By Idowu Bankole
The immediate past Governor of Imo State, Rt. Honourable Emeka Ihedioha has revealed that sports and tourism development in the south-east will drive both the human capital and economic development of the region.
Speaking at a webinar, tagged the south-east tourism investment summit held Saturday 26th September 2020, Hon. Ihedioha revealed that tourism and sports can be the bedrock of socio-economic development. From Dubai to Ethiopia, to even the traditional western nations such as the U.S, U.K, Germany etc they can be a veritable growth catalyst, a job provider, revenue earner.
According to the former Gov of Imo state, Ihedioha stated that Any leadership strategy to deliver on the expectations of the people must take a good look inwards to ascertain the comparative potentials of his or her domain.
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In his presentation, Ihedioha noted that, In the course of public life, he had the benefit of vast global travel and have seen first hand how tourism and sports can be the bedrock of socio-economic development. From Dubai to Ethiopia, to even the traditional western nations such as the U.S, U.K, Germany etc they can be a veritable growth catalyst, a job provider, revenue earner, (in fact a foreign exchange earner).
Ihedioha stated that “In my quest to serve Ndi-Imo, and in fact my brief period of stewardship as Governor of Imo State, I put the tourism sector, creative arts and sports for that matter, at the top of my agenda.”
“I recognized the state was blessed with natural endowments, from Oguta Lake, Abadaba Lake, to its famed traditional festivals Iri-ji Mbaise, Ikeji Arondizogu, iconic traditional sites and celebrated cultural events such as the Ahajioku lecture. I equally took note of our avalanche of sporting talent, and our history of sporting excellence.”
“I realized that these positive attributes remain potentials unless, and until, properly harnessed. I recognized the fact that these sectors may be state-supported, but invariably private sector-driven.”
“As a government, our team identified salient things that we, on governments part, needed to do to play that catalyst, facilitatory role that will boost the sectoral growth and its multiplier effect.”
“We set-out to rehabilitate the Oguta Lake Resort (particularly the government’s facility there). We had a plan to privatize the operations of the flagship hotel in Owerri – Concorde. This would have enabled them access to global guaranteed credit as part of our detailed negotiations with the Afrexim Bank.”
“We enacted the Hotel Occupancy Law as a first step, to not only assessing the over 300 hotels in the state, but a boost to our revenue base.
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We had a robust sports talent mining program. We, first of all, set up the Imo State Sports Commission to be the bastion of the drive. We then commenced rehabilitation of the Dan Anyiam and Grasshopper International Stadia and in fact the construction of mini-stadia in each of the 27 LGAs. Indeed, the Honorable Minister of Sports recommended the Imo model for nationwide adoption”
“To complement these, our vast and intense infrastructure program in the state would have opened up the nooks and crannies of the state through the trunk and arterial road networks development. This added to repositioning the Imo Airport as a regional hub-facility of choice.”
“All these will amount to nothing if there is insecurity in the land. Security in the state was thus a priority.”
Speaking on a regional approach, believes such approach within the South East, will require them, as governments, and as people, to consolidate efforts, synergize plans, integrate programs, even cross-patronize each other, all towards building the zone (if you like region), into a veritable tourism trade bloc.
“We have to, first of all, evaluate the structure of the industry across the zone. Look into areas of comparative advantage, so as to reduce replication of expenditure. For instance, do we need to spend huge sums on international airports in every state? Can we not cooperate and patronize the existing ones. Also can we not have zonal sports competitions amongst the SouthEast States?”
“The ultimate will be to market the sector as an integrated bloc. This entails that there must be guidelines, rules of engagement etc. The best way to codify them will be through legislation.”
“As a veteran parliamentarian, I take into account that our Constitution doesn’t recognize regional or zonal laws. But lawmaking can be innovative to have a regional effect, yet be individually state-enacted. In other words, uniform content legislation will be simultaneously enacted by the respective State Assemblies. That way, you will have the same rules and the same application in all the states.”
“I must say that we had this enactment approach for regional security legislation while I was in office.”
“Suffice it to say that it is this approach of, individual state enactment with the regional effect of legislation, that the South-West Zone adopted for what is called the “Amotekun” Law. A uniform bill passed into law by the respective State Assemblies. If it worked there, it can also work in the South East.”
“So to conclude, I am in favour of a South-East approach to the Tourism and sports sectors. In fact, I am in favour of a regional approach to education, agriculture, health sectors etc. And to consolidate transparency and fairness in the implementation, I recommend quasi regional legislation, albeit state laws in reality.”