By Nuel Suji – The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has urged Nigerian media to take a cue from the Western media by projecting the country in positive light instead of reporting to reinforce negative perception, just as he insisted that all the States in Nigeria are safe and secured.
Mr. Mohammed was reacting to recent travel advice by the U.S. to its citizens which classified 20 0f the Nigeria’s 36 States as unsafe.
The U.S. had listed the Nigerian states to be avoided as Bauchi, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Zamfara, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
“The ability of the Mission to provide assistance to U.S. citizens in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states remains severely limited. The Department recommends against all but essential travel to the following states due to the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks,” a part of the warning read.
“The U.S. Mission advises all U.S. citizens to be particularly vigilant around government security facilities; churches, mosques, and other places of worship; locations where large crowds may gather, such as hotels, clubs, bars, restaurants, markets, shopping malls; and other areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers.
“Security measures in Nigeria remain heightened due to threats posed by extremist groups, and U.S. citizens may encounter police and military checkpoints, additional security, and possible road blocks throughout the country.”
But reacting on Thursday during a courtesy call by the Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN), Mr. Mohammed urged Nigerian media not to join in re-echoing such negative reports.
According to him, “Recently, all the newspapers carried the negative story that 20 states in Nigeria are not safe, according to a US report.
“We are in Nigeria, how can we believe the claim that 20 states in Nigeria are not safe? That is not correct. There is no state in Nigeria that is not safe today,” he said.
Adding, “Is there any week they are not killing people in the US by either shooting in schools or driveways, or people committing suicide or mass bombing?
“How many of these stories do their media celebrate? If they want to tell their people not to come to Nigeria, it is not for us to help them propagate it.”
He stressed the need for strategic perception management plan in order to re-position the tourism sector, saying the sector is driven by perception rather than reality.
“I will mention an area which is dire to tourism and development. That is the area of marketing tourism. We do not market tourism enough in this country. Tourism is driven by perception more than by reality.
“What do I mean? Today, countries that are less endowed and peaceful than Nigeria…go on CNN and Aljazeera to advertise their countries as the countries of peace and stability. We must change the perception and invest in perception management,” Mohammed said..
He also urged the media and members of the tourism body to join hand with the government to help promote local tourism by spending their vacations and holidays at tourist sites within the country.
Mohammed said that his ministry would soon embark on visitation of major tourist sites in the country to assess their potential for development.
Earlier in his address, the National President of the Association, Kabir Mallam, hailed the Minister for his commitment to re-positioning tourism in Nigeria.
“Permit me sir to appreciate you for the three significant outings since assumption of office: Tourism and Culture Summit held at Transcorp Hilton Hotel on the 28th and 29th April, 2016; Your appearance before the House of Representatives on May 3rd 2016 and most recent visit to the UNWTO this month,” he noted.
He called for a review of the Tourism Master plan to align with the current realities, informing that the Association has set up a committee to complement government in that regard.
Mallam also urged the government to encourage investors to set up tourist camps across the country, and make loans accessible to them.