- The Nigerian government has decided "to test-run cultural tourism" through the organisation of a new masquerade carnival in the capital, Abuja. Authorities are looking into other periodic festivals that already exist or could be established to develop an annual tourism calendar.
In an effort to give a practical boost to tourism in Nigeria, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has put into motion "a special package that will use culture to promote tourism strategy," the Ministry said in a press release issued yesterday.
Among other things, the Ministry is working towards organising a national carnival, to be known as Abuja Carnival 2004, later in the year. This was contained in a speech by Nigeria's Minister of Culture and Tourism, Frank Nchita Ogbuewu, while declaring open a one-day National Council on Culture and Tourism, in Abuja.
Minister Ogbuewu said that the Abuja Carnival would "enable Nigeria to showcase its unique brand of cultural tourism, which will be explicitly Nigerian." The event, which obviously will be disconnected from the world's "official carnival month," February, was to be based on the classical concept of a masquerade.
The proposed annual carnival will contribute giving a new image to the capital city of Nigeria, Abuja, an administrative town located in the central highlands of Nigeria. Abuja was only constructed in the 1980s after it was decided to move the capital from overfilled Lagos to a new, central location. It became Nigeria's capital in 1991.
The government's efforts to organise an Abuja Carnival aim at creating a positive cultural event attractive to tourists and reflecting a new, all-Nigerian culture. "In addition, the carnival will sensitise our communities to begin to look inwards with a view to identifying what they have in the area of cultural resources and using it to promote culture and tourism in their communities," said Minister Ogbuewu.
The Minister in his speech further noted that the high point in the Ministry's agenda for the year 2004 is to "work assiduously in ensuring that the three cardinal projects confronting the Ministry are completed."
Ambassador Ogbuewu pointed out that in keeping with the outcome of the inaugural meeting of the Presidential Committee on Tourism held in Jos, Plateau State, in December 2003, on the need for a comprehensive Cultural Festival Directory, the Ministry is already compiling a comprehensive Cultural Festivals Directory and Tourism Sites in Nigeria.
This, according to the Nigerian government, "is with a view to developing an annual tourism calendar based on integrated circuit of at least six Nigerian festivals" in the country's six geopolitical zones.
The federal government of Nigeria last year announced that the nation's tourism sector was to receive a major economic boost. Oil-rich Nigeria for decades has neglected the tourism industry, suffering from poor levels of organisation, infrastructure and safety.
In particular the "issues of stability of electricity, security of lives and property and bad roads" were to be addressed in 2004, the government promised last year. These issues were observed to be the most urgent negative impacts on Nigeria's tourism potential.
This year, state authorities and the federal government also have embarked on positive impact, which includes securing the country's many potential attractions by launching cultural and environmental restoration projects. Now, also an annual tourism calendar containing major cultural events is to be established.
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