its annual promotion exercise and again, we can confirm that without deference to the supervising ministry, the Director, Human Resource Management of NTDA, Mr. Adekunle Oladipo, unilaterally used the process as a hounding exercise while again promoting only friends, close associates and those with some financial muscle to procure promotion thereby recording an unprecedented failure rate set at 90%. Just above 20 staff were dubiously handed promotion letters.

Due process in the conduct of promotion exercises requires the Head of Department in the Tourism ministry to be part of the supervision and marking along with the senior staff committee who are supposed to work in unison. It was revealed however that there was a total lack of transparency in the process and this lack of harmonisation calls for questioning as many staff have lost fate in the leadership of the NTDA.

In a recent visit to the apex tourism body in Abuja, the new minister of Tourism, Mrs. Lola Ade John expressed shock at the inertia and dysfunction of the tourism Authority which has operated like a rudderless ship in the last 7 years. The closed door meeting with the DG and members of management staff, according to inside sources showed a minister disappointed at the clear lack of vision displayed by Mr. Coker who seemed to have lost interest in his job and has consequently allowed the apex tourism outfit to drift unabated, devoid of any iota of verve, vibrancy and robustness.

Beyond unproductive lamentations, Mrs. Ade John has her work cut out if she must reposition NTDA with the Authority having recently secured an act of parliament which seeks to expand its operational scope at least a little. She must now bring in every stake holder both public, private, local and international in the industry who hitherto, were excluded for reasons best known to the DG. They should collectively take a look at the tourism master plan with an effort to rejig and make it a working document going forward.

Thankfully, Mr. Coker has under 2 years to complete his tenure and even though that’s a long time, it behoves on president Tinubu to immediately appoint professionals with passion and in-depth understanding of the tourism and hospitality industry, not compensate political jobbers, allies and hangers-on who know little or nothing about the sector. Many eminent Nigerians fit this bill and we shall chronicle their profile and antecedents in subsequent expose in a bid to help the new administration make informed decision on who should pilot this critical sector to ensure the much required FDI contribution to the national economy as is the case in other climes; for example, Dubia in the United Arab Emirates amongst many others.

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