Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture says the country boasts of numerous sites with special cultural, physical attributes to qualify them for listing as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The minister spoke on Saturday at the third festival colloquium of the 50th anniversary of Lagos State with the theme: “Tourism Potential in Yorubaland: Landmarks, Culture and History’’.
Mohammed said that due to lack of proper inventory and vision to exploit their resources for economic and tourism gains, only two of such sites were recognised by UNESCO.
He identified the two recognised UNESCO sites as Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove and the Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa.
“In comparison, Ethiopia has nine UNESCO World tourist sites, Kenya six, Libya five, Mali four and Morocco nine! This of course means that we are sitting on a gold mine,” he said.
Mohammed also identified the heritage sites that could attain the global status as National Museum and Lekki Conservation Center in Lagos, Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River and Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State.
He said that the Ikogosi Warm Spring in Ekiti, Nike Lake Resort in Enugu, Mambila Plateau in Adamawa and the Royal Palace of the Oba of Benin in Edo could attain the global status.
The minister said that the administration of President Muhammad Buhari was determined to reposition the tourism sector and reverse the ugly trend.
“In this search for a new economic paradigm, tourism, arts and culture have been identified as the most viable sector of the economy to explore.
“Culture drives tourism, and both are good for creating jobs, reducing crime and diversifying the economy, three of the cardinal programmes of the Buhari Administration,” he said.
Mohammed noted that the sector had been spotlighted in various reports by international agencies to have the potential of boosting the country’s economy.
He said that a British Council sponsored report in 2013 showed that the sector was a viable contributor to the economic development of nations.
“The report reveals that the creative businesses surveyed in the mapping exercise contributed N2.5 billion during the reference period.
“61 per cent of the total Gross Value Added (GVA) derived from the film industry alone while fashion and music contributed 26 per cent and 13 per cent respectively,” he said.
The minister briefed the gathering on the policies, programmes and activities of the Federal Government to reposition the tourism sector.
He commended the organiser of “Lagos at 50’’, stressing that the event would give the opportunity to address the challenge of lean resources and large scale unemployment.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event witnessed cultural performances and the premiere of a movie, “Iwure Olofin’’ (The Blessing of Olofin).
The movie is an historical documentation of how Lagos was founded by a prince of Ile Ife named, Olofin.
NAN reports the event was attended by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, and his wife, Wuraola, former Governor of Cross Rivers, Donald Duke, Commissioners from Lagos state and members of Lagos House of Assembly.