Post COVID 19, we earmarked N1b to rescue tourism industry -Akinbile-Yusuf

Posted on: February 15, 2023, by :

Pharmacist Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf has been the Lagos State Commisioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture since 2020. In the last three years plus, she has overseen a positive radical transformation of the tourism trajectory of Lagos State.
She spoke to Africa Travel Herald on this and other issues affecting culture and tourism in Lagos State. Excerpts:

Tourism and and entertainment is one of the THEMES agenda of the current Lagos State government. Give us an overview of some of the activities of the ministry last year and what you intend to do more this year?
I resumed duty on January 18, 2020 as the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture in Lagos State. Ever since then , the second “E’ of the THEMES agenda (entertainment and tourism) has its own fair share in the development of Lagos State.
Unfortunately, in the year 2020, we had the challenge of COVID 19 pandemic that brought everything down across the globe.
Fortunately however, we did not allow that to deter us from achieving our desired goals despite the pandemic.
Immediately after the pandemic, we had a review of what post-pandemic will look like in Lagos, and we had a committee chaired by the renowned actress Joke Silva and some other people from different areas of tourism, arts and entertainment in Lagos State, including Madam Nike Davies of the popular Nike Arts Gallery. So many of them were there. At the end of the day, one billion Naira was earmarked to assist that sector and bring it back to life after the pandemic.
Ever since then, so many activities have happened, including, but not limited to support and training.
At that 2020, we commisioned Glover Memorial Hall. Also in 2021, the masterplan for tourism (in the state) for the next 10 years was presented. In the masterplan, we have the immediate, medium and long term programmes that we believe need to be done were included.
Now, I can tell that all the immediate on that the masterplan, has actually been achieved, like the community based tourism. In Lagos State today, in all the 57 councils and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs), there is a tourism desk office. And we have five particular local governments that we are using to drive tourism in all the five divisions of the state, along with all other tourism desk offices in the 57 council areas and LCDAs because we believe we can only achieve the best of tourism when we localise tourism, not only at the state level, and we have decided to partner with all the local governments in the state to drive tourism.
So, all the tourism products in the council areas have been identified and we are trying as much as possible to promote all these products across the state. That has been a successful story as of now.
Also, it was not long ago that Mr. President was here to commssion one of our new edifices: the John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History. I will tell you that the edifice is not just a museum as many people think; I call it knowledge sharing centre.
It is a place that we can do alot of research about our culture, about who we are, and about what we need to be doing as Yoruba, not only about Lagos State, it is about the Yoruba race, because we are not promoting our culture as we need to be doing. But with this centre, we can learn so many things about our culture, especially in the olden days.
These are the things you can find and we have a swimming pool of international standard, where we believe that if we are to be asked to host the Olympic Games in Nigeria today, I think John Randle will be one of the centres that we can use as centre for any international competitions, and so many other things that the ministry has been able to achieve.
One of our best programmes is the training with the Lagos State creative industry. The programme was initiated in 2020 and the lessons commenced in 2021. As at today, we have trained over 3000 with different partners. We have four major partners that we have worked with. We have EbonyLife Academy and others. These are institutions of international repute that partnered with the Lagos State government to train so many youths in different areas like video editing, script writing, fashion, and so on.
I am happy to inform us that one of their movies has been premiered even at international level.
Like when we went for the Toronto International Film Festival, one of our students had her own movie premiered.
As regards to the loans we gave, as at today, I have someone that has already paid back everything, and the person is planning to reaccess, because we give them the opportunity that when you pay back this money, you can reapply and get even more than what you were given the first time. So, all these is on-going as we speak. The money that were given were given through Lagos State Employment Trust Fund. I am sure that the practitioners that I know that benefitted from this fund, have been paying back.
On the John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History, what is the plan to make the centre attractive to visitors and how do you intend to keep it functional?
Also you said you can only actualise tourism when you localise it, and you’ve done that by establishing offices in 57 councils and development areas, how do you intend to make those centres at the local level functional?
The John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History is not a child of accident. To the glory of God, that is the only board that Mr. Governor himself stood in as chairman.
This shows that we believe so much in that asset and the vision of having something good.
The operational module has been thinked through. As we speak, we already have the board of trustees in place. We already have the legal team in place and we already have the management team in place. In fact, we are partnering with the British Museum for the training of all the employees. We have the human resource and competent consultant handling the recruitment of the staff. Also the National Commission for Museums and Monument are ready to work along with us because we all believe in it and we must ensure that we take the absolute control, and in another 20-30 years, that thing is there and still remains the best in Africa. That is the structure that we are putting down.
On the Community Based Tourism (CBT), we are not only partnering with the council chairmen across the state on it, we also have our own pilot centres. What it means is that despite that you have your own staff as tourism officers in the local governments, we have our staff in the five divisions of the state. They co-ordinate and will be able to sell our own vision and masterplan to these tourism officers. We don’t want to let them loose. We want to continue to coordinate and ensure that they have the full understanding of tourism and how tourism business can be done and achieved in our local environment.
Also, we have set aside a training for them in this quarter for all the tourism officers with our own staff, so that they will be able to work closely.
In 2021, after the launch of the tourism masterplan, I personally visited five of these local government areas to sell this idea to them and inform them about what we need to be doing together. Also, I went the Ministry of Local Government Affairs to inform them and inform all the local government chairmen. I held meetings with all the 57 local government and Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) chairmen on how we can drive tourism together in Lagos State.
You talked about the use of the five theatres built by the last administration…
Not five, we have three.
Okay, you said it was to encourage community theatre. After the EndSARS protest, about two of them got burnt…
Only one was burnt.
So, how is the use of the theatres? You also talked about the Film City in Epe, what is the state of that project?
Let me start with the theatre. We inherited three theatres that were not fully completed when we came in, and it was handed over to us. We

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