Tourism is also one of the growing sectors of the Nigerian economy. The industry was accorded priority status in 1990 when the National Tourism Policy was launched. The main thrust of Government policy on tourism was to generate foreign exchange earnings, create employment opportunities, promote rural enterprises and national integration among other things.
Tourists visiting the country will gain insights into a glorious past as well as a promising future, set amid the natural beauty of this diverse country. From rain forests in the south, broad savanna woodlands in the center, to a semi-desert region in the north, Nigeria offers a remarkable range of physical beauty in her land and hospitality of her people, ready to be enjoyed by the tourist fortunate enough to choose this land of ancient empires as their travel destination. The richness and diversity of the Nigerian culture is a manifestation of the socio-cultural differences of the over 250 ethnic groups that inhabit the land for ages.
Nigeria offers a wide variety of tourist attractions such as extended and roomy river and ocean beaches ideal for swimming and other water sports, unique wildlife, vast tracts of unspoiled nature ranging from tropical forest, magnificent waterfalls, some new rapidly growing cities, and climatic conditions in some parts particularly conducive to holidaying. Other attractions include traditional ways of life preserved in local customs; rich and varied handicrafts and other colorful products depicting or illustrative of native arts and lifestyle, and the authentic unsophisticated but friendly attitude of many in the Nigerian population. However, many of these attractions are still largely untapped and even at their raw state, they are still being enjoyed by few outsiders, either very rich visitors in quest of exoticism or adventurous people in search of new challenges and experiences.
TOURISM INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN NIGERIA
A Tourism policy was produced in 1990 with the basic objective of making Nigeria the ultimate tourism destination in Africa.
The main thrust of government policy on tourism is to generate foreign exchange, encourage even development, promote tourism-based rural enterprises, generate employment and accelerate rural-urban integration and cultural exchange.
Due to the importance, the Nigerian government attaches to the tourism industry, the following strategies were adopted:
INFRASTRUCTURE:- The government would ensure that the provision of basic infrastructural facilities, namely, good roads, water, electricity, communications, and hotels, to centers of attraction, in order to accelerate their development for the purpose of exploiting fully their touristic value. In furtherance of this goal, the appropriate government agency responsible for tourism promotion and development shall establish and maintain close liaison with other government agencies responsible for the provision of the infrastructure.
CONCESSION OF LAND:- State governments will provide land without any hindrance for tourism development at concessional rates and conditions favorable to investment and the realization of investment thereon. This will necessarily include the abolition of annual ground rent within the period of construction and development of tourism. For the orderly development of tourism and tourism products, it is mandatory for all state governments to demarcate potential Tourism Zones and their products from other usages, to avoid undue pollution. 100% equity ownership of companies in Nigeria and repatriation of profits and dividends etc.
FISCAL AND OTHER INCENTIVES:- In order to boost the level of private sector investment in tourism, it is treated by the government as a preferred sector, like agriculture. The government has also introduced such incentives as, tax holidays, tax rebates, and soft loans, with a long period of grace to potential investors in tourism.
PATROL AND REGULATION OF THE INDUSTRY:- The government has enacted laws and regulations, which govern the activities of the categories of people involved in the industry, like hoteliers, travel agents, tour operators, car hire services. This is to ensure that their conduct, is not detrimental to the objectives of the industry and the security of the nation, as well as tourists.
TOURISM FACILITIES:- To ensure the growth and development of tourism to international standards, the government has put in place the following:
Embarked on a massive and aggressive publicity campaign in the country, on the potentials and significance of tourism. Available publicity organs of the government have been utilized.
Publicized and marketed the nation’s tourism potentials abroad, through Nigeria’s diplomatic missions and the foreign media, international travel fairs, and mails.
Simplified issuance of visas/entry permit to intending visitors, such that they can get it immediately on application. Tourists arriving at our ports with return tickets are also issued visas on the spot.
Security agencies, including customs and immigration, have been oriented to discharge their duties promptly to eliminate inconveniences by visitors at entry points.
INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENT OF TOURISM:- The government has put in place the following institutional framework.
FEDERAL MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM:- The Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism has assumed full responsibility for policy initiation and monitoring and maintains direct links with state governments on all tourism matters. However, the tourism industry is still fully dominated by states and local governments, where tourist attractions are situated.
STATE MINISTRIES:- State ministries implement policies and directories from the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism, initiate projects, and control land allocation and development of tourism in their respective areas. The states also regulate the operations of hotels and catering institutions in line with the federal government policy.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT TOURISM BOARD:- These local organs were established to locate and identify potential tourist attractions in their areas. They serve as information centres and provide tourist guides. They also preserve and maintain monuments, as well as museums in their areas of jurisdiction.
SUMMARY OF INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN NIGERIA:- Investment opportunities exist within the following sub-sectors of the tourism industry:
Beach and Coastal Resort development (Nigeria has over 700km of unpolluted sandy beaches). Conservation and Protection of 8 national parks and over 10 game reserves. Development of hotels and standard restaurants Transportation: water recreation, package tour services, air, and rail services. Development of caves, tunnels, waterfalls, and spring waters. Youth hostels, camps, and centres Lake and River sport fishing. Scenic and Mountain Holiday resorts Theme/Amusement parks Conference/Congress Services Conservation and protection of endangered wildlife especially drill monkey, manatec, white-throated monkey, and pigmy hippo. Heritage, cultural and archaeological sites.
YANKARI GAME RESERVE:- The Yankari National Park is the premier game reserve in Nigeria. Yankari Park and Wikki Warm Springs are located around the Gagi River, approximately 1 1/2 hours by road, southeast of Bauchi Town. The beauty and size of The Yankari Game Reserve make it the most popular reserve in Nigeria. Set up in 1956 and opened to the public in 1962, the main game-viewing areas of the reserve are open all year round. Japanese, Western Europeans, Americans, and Southeast Asian tourists visit this park in abundance. The reserve covers 2,058 sq. km. of savanna woodland and is well-stocked with elephants, baboons, waterbucks, bushbucks, oribi, crocodile, hippopotamus, roan antelope, buffalo, and various types of monkeys. Lions are occasionally spotted as well, despite their natural camouflage. The best time to visit is between November and May when tourists are likely to see more game since the dense vegetation has dried out and the animals congregate around the rivers.
The Wikki Warm Springs is one of the best features of the game reserves. Flood-lit at night, it is wonderful after a hot day’s game-viewing to relax in the warm water. The spring gushes out from under a cliff, where the water is at least 6 ft. deep, with a bathing area that extends for 600 ft. to an open area. The park is inhabited by a variety of birds, including the huge saddlebill stork, goliath heron, bateleur eagle, vultures, kingfishers, bee-eaters, and more. It is excellent for serious bird-watchers.
Other facilities include Tennis courts, squash courts, a small museum in the reception area plus gas stations with convenience stores at Wikki Camp and Bauchi.
RESERVATIONS:- It is advisable to make reservations during the holidays and weekends with Easter a particularly busy season. Reservations can be made at Durbar Hotel in Kaduna, Bauchi State House in Lagos, and the Zaranda Hotel in Bauchi. Or call Yankari Game Reserve at (069) 43-656.
ROUTE:- You can travel by road from Lagos to Abuja, where you make an overnight stop, then on to Jos and Bauchi, as it is a 2-day journey by car over well-maintained roads.
HOTELS:- Basic accommodations are available in chalets or rondavels. Also available are suites, double rooms, and family chalets that include small kitchens. There are many other National Parks besides Yankari, as illustrated on the map. Notable ones include Mambilla, Gumti National Park, Cross River National Park, and Kainji Lake National Park.
MAMBILLA PLATEAU:- The Mambilla Plateau, in the southeast corner of Taraba State, shares a border with Cameroon. A high grassland plateau averaging about 1800 meters, it is scenic, cool, and a pleasant change from the heat and humidity of Lagos. Because the roads are still under construction, a sport utility vehicle or jeep is recommended and visitors should pack essentials, camping equipment, and food. As an option, there are a few hotels on the plateau.
The Park provides an attractive setting, well worth a visit. Mambilla has cattle ranches, tea plantations, and rolling, grassy hills. It is different from the rest of Nigeria with regard to flora and fauna and is home to some rare species of birds and animals, especially at the Gashaka-Gumti National Park.
ROUTE:- There is a major road to Mambilla from Lagos, Benin City, Onitsha, Enugu, Otukpo, Yandex, Katsina-Ala, Wukari, Mutum Biyu, Bali, Serti, and Gembu. You can also fly into Yola Airport, then drive a few miles south to Mambilla.
GASHAKA-GUMTI NATIONAL PARK:- This is a vast land of spectacular wilderness (6,000 sq. kin) in the southeast corner of Taraba State, adjoining the Mambilla Plateau. Mostly mountainous, from 457 to 2407 meters, it contains Nigeria’s highest mountain, Chapal Waddi (2409m). It is the most ecologically diverse conservation area in the country and contains swaths of guinea savanna, gallery forest, moist forest, mountain forest, and grassland. Many rivers flow through the park, including the Taraba, a major tributary of the River Benue. A wide variety of animal life can be found, including buffalo, roan antelope, chimpanzee, colobus monkey, hippopotamus, hyena, giant forest hog, lion, and leopard. The park is a birdwatcher’s paradise with a wide variety of species, and there is excellent fishing in the River Kam. The reserve headquarters is in the Forest Rest Houses at Serti, on the main road between Bali and Mambilla Plateau. These rest houses provide self-catering accommodation at a small fee. The entrance to the park is about 15 km south of Serti. In the dry season, it is possible to drive to the former headquarters at Gashaka village, some 30 km from the entrance gate, where more self-catering accommodation is available. The park is best explored on foot and it is possible to hire game guards; guides and porters are available at Serti or in Gashaka village.
CROSS RIVER NATIONAL PARK:- The Cross River National Park was created from two existing forest reserves of Bashi-Okwango and Oban Forest Reserves. It is famous for its unique rain forest vegetation which, according to conservation experts, is some of the richest in Africa. This park contains the last remaining rainforest in Nigeria, which is being preserved with the help of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation. It has a herd of forest elephants, the white-faced monkey (indigenous to Nigeria only), buffalo, leopards, and lowland gorillas, besides over a thousand other animal species. The park has a tropical climate characterized by a rainy season between April and October and a dry season between November and April. The moist green vegetation cover makes the forest an excellent place to see birds and butterflies.
THE KAINJI NATIONAL PARK:- This Park, in Kwara State, was established in 1979 and incorporates the Borgu Game Reserve and Zugurma Game Reserve to the southeast in Niger State. The Bourgu sector of the park alone covers an area of about 3,929 sq. km. of savanna woodland, and Zugurma covers an area of about 1,370 sq. km. The Kainji National Park also contains the Kainji Dam, an artificial lake that covers the town of Old Bussa. Here Mungo Park, the explorer, was said to have come to grief in 1805. Now the lake hides the scene of the accident. The lake is 136 km long and tours of the dam are available on request from the Nigeria Electric Power Authority. Boat trips on the lake can be arranged by the Borgu Game Reserve office at Wawa. To reduce the expense, it is better for several visitors to share the cost. Fishing is allowed on the lake.
TOURIST SITES:- The Borgu Sector of Lake Kainji National Park was set up as a Federal Game Reserve and is one of the largest in West Africa. The area was uninhabited and the idea for the park was conceived in 1960. It is in the northern guinea vegetation zone which is characterized by tall grasses and savanna woodland. The park retains a robust animal population including antelope, lion, hippopotamus, buffalo, roan antelope, jackal, baboon, monkey, and crocodile. The park is usually open from December to June, with the best time to visit towards the end of the dry season when the grass has dried out and the animals move closer to the water. Tourists should expect Harmattan (dry wind) from December to mid-February. The best times for game viewing area are in the early morning or evening, and trips can be arranged from 6:00 am, either in park vehicles or visitors’ own vehicles. Birdlife is abundant, especially near the river. Visitors should call the Wawa Game Warden’s office (11 miles from New Bussa) for a briefing and to also reserve a game guide. The entrance to the reserve is approximately 19 miles from Wawa along a laterite road, and the oil river camp is a further 32 miles from the entrance. Many Nigerians and foreigners make day trips to Kainji or pass by it on their way to other parts of the country. Despite the provisions at Kainji and New Bussa, hotel accommodation is insufficient to encourage many people to stay for long periods.
DURBAR:- The Durbar festival dates back hundreds of years to the time when the Emirate (state) in the north used horses in warfare. During this period, each town, district, and nobility household was expected to contribute a regiment to the defense of the Emirate. Once or twice a year, the Emirate military chiefs invited the various regiments for a Durbar (military parade) for the Emir and his chiefs. During the parade, regiments would showcase their horsemanship, their preparedness for war, and their loyalty to the Emirate. Today, Durbar has become a festival celebrated in honor of visiting Heads of State and at the culmination of the two great Muslim festivals, Id-el Fitri (commemorating the end of the holy month of Ramadan) and Ide-el Kabir (commemorating Prophet Ibrahim sacrificing a ram instead of his son). Of all the modern-day Durbar festivals, Katsina Durbar is the most magnificent and spectacular. Id-el-Kabir, or Sallah Day, in Katsina begins with prayers outside town, followed by processions of horsemen to the public square in front of the Emir’s palace, where each village group, district, and noble house take their assigned place. Last to arrive is the Emir and his splendid retinue; they take up their place in front of the palace to receive the jahi, or homage, of their subjects.
The festival begins with each group racing across the square at full gallop, swords glinting in the sun. They pass just a few feet away from the Emir, then stop abruptly to salute him with raised swords.
The last and most fierce riders are the Emir’s household and regimental guards, the Dogari. After the celebrations, the Emir and his chiefs retire to the palace, and enjoyment of the occasion reigns. This fanfare is intensified by drumming, dancing, and singing, with small bands of Fulanis performing shadi, a fascinating sideshow to behold.
COCONUT BEACH:- Coconut Beach is a beautiful beach in the coastal town of Badagry, west of Lagos. The beach is attractively set in an area surrounded by coconut trees. About 20 miles towards the border of Nigeria and the Republic of Benin, Coconut Beach is accessible through the Lagos-Badagry expressway. Visitors will find a friendly relaxed atmosphere.
BAR BEACH:- Bar Beach, also known as Victoria Beach, is the most popular beach among Nigerians. The main beach on Victoria Island is located along Ahmadu Bello Way opposite the Federal Guest House. It is usually crowded with Nigerians on public holidays.
TARKWA BAY:- Tarkwa Bay is a sheltered beach along the Lagos harbor. It is accessible by a ‘trazan’ boa from Maroko or a ‘fiki’ boat from under Falo Bridge on Victoria Island. This beach provides a pleasant outing with safe swimming conditions, even for small children. Tourists may obtain deck chairs and an awning on the beach, for relaxed, casual comfort. Local yen dots sell delicious pineapples, coconuts, and a variety of other delightful treats.
CALABAR BEACH:- This superb beach, at the mouth of the new Calabar River, is about 2 miles long and 500 feet wide, uninhabited save for a solitary fisherman’s hut. The beach is virtually isolated and lends visitors the luxury of privacy in a beautiful setting off the beaten path. Since the beach is flanked by a swamp and can only be reached by boat or canoe, getting there is half the fun and enhances one’s fascination with this enchanted locale.
LEKKI BEACH:- There are several beaches along the Lekki Peninsula, the foremost being Lekki Beach, located a few miles from the city center. Lekki Beach is another of Lagos’ attractive beaches and remains popular with foreign tourists. Beach shelters made of palm fronds and umbrellas, available for rent, keep the sun at bay, as well as provide a place to enjoy snacks or refreshments sold by local traders.
ELEKO BEACH:- Opened in 1989, Eleko is the newest of Lagos’ Beaches, down the Lekki Peninsula about 30 miles from Lagos. There are no traders and no distractions on Eleko Beach, just peace and tranquillity, ideal for those seeking privacy.
THE OBUDU RANCH:- The Obudu Ranch is a popular holiday destination for adventurous tourists wishing to explore the remote corners of Nigeria. Situated in the northeast corner of Cross River State, only 45 miles from the Cameroon border, a tourist can enjoy the countryside of both Nigeria and Cameroon at the same time.
The Obudu Plateau is spread over an area of 40 sq. miles. It is 5,200 feet above sea level. The climate is cool and pleasant with no mosquitoes. The landscape is spectacular, with rolling grasslands, deep-wooded valleys, and waterfalls. Iris is best to visit Obudu in the dry season since during the rainy season much of the ranch may be covered in mist and low clouds and there are thunderstorms. Between Dec. and Feb. the harmattan is heavy; therefore, the best times for a visit are the end of Oct. to Dec. and March to May before the rainy season.
ATTRACTIONS:- Gorilla Camp, 13 km from the hotel, is accessible either by vehicle or on foot, where one can take a long, picturesque walk to the camp, and observe gorillas in their natural habitat. Guests may also ride horses or embark on hiking trips into the wild (comfortable shoes and a guide are recommended). Birdwatching here is unparalleled and there is a pleasantly shaded natural swimming pool near the Ranch House. If visitors accept the challenge of a three-hour hike, they’ll be rewarded with a stop at the waterfall, nestled amid captivating scenery. In spite of the altitude, it can get quite hot in the day, with five sunshine hours in the dry season (Oct. – April) and roughly two during the rainy season (July to Aug.). Other activities include golf, badminton, lawn tennis, squash, and horseback riding. The latest attraction at the Obudu Ranch is a cable car (similar to Europe’s) that runs from the foot of the hill to the top, easing transportation and providing spectacular sceneries.
ACCOMMODATION:- The Ranch Hotel maintains 33 chalets and boasts a friendly staff, superb restaurant and bar, and laundry/dry cleaning services. Chalets provide exquisite comfort with a large sitting room, color TV, VCR, cocktail bar, kitchen & spacious bedroom with double bed. The Ranch Hotel operates 24-hours during peak periods, Sept.-Dec., reservations should be made at the Cross River State House in Lagos. Or, by mail to: Hotel Manager, Obudu Cattle Ranch, P.O. Box 87, Obudu, Cross River State, Nigeria.
ROUTE:- The sights are spectacular on the drive east, through rolling mountains and the dense forest with trees so high their branches form a canopy, shading out the sun entirely. This phenomenon has led to the area being called “Nigeria’s Amazon,” and is not to be missed. However, should one prefer to fly, they can do so from any major city to Calabar then proceed by car over the five-hour route via Ikom.
ARGUNGU FISHING FESTIVAL:- This colorful annual festival takes place in Arugungu, a riverside town in Kebbi State, about 64 miles from Sokoto. The leading tourist attraction in the area, the festival originated in Aug. 1934, when the late Sultan Dan Mu’azu made a historic visit. In tribute, a grand fishing festival was organized. Since then, it’s become a celebrated yearly event held between Feb. and March. During the festival, hundreds of local men and boys enter the water, armed with large fishnet scoops. They are joined by canoes filled with drummers, plus men rattling huge seed-filled gourds to drive the fish to shallow waters. Vast nets are cast and a wealth of fish are harvested, from giant Nile Perch to the peculiar Balloon Fish. Furthermore, there’s canoe racing, wild duck hunting, bare-handed fishing, diving competitions, and naturally, swimming. Afterward, there is drinking, singing, and dancing into the night.
EYO FESTIVAL:- Eyo Festival is unique to the Lagos area, and it is widely believed that Eyo is the forerunner of the modern day carnival in Brazil. On Eyo Day, the main highway in the heart of the city (from the end of Carter Bridge to Tinubu Square) is closed to traffic, allowing for procession from Idumota to Iga Idunganran. Here, the participants all pay homage to the Oba of Lagos. Eyo festival takes place whenever occasion and tradition demand, but it is usually held as the final burial rites for a highly regarded chief.
SHARO/SHADI FESTIVAL:- The Fulani culture presents a complex system, involving age-old initiations. The most important is the Sharo or Shadi (flogging meeting), believed to have originated among the Jaful Fulani, whose ranks are still considered the finest. During the Sharo festival, bare-chested contestants, usually unmarried men, come to the center ring, escorted by beautiful girls. The crowd erupts in thunderous cheers and drumming. After some time, a challenger, also bare-chested, comes out brandishing a whip, trying to frighten his opponent. The festival proceeds with lively drumming, singing, cheers, and self-praises from both competitors and challengers. When the excitement is at a fevered pitch, it is time for flogging. The challenger raises his whip and flogs his opponent. His opponent must endure this without wincing or showing pain, lest he is branded a coward.
THE ATILOGWU DANCE:- The Atilogwu dance has been elevated to a dazzling art form, particularly by the Igbos in Anambra State. Atilogwu is a vigorous dance that literally means “Is this magic?” and combines elements of gymnastics with foot-stomping rhythms and brilliant colors. It’s performed by young men and women who undergo a rigorous training before presenting the dance in public. Once approved, the dance is performed during important festivals and great social occasions. In fact, Atilogwu has become a celebrated signature of Nigerian culture, performed around the world.
NATIONAL MUSEUMS:- The National Museum at Onikan, Lagos provides one of the largest collections of art and artifacts in Nigeria. Of great importance to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of African art and the rich cultural heritage of Nigeria, the artifacts in the museum date from 500 BC-200 AD, including the Nok terracotta heads. Its interior is majestic in scope and retraces the development of various cultures through centuries of Nigerian history. Operated by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the museum here, like —others in Benin, Jos, Ife, Esie, Kano, and Kaduna, plus many smaller ones, consistently draws thousands of tourists and historians each year to view its rich collections.
OSUN FESTIVAL:- Osun was one of the wives of Sango, the god of Thunder and former king of Oyo. She is widely worshipped in Yorubaland, particularly in the countryside through which the river Osun flows. The water of Osun is said to have the power of making barren women fertile. Her most important sanctuaries are in Oshogbo, which is contracted from ‘Oso Igbo’, or spirit of the forest, centered around a palace shrine where the chief priest performs rites and rituals.
KANO DYE PITS:- The Kano indigo-vegetable dye pits are one of the most fascinating aspects of this old city. Various designs are folded into the material before dyeing, and the fabric is often beaten to achieve a shiny, iridescent appearance. The techniques employed to obtain this look are unmatched around the world. And although the methods they use are ancient, these lush works of art on fabric always remain extremely popular and continue to be in great demand.
LEATHER WORK:- Nigeria is a veritable treasure trove of beautiful handmade crafts. Drawing from ancient traditions, Nigerian artisans create marvelous wood carvings, metal castings, exotic jewelry, traditional clothing, intricately decorated calabashes, and finely-crafted leatherwork. Visitors are amazed at the quality and value of these unique creations, each made with a perfectionist’s skill and attention to detail.