Travel and tourism writers in the country have described the proposed Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Act Cap N137 LFN, 2004 (Repeal Re-enactment) Bill, 2017 (SB.429),which came up for public hearing on the floor of the senate, last week, as ‘confusing, vexatious and lacks the capacity and sincerity of purpose.’
In a statement, released Monday, the group under the auspices of the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Editors of Tourism (ANJET) cited contentious provisions concerning the Tourism Development Fund (TDF) and Tourism Development Levy (TDL) in the proposed bill as an indication of the fact that ‘NTDC wants to muzzle everyone in the country, including corporate businesses and tourists, which among others it is proposing to pull money from.’
It would be recalled that the NTDC had proposed a bill before the National Assembly in which it sought to repeal the original but controversial act which established it in 1992 as well as insert new provisions into a new law that empowers it to, among others control and expand funding sources for the corporation.
However, stakeholders in the industry have picked holes in the proposed bill even as they have also mounted criticisms against the document with the umbrella body of travel and tourism operators, the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) presenting its own dissenting position paper at the August 9 hearing.
“Other critical and vexatious provisions in the bill include the sections on Tourism Development Fund (TDF) and Tourism Development Levy (TDL). These two put together, clearly shows that NTDC wants to muzzle everyone in the country, including corporate businesses and tourists, which among others it is proposing to pull money from.
|Chairman Senate Committee on Tourism, Mathew Uhrohide, with Tourism Minister, Lai Muhammed|
“Other than the fact that NTDC don’t have such powers, it also lacks the capacity and sincerity of purpose to do so and administer these funds in a transparent manner and more importantly, it is way of denying the private sector the opportunity to muster funds on their own for their businesses.
“The two provisions are confusing and go against the grains of the TDF and TDL provisions and recently the Tourism Development Bank (TDB), which the private sector operators have been clamouring for and which was later approved by the Federal Government and even contained in the National Tourism Master plan provisions, which was recently reviewed by the Ministry of Information and Culture.
“Beside these, there are other areas of ambiguities, which make NTDC a busybody in other areas and tend to confer on it powers and functions outside it and for which it lacks the structure and capacities to carry out. For instance, the provision for the establishment for a tour company, which though is not new but for the addition of ‘to operate tour services within and outside Nigeria,’ is in total negation of its primary duties, which is to promote domestic tourism and inbound and not outbound tours,” ANJET said in the statement.
Continuing, ANJET said: “No country national tourism agency seeks to promote outbound tours as being proposed by NTDC bill but inbound. By this provision, which FTAN and its member association, Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), have opposed because it tends to take away their businesses by the corporation setting itself in direct competition with the people which the corporation had pledged to protect, promote and boost their operations, but clearly shows that those currently at the helm of affairs at NTDC, lack total understanding of what their role should be and therefore, should be flushed out of the place before they set the gear of tourism in reverse mode.”
ANJET, while flaying the proposed bill as defective, as it alienates the NTDC from the body of travel and tourism operators in the country, said the bill made no attempt to locate NTDC under any ministry as it is the case with other ministries, agencies and agencies of government (MDAs).
“Another issue that totally shows how defective the bill is, is the fact that NTDC is seeking to make itself an orphan in the Nigerian environment, because the bill does not locate NTDC under any ministry as it is the case with government parastatals. At present, the corporation is under the Ministry of Information and Culture but nowhere under this new bill was the ministry mentioned or even Ministry of Tourism which is being clamoured for by the Senate itself, except the bland reference to a ‘minister.’”
The travel and tourism writers, therefore, advised the senate to avoid passing the proposed bill in its original form ‘to avoid the imminent doom and implosion in tourism.’
“The Senate committee should rise to the occasion by doing the needful. That means, it needs to properly scruntise the document, the various summations during the public hearing, the provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended, the ruling of the Supreme Court of 2013 on the matter of tourism and the extant laws of NTDC 1992,” it said.
Also remarking, immediate past president of FTAN and chairman of its Board of Trustees, Samuel Alabi, who is also a legal practitioner, described the proposed NTDC bill said as an ‘illegality.’
‘‘It appears the drafters of the bill are not aware of the import of the Supreme Court judicial pronouncement on the status of tourism in the 1999 constitution as amended. By the Supreme Court decision, tourism has been held to be a residual matter, and therefore, only state Houses of Assembly could validly legislate on it.
‘‘It is laughable that what the Supreme Court had dismantled in 2013 on the basis of the 1999 constitution is now been reassembled by the Senate without first amending the relevant 1999 constitution. It is like reinventing the will, pure and simple,’’ said the Legal Adviser of the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos.
Similarly, in its rejoinder to the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Act Cap N137 LFN, 2004 (Repeal Re-enactment) Bill, 2017 (SB.429), the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), also contested amendments sought by the corporation.
The FTAN in its own position paper presented on the floor of the Senate by its President, Alhaji Rabo Saleh Kareem, faulted Section 4 (c) Membership of the Governing Board; Section 15 (c) Functions of the Corporation; Section 15 (d) Functions of the Corporation; Section 16 (f) – Functions of the Corporation (continued);
Other contentious portions of the proposed bill, according to FTAN, include: Section 18 – Establishment of a Tour Operating Company; Section 22 (f) and (g) Funds of the Corporation; Section 26 & 28 – Establishment and object of Tourism Development Fund; Section 29 – Tourism Development levy, which the association must be expunged from the proposed bill.
Particularly for Section 29, titled; ‘Tourism Development levy’, FTAN said the ‘entire prayers sought for inserting this section and clauses into the amendment are ill conceived and would make the Levy inoperable on ground, more so there would be no transparency in the processes.’
According to FTAN, “Tourism Development levy should be collected on the site where it is applicable by the operators and immediately paid into the bank accounts of Tourism Development Fund. Tourism Development levy should be the primary source of funding for the Tourism Development Fund.”
Also, commenting on the document, a tourism expert, Dr. Franklin. J. Adejuwon, advised that the bill should treat the NTDC as a regulatory and supervisory agency of government and ‘not an autocratic organization that would begin conflicting with Minister’s powers or encroaching on the rights of the people,’ adding further that ‘tourism is entirely based on human relations and influence. The bill must therefore attend to these tendencies in its contents.’
Adejuwon chaired the Presidential Committee which drafted the original National Tourism Masterplan that was adopted by the former President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s administration and launched by Chief Adetokunbo Kayode as then Minister of Tourism and National Orientation.
Continuing, Adejuwon said: “The proposed bill should limit the cooperation to giving guidelines only and follow up with state governments to operate within the guidelines. We should remember when a situation is within the concurrent list, state governments have direct powers to do and undo. There cannot be any imposition of powers by federal government in this aspect. Inspectors can only operate through state organisations responsible for tourism. Let us avoid building an empire for NTDC at the expense of poor people who wish to earn a living and provide jobs for other people by investing in the industry.”