VP’s Remarks At The Commissioning Of Conference Hotels In Abeokuta
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE COMMISSIONING OF CONFERENCE HOTELS IN ABEOKUTA ON 6TH DECEMBER, 2019.
It gives me immense pleasure to be here at the official commissioning of the Conference Hotels – a major boost to Abeokuta’s skyline and a significant offering to our nation’s hospitality industry.
Looking at the sheer magnificence of the edifice that we have commissioned today, I must start by felicitating with the board and management of Conference Hotels for extending the frontiers of their luxury brand to Abeokuta from Ijebu Ode and Sagamu.
It surely takes a bold vision and tenacity to conceive and execute a project of this magnitude. From the tranquil ambience, exquisite decor and top-notch services, the hotel can clearly compare with any, anywhere in the world.
And even more exciting is the fact that the group has provided gainful employment for over 1000 people directly and indirectly. It is a special thing indeed that a former governor of Ogun State and my dear brother, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has thought it fit to bring to Abeokuta this particular edifice.
I think it is the way that it should be, 10 years after leaving office, the fact that he is able to come here and do something of this magnitude shows that his heart remains involved in the progress of Ogun State. My only challenge to him is that he has to do one more now, fairly larger than this in Shagamu. I have not asked him to go and do it in Ikenne, just so that you don’t say am being partial.
While rejoicing with the board and management of Conference Hotels, let me also commend the governor of Ogun State, His Excellency, Prince Dapo Abiodun.
It is gratifying to observe that your administration is pursuing a deliberate policy to attract more investments to Ogun State to create employment for our young people.
Coming barely six months after you assumed office as governor, the unveiling of this hotel is a truly welcome development and a great one for the economy of Ogun State. I have noted all of the efforts that you are making especially in the area of agriculture and improving industry in Ogun State. As they say, the morning shows the day, and I am extremely proud of the work that you are doing here.
In my view, the promoters of Conference Hotels could not have found a better location. As it is well known, organizers of international conferences will not only look out for plush facilities, they are also mindful of tourist attractions all around wherever it is they choose to locate.
Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, is a historical town which is also very rich for tourism. Indeed, many tourist sites are here in Ogun State including the Olumo Rock, all of the places we have around us today, I don’t want to go through the long list, the Presidential Library and Wole Soyinka Foundation Writers Retreat, and so many other tourist attractions.
Also, Ogun is synonymous with the rich Adire fabric culture but also celebrated in so many other ways. As you can see today, his excellency, her excellency, the deputy governor, everyone in Ogun State is wearing Adire today, and I think it is a very important pointer to what we intend to do to focus on the culture of our State and that of our nation and to prefer what is made in Nigeria.
But aside from Ogun State is also popular for the musical giants that we have produced from diverse genres. From the protest music of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, to the philosophical message of Ebenezer Obey, to the pulsating beats of Sir Shina Peters, and of course we now have a new prodigy – the young Mr Olateju who has indicated that he intends to pay his taxes.
But I want to say that Ogun State has truly continued to demonstrate that this is the land where we produce the very best – the best in terms of internet, music and even in industry. And our state is becoming better. And as they say, the household of the proverbial rich man, we have just about everything represented here.
I doubt whether there is any need today to make a business or economic case for tourism. In fact, in the new world order, culture and tourism are not merely economic gold mine, they are often referred to as the soft power.
In the years ahead, there is no doubt that tourism will increasingly become the driver of economic activity and a major job-creator.
According to the World Tourism Organization, tourism and hospitality industry in Africa as a whole has a potential of over $200 billion, out of which only $50 billion is developed due to poor infrastructure.
The World Tourism Organization projects that international tourist arrivals to Africa in 2020 will go up to 77 million people, representing an annual growth rate of 5.5 percent.
It is, therefore, no coincidence that our government is investing massively in critical infrastructure such as railway and road construction in our effort to see that we not only ease human traffic and movement of goods, and also position ourselves as a country for a bigger share of the global tourism market.
Importantly also, we are working with State governments on ease of doing business. And this is also an important part of the economic policy of the Buhari administration. In 2016, the President set up the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, PEBEC, to drive our Ease of Doing Business Reforms.
Our simple mandate is to do everything to make sure that Nigeria becomes an easier place to do business. We are pushing the necessary reforms, cleaning up our airports, and introduced visa on arrival, freeing up licenses and approval processes, among others and focusing on key infrastructural projects.
For instance, earlier this year, I had the pleasure of commissioning the Lagos-Abeokuta railway. In fulfilment of the promise we made then, I am now pleased to announce that we have added the Lagos-Ibadan service, (starting with free rides through the Christmas season) therefore linking Ogun, Lagos and Oyo States by modern railway and we are going all the way to Kano.
Our administration is fully committed to the promotion of culture and tourism. Only last month, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the hosting of the International Arts and Crafts (INAC) Expo in Abuja. This year’s edition recorded higher participation with thirty countries, compared to the twenty-two countries that attended the 2018 edition. Indeed, INAC provides a platform for stakeholders in the Arts and crafts sector from all over the world to meet, network, share ideas and experiences as well as showcase their unique arts and crafts products.
Similarly, last month, I had the pleasure of attending the closing ceremony of the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) held in Benin City, the Edo State capital. NAFEST provides a veritable platform to promote culture and tourism in Nigeria.
We also note with satisfaction increasing participation in the national festival. In the 2017 edition hosted by Kaduna State, over 2 million people participated. In 2018, the number rose to 2.5 million in Port Harcourt, with approximately the same number of participants attending the 2019 edition just concluded in Benin City.
But without a doubt, our music and entertainment industry is our most potent magnet we have for tourism. Christmas and end of year concerts, where the best of Nigerian music and entertainment is on display are already booked solid, there are so many concerts taking place in Lagos and all over the place.
Besides Nigeria and indeed Ogun State is taking top spot for religious tourism. People attending the RCCG Holy Ghost Congress which records over three million attendees a year have already booked their tickets to Nigeria months ahead.
As a government, our business is to invest in the hard infrastructure – the roads and rail. It is the business of the private sector to continue to invest in hotels, guest houses, in event centres, and events planning infrastructure. This is where the smart money will be going in the months and years ahead. It is very clear that we have a burgeoning entertainment industry and it is going to get bigger and better. And I am sure smart businessmen like Otunba Gbenga Daniel have noticed that.
So, again let me congratulate the Conference hotels and my brother Otunba Gbenga Daniel for their foresight in pooling the investment to establish this remarkable facility. I also congratulate our dear governor, Dapo Abiodun and the people of Ogun State on this landmark achievement and to say that the sky is not the limit, it is only the beginning for us and to say that our state is moving forward.
Thanks for listening.