Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to welcome you to this press briefing.
This occasion is particularly special and heartwarming as it gives the Directorate of Culture and Tourism the privilege to once more share its experiences; firstly, with the media who have been very worthy developmental partners, secondly, with all Deltans and thirdly with every stakeholder involved in the “Delta” Project.
As we all know, the Directorate of Culture and Tourism is made up of seven departments and two parastatals. And it has the mandate to formulate and implement policies on the development of the Culture, Tourism and Entertainment sectors of the State with a view to repositioning them for revenue generation in the face of dwindling and very low revenues from oil and other sources.
Over the last few months, our major task has been to position the sector as one of the major economic drivers in the State. This we have done by first, reworking the internal tissues of the Directorate by making the staff to begin to understand that the revenue generation potential of Culture and Tourism, does not lie and should not therefore be limited to events organization alone, which are mostly recurrent in nature. Rather, to they are now enjoined to start seeing and seeking for the limitless opportunities inherent in building capital institutions and infrastructure through collaborative efforts with the private sector in line with the first strand of the S.M.A.R.T agenda of this administration.
Flowing from the above let me say that it took quite a bit of time to re-direct the staff of the Directorate to begin to believe on a new developmental framework for the sector.
On assumption of office as Commissioner at the Directorate, I discovered that everything about the Directorate revolved around requesting for funds from the Government to organize events which in more cases than not, did not yield the desired returns for Government. Therefore, if the Government did not release funds for such events, the Directorate could go through a financial year without an activity. In fact, some of the supervisory role of the Directorate over local festivals had been reduced to just attending the event as passive observers, with no effort at improving the quality of such events. For me, this was unacceptable! Government should be more practically involved by way of joining the individual Communities in planning and showcasing the festivals.
So my first task was to redirect the energies and orientation of my staff to start thinking of the sector in the light of modern economic realities, which demands the building of infrastructures. In respect, I got the support of His Excellency, The Governor, to re-work the Tourism Board law and bring it up to date with internationally acceptable best practices in Hotel and Tourism Enterprises (HTEs). Currently, the said Executive Bill for the amendment of the Tourism Board Law is now at the stage of 3rd reading/passage into law by the Delta State House of Assembly.
Quietly, but surely, in order to begin to give expression to our new vision, we spent a few other months seeking for partnerships that would help build the Culture and Tourism sector of the 21st Century.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy to announce to you all, that we cracked that ceiling, as the State is currently at the closing stage of discussions with local and international partners to commence work on our proposed film village, to be known as Delta Entertainment District. What this means is that, the Tourism sector will on a sure footing of development that does not exclusively rely on Government funding. This is because the Entertainment District will generate revenue for itself and in turn improve the State IGR and create jobs in line with our Excellency’s SMART Agenda.
Let me quickly add here that while we have utilized every opportunity to continuously sensitize and re-direct stakeholders of the need to begin to see our vision of making Delta State a preferred tourist destination beyond events and oil, we have by no means, neglected the events sub sector of our Directorate’s functions.
In fact, no other time would be more auspicious than now, to announce that we have also entered into partnership agreements with signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with some corporate bodies to host Delta branded events like the Delta Heritage Carnival and Delta Music Festival. To this end, there are currently ongoing efforts by our private partners to market these events to major companies while the Directorate is currently mobilizing the twenty five (25) Local Government Areas of the State for participation.
DEVELOPMENTS IN TOURISM;
Apart from the new Tourism Board Law which we believe will greatly enhance our capacity for revenue generation, we have sought for, and obtained the approval of His Excellency, The Governor to revamp some of our existing state owned tourist sites.
To underscore our drive to create a tourism sector that should be earning revenue for the State, we have concluded discussions with a private firm that is desirous of leasing and operating the State Government owned facility at Effurun, known as “Effurun Garden Park” for a fee. Before now, the facility had been commercially run by a firm that did not remit a dime to Government coffers. This is most unfortunate.
I am happy to state here, that for the first time since its creation, Delta State now, has a comprehensive and updated list of all HTEs operating in the State and their different classifications. Therefore, we are waiting, and as soon as the new Tourism Board Law is passed, consulting partners would be engaged in an open competitive bid to commence revenue collection from the HTEs in the three Senatorial zones of the State.
Apart from the above, on the 3rd of November 2016, upon a Memo sent to the State Executive Council by my Directorate, the EXCO approved the inclusion of packaged/guided tours to be an integral part of every MDAs activity as it relates to conferences, retreats, seminars etc. As a follow up to the approval, the Directorate packaged a guided tour for the participants of the just concluded “Network of Justice Sector Reform Conference” recently hosted in the State by the Ministry of Justice.
Bearing in mind that tourism is not solely government affair, but predominantly that of the private sector, the Directorate has partnered with various private sector organizations to host some events geared towards the marketing, promotion and safety of the Tourism and Hospitality industry in the State. Some of these events include:
i. Delta State Hospitality and Tourism Investment Conference
ii. a one day strategic workshop on Maximizing Security Consciousness in Hotels, Hospitality and Tourism Industries
iii. collaboration with indigenous communities like Abbi and Emu-Obodeti during their Ukwata festival celebration, Igue Festival of Umunede and Elege festival of the Okere-Warri among others.
On the state of the tourist sites in the State, I am afraid to say, but I must say that they are not quite befitting of a State such as ours. Inspite of some of the skeletal renovations I have done, especially in Lander Brothers Anchorage as a palliative facelift measure, I am still not satisfied with their condition. It is as a result of the present state of these tourist sites that prompted His Excellency with the support of the entire EXCO to direct that my Directorate should give further facelift to the Government owned tourist sites in the State. In this regard, I have equally sent memos to His Excellency for financial releases to enable us resuscitate these sites.
DEVELOPMENTS IN CULTURE;
The Directorate is currently actively seeking for partnerships to build an ultra-modern Cultural Centre in the State capital on a concessionary basis. Such Centre when completed would have a proper theatre for play productions, conferencing facilities, dance studios, lounging and recreational areas. With this in place, the Directorate can start earning revenue from its Cultural Centre.
Only recently, in the month of August, 2016 the Directorate provided effective technical support and organized a colourful cultural parade that showcased our dances, music and costumes from the three senatorial district of the state during the Delta at 25 anniversary celebration. Following my Directorate participation and the Governor’s recognition of the Directorate’s role in achieving this huge success, His Excellency’s gave a directive to my Directorate to further organize a three days cultural fiesta in the State, annually. This, we believe amounts to a cultural achievement to the Directorate.
Sequel to the above, the Directorate sent a memo to His Excellency requesting for formal approval to host the first edition of this event. I am happy to announce that on the 3/12/2016, we obtained the assent of His Excellency in this respect.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, I am also glade to announce again to you that precisely on the 3rd – 6th of December, 2016, our dear State (Delta State) joined other competing States of the federation in celebrating the just concluded Nigerian National Carnival tagged “Abuja Carnival”. During the said carnival, we were able to impressively show case our rich cultural heritage which earned us various awards in not less than six competitive events, which culminated in our State being ranked as third best overall among the competing States of the federation.
Please permit me to say with all sense of modesty that for the first time in about six years, the State successfully participated in the National Festival for Arts and Culture where we also won laurels in different categories of performances.
DEVELOPMENTS IN ENTERTAINMENT;
The Directorate is currently talking with professional bodies like Performing Musician Association of Nigeria (PMAN) to create a database of all musical artistes in the State as well as find ways of assisting the Association to domesticate the copy right law that will enable registered artistes earn royalties for their works.
Let me add here that perhaps, the best thing that will yet happen to our musical, comedy and Nollywood artistes would be the realization of the Delta Entertainment District. This Centre which will be sitting on about 500 acres of land will have multiple sound stages, film lots for movie, television productions, audio studios with ultra-modern modern equipment for music and comedy show productions with a distribution network cutting across Africa.
We are presently collaborating with some corporate entities to further promote the entertainment industry in the State. Some of these corporate entities include among others, “Zzaakkuuss Music & Entertainment” a corporate entity that intends to organize a musical fiesta on the 17th and 18th day of December, 2016, all things being equal. We are also in collaboration with “Basement Lounge” to organize a musical and comedy show before the year runs out.
In our bid to further promote the entertainment sector, we considered it expedient to bring back to life the already existing, but currently losing steam, the concept tagged “Delta Talent Quest and Reality TV Show” which the State in the past enjoyed their performances. However, the said concept, which before my coming, lost its steam is being re-invigorated through memo already sent to His Excellency for approval of funds to organize the second edition of the show. I am confident that as soon as approval is made in this respect, the State will witness yet another musical/comedy show that can be comparable with those being showcased in Hollywood.
DEVELOPMENT IN ARTS;
Let me use this opportunity at this point to thank the chief driver of a new and SMART Delta, His Excellency, Sen.(Dr). Ifeanyi Okowa, for his support for our Arts and Craft Training Centre in Emede. This centre is equipped to train our young people in different forms of arts and craft. And through the Directorate’s Art and Craft Centre at Emede, we have been able to impart artistic skill to some of its recently graduated students. And in the course of training these students to acquire practical knowledge in Ceramics, Textile, Painting etc, they were equally educated on how they can manage their entrepreneurial environment. We have been able to graduate forty three (43) students in the month of June, 2016 with fresh intakes expected to start school in January 2017. These graduates are now entrepreneurs, they now running their own businesses and earn money from knowledge acquired from our training. They are also imparting the knowledge they have received from the Directorate to their apprentices. By this singular act, we have been able to create employment, create wealth and increase the IGR of the State because people from within and outside the State patronize the works of these our graduates of our School, and by this again, we have completely satisfied the intent and purposes of the first SMART agenda of this administration which is on wealth creation.
This we consider as an achievement. While the trainees are learning their various crafts, the trainees are also given training in entrepreneurial skills in order to broaden their understanding of the business and management environment of their vocations. The said School is one of the on-going efforts of this administration to build enduring platforms aimed at diversifying the economy of this State in its quest for a sustainable Delta beyond Oil.
Again, I wish to further thank His Excellency, Sen.(Dr). Ifeanyi Okowa for all the approvals extended to the Directorate of Culture and Tourism which has enabled us to effectively discharge our functions that has earned us laurels for the State. It is our vision to make Delta State a preferred tourist and business destination in Africa.
At this juncture, Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, may I thank you all for your patience as I invite all of you to continue to partner with my Directorate to build a sure future for the Culture and Tourism sector in our State.
Thank you all and God bless!