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Africa: 30 People That Transformed Tourism In Nigeria

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Tourism, according to United Nations World Tourism Organisation “comprises of the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes.”

In Nigeria, tourism is centered around activities happening in the country such as festivals. Also, attractions such as parks, cultural sites and Natural sites also contribute to tourism in the country. The tourism industry in Nigeria has come a long way and has evolved overtime due to footprints of individuals in the tourism space who have ensured that the sector play an important role in the growth of the economy.

This perhaps has made successive government in the past to pay attention to the sector. Presidents Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo have been credited for making efforts to grow tourism in Nigeria during their various administrations. Under the administration of Gen.
Ibrahim Babangida, the NTDC came into being effectively in 1992. The corporation was established by Decree No. 86 of 1991. The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation started out as Nigerian Tourist Association in 1962 before it was changed to NTDC in 1992.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo created The Federal Ministry of Tourism and Culture in June, 1999 to promote the nation’s rich tourism potentials and cultural heritage through identification, development and marketing of the diverse cultural and tourism opportunities.

And by mid 2006, the ministry was renamed Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation. In 2005, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, set up a Presidential Committee to come up with a Nigeria Tourism Development Master Plan. This was with the active support of key Tourism bodies including the UNWTO and one Tourism Development International Ltd, a Nigerian firm.

Before Presidents Babangida and Obasanjo administrations, there have been people making all the difference in the tourism development in Nigeria since 1960.

We had Audu Bako under The Gowon Administration who Built the Bagauda Lake Resort now Law School, Tiga Lake and Magwam Restaurant in Kano. He was the Best State administrator in the Area of Tourism in Nigeria. See a list of 30 people we shortlisted from a long line of Pioneers. They are arranged in no particular order of importance.

was born on May 24, 1930 in Warri, Delta State of Nigeria. Atigbi was the then Secretary-General of the Nigeria Tourism Association (NTA), now Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), and Chairman of Africa Travel Commission (ATC).

At executive committee meeting of the formal International Union of Official Travel Organization [IUOTO] held in the Istanbul, Turkey in 1971, Atigbi as head of the Nigerian and African delegation to the meeting as Secretary General of the Nigeria Tourist Association (NTA) and Chairman of African Travel Commission respectively stood to move a historic motion that the house endorses the commemoration every year of September 27 as World Tourism Day.

The motion was carried with unanimous votes and thus emerged the celebration of the Annual World Tourism Day ceremony that has since been adopted by IUOTO’s replacement, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and now the United Nations World Tourism organization (UNWTO).

2. Ebaboje Matthew Da’Silva:
The World Famous Mr. Tourism of Nigeria Past President of the Travel Agents Association. Past President and Founder of NATOP.Pioneer Prwsident and Founder of ANJET.Past Director at Nigeria Tourism Board.Former Contestant to UNWTO office of Secretary General.Member of the Nigerian Tourism Masterplan Committee. Author and Columnist with the Vanguard Newspapers he was the Biggest Voice for Tourism in Nigeria until his death.

3. Dr. Franklin John Adesoji Adejuwon:
Pioneer Commissioner of Tourism in Nigeria. He was born on 27th September 1943. Dr. Franklin Adejuwon has contributed to the overall civil and public services in Nigeria as well as the country’s International Relations from the level of consultant, Senior Research Officer through to the position of the Chief Executive of the National Tourism Organization.

He was subsequently appointed Honourable Commissioner for Home Affairs and Tourism in Lagos State and later Hon. Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the Federal Level. He has represented the country in different capacities at International fora including vice chairmanship of the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organisation, member of TCPC and chairman of the technical committee of the general assembly of thk experience as manager at Bristow Helicopters and others, public appointments as many and in most places being the first and a pathfinder as First National President Association of Travel Practitioners in Nigeria, ATPN.

4. Chief Amachree fondly called ‘Father of Tourism’ as evidenced in his works and the establishment of Brooklyn Hotels. He is the first Nigerian to organise a Private Sector led Abuja Carnival, first Nigerian to evolve the concept of ‘Point and Kill’ pepper soup, and many other awards. And in 2017, he was awarded Distinguished Service Star of Rivers State by the Governor of Rivers State.

5. Elder High Chief Jerry Onuoha Ibe Nwosu:
Founded the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA). More than 40 years since it was founded, NANTA has metamorphosed into one of the biggest travel associations on the African continent. Elder High Chief OnuohaIbeNwosu is a double title holder of the ‘NwaChinemerem 1’ of Ofeme and also the ‘Kadurumba 1’ of Ihite, Ezinihitte, Mbaise in Imo State.

He joined the aviation and travel industry in November 1956 as typist/messenger with World Tourism Office, a travel agency owned by a Lebanese businessman Mr. Eduardo Aouad and located at 37 Ereko Street at Idumota, Lagos. From that humble beginning in 1956, he quickly rose and became General Manager of Scan Travel Limited, a multinational company with branches in Anglophone West Africa of Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia; and traded in French speaking countries of Benin, Ivory Coast and Senegal etc. as Socopao.

6. Mrs. Tereza Ojo (Ezobi)
Pioneer Tour Operator and Travel Consultant. She is the CEO of Tess Travels. She was the first female president of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) from November 1993 – November 1995 and founding president (coordinator) of Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN). It is on record that she had always deployed chartered aircraft to transport both local and international visitors to festivals, particularly the Kano Durbar and Argungun festival. She also unfolded a tourism window into the Nigerian cycling federation activities, generating tourism funds for the federation and promoting cycling as tourism product.

7. Hajia. Fatima Garbati:
was former Director Consumer Protection of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). She has decades of experience in the tourism and aviation industry. A contributor to the bedrock of legislations and enacted rules that have impacted positively to the sustainability of tourism legislation in Nigeria and Africa.

A founding member of the Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP 1993), and a past president of the association, she alongside other exco members, contributed immensely to the creation of the Calabar Christ Carnival. During her stint at the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, she championed consumers issues with a focus on tourism sector, and in 2006, headed the committee that resolved the consumer. She passed away in 2019. She was a Former Director of Marketing at Nigeria Airways and Created the Tourism Department at the National Carrier.

8. Chief Rommy Amandi Ezeonwuka:
Pioneer Resort Owner
He is the Chairman/CEO Rojenny Tourist and Games Village, Oba. He is a native of Akpo in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. He built the first resort in southern Nigeria called Rojenny Holiday Village. The resort was constructed between 1983 and 1986 and opened to the public in November 1986 and has continued to wax stronger and stronger ever since. He is the first to build the largest private stadium in Nigeria, Rojenny Stadium, Oba, near Onitsha, in Anambra State. The complex which got national attention in 1993 when it housed the Wilson Oruma-led Golden Eaglets who went on to lift that year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in Japan has natural grass.

9. Goodie Minabo Ibru:
A Trained Lawyer but Pioneer Hotelier
He was born on May 11, 1942 in Kano State, Nigeria; and is a native of AgbarhaOtor, Ughelli North Local Government in Delta state. He was formerly the Chairman of Ikeja Hotel Plc (owners of Sheraton Lagos Hotel, the first international private chain hotel in Lagos), The Tourist Company of Nigeria Plc (TCN) (owners of Federal Palace Hotel) and Capital Hotels Plc (owners of Abuja Sheraton Hotel).

In 1999 he was appointed the chairman presidential subcommittee on private investment in Tourism Industry up until 2007 and participated as Chairman of the Ministerial Committee for the preparation of code of Ethics for Tourism in Nigeria. A past president of FTAN.

10. Chief Joseph Uchechukwu Igweh:
He was the Chairman and founder of Bolingo Hotels and Towers, One of the first Domestic hotel chains in Nigeria. He died on October 22, 2005, in the Bellview plane crash at Lisa village, Ogun State.

11. HSSL Directors of Dele Coker, Ayo Olowoporoku and Dipo Efunkoya

Hotel Support Services Limited (HSSL) is an indigenous Hotel and Catering Management and Consultancy firm. It is also the first Independent Domestic Standard Hotel Management group. The group was founded in 1990. They Managed Excellence Hotel and Travel Inn amongst others.

12. Dr. Donald Duke:
He was the Executive Governor of Cross River State, from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007. Donald Duke transformed the capital city Calabar into a viable tourism, commercial and sports hub in Nigeria. Duke also invested in the repositioning of the “Obudu Cattle Ranch” as a leading resort centre in the country, hosting international conferences and the “Obudu Mountain Race”, while his dream to drive business and tourism in the State, led to the pace-setting 10,000 square meters Tinapa Business resort which was at the period the frontier economic zone project.

He Created the World Famous Carnival Calabar.
Prior to his emergence as Governor of Cross River State, Mr Donald Duke was the former Commissioner of Finance, Budget & Planning to the third republic civilian Governor Dr Clement Ebri and the member of the National Economic Advisory and Intelligence Committee under the Abacha regime.

13. H.E. Mr. Senas John Ukpanah:
Was born on November 30th, 1940, He hails from Nsekhe, Ukanafun, AkwaIbom State. A former University lecturer, he transferred services to become a civil servant in the South eastern State which became Cross River. He retired from the civil service in 1987 as a Permanent Secretary. Thereafter, he went into private business until his appointment as the first Federal Minister of Trade and Tourism in 1989, he was later appointed National Planning minister in 1992.

14. Ogbeni Tope Awe:
He established TOPCOMM, an integrated marketing communications company with specific devotion to the travel, tourism and hospitality sector. He was the Tourism Editor for Vanguard Newspaper from 1990-1992.

He is also the first travel journalist in Nigeria. A former President of the Association of Nigerian Writers of Tourism ANJET.

15. Adebisi Tijani:
The first Nigerian tourism/travelogue writer was the Travel/Tourism Editor for Daily Times, from 1989 – 1997.

16. Ikechi Uko:
Pioneer Publisher of the First Travel Magazine in West Africa. Publisher of Travellers Magazine and atqnews.com. A past President of ANJET he is the Organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market Lagos, the first international and the Biggest Travel fair in West Africa; also the Abuja Jabamah; and Organizer of Accra Weizo in Ghana and Port Harcourt Bantaba.

He is the International Consultant to Carnival Calabar. He is the Project director of Seven Wonders of Nigeria (Naija7Wonders), Founder and Team Leader Theteamafrica and Lead Organiser of the Wonders of Africa Project. He is also on the Board of Trustees Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) and Federation of Tourism Associations in Nigeria (FTAN).

17. Prof. Ayodeji Femi-Pearse:

He is the founder of the first modern resort in Lagos, Whispering Palms at Iworo, Badagry. After an illustrious academic career, he retired into the hospitality industry to establish the famous seaside Whispering Palms leisure resort in 1991. He passed away in 2018.

18. Mr. Shola Ilupeju:
He is the initiator and Chief Executive Officer of Travel Marketing Partners and also the Organizer of the Abuja Travel Market which happened to be the first private sector travel Expo in Nigeria.

19. Ambassador Wanle Akinboboye:
He Pioneered the Afro Cosmopolitan City Destination in Nigeria with his La Campagne Tropicana Resort in Lagos.

He is a culture and tourism icon, who owns one of the biggest beach resorts in Nigeria – La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort.
He created and produced the Mare Festival for Ondo State government. He has consulted for several state governments in Nigeria to develop their culture and tourism sectors. He currently serves as the Chief Tourism Adviser and Consultant to His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ile-Ife. He is also the Tourism Ambassador for the Conference of World Mayors.

20. Chiamaka Obuekwe:
Pioneer of the Instagram Tour Operators.
She is the Founder and CEO of Social Prefect Tours, an African tourism company which seeks to connect people across the continent through tour guides within Africa, school excursions, group tours and corporate retreats.

As a Young Tour Operator she used her Instagram handle to Drive Domestic Tour Operations in Nigeria attracting a huge Youth Audience and Participation. She Pioneered the Youth Tourism Growth in Nigeria.
A tourism enthusiast, Travel writer and Tour Operator, she once featured on CNN Inside Africa and other Global Media platforms for her great work in using Social media to promote tourism. She is a pioneer in the Nigerian group tourism market having inspired and helped a lot of Tour operators to start their own group tour companies.

21. Obinna Ekezie:
He is the Founder of Wakanow, The Leading and Most Influential Online Travel Agency in Africa and one of Nigeria’s largest travel companies. Obinna founded Wakanow at the time that there were no available options to easily book travel online between the United States and Nigeria and other parts of the world.

Before joining the tourism and travel sector, Obinna played in the NBA for eight seasons and was selected as the 37th overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies.

22. Chief Omeire M.Kanu
Founder of the Oldest modern Hotel in Abuja Agura Hotel. Opened May 1986.

23. Chika Chiejina
Pioneer Hospitality Outfit in Abuja Opened in 1993.
He is the Owner of Savannah Suites.

24. Chief Samuel Alamutu, MON, FIH (UK), FNHCI
Creator of the World Famous CHAPMAN Cocktail

He was the foremost professional hotelier and became known as the ‘Doyen’ of the hospitality industry in Nigeria.
He served on the Board of the Nigerian Tourist Association which became Nigeria Tourist Board and now Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC and was Chairman from 1992 for 3 years.

25. Chief. Gabriel Igbinedion
Founder Okada Airlines and Okada Resorts now IgbinedionUniversity .

26. Otunba Feyi Winfunke Waterparks/Aquatic Hotel
Late Otunba Feyi Winfunke was the Founder of Waterparks and Aquatic Hotels. That is the First Waterparks in Lagos and Maybe Nigeria. The Waterparks group included a recreation and events center based at Toyin Street, in Ikeja, Lagos; as well as several resorts around the country.
Waterparks rose to fame in the nineties when it became to top venue for entertainment events in Lagos. The Aquatic Hotels, which shares the same premises with Waterparks, when it was introduced
He was an entertainment, hospitality and tourism enthusiast who was ill for some time and later passed on in the US.

27. Capt. Ayo Ajayi
HappyLand Happyworld
The Late Chairman/Managing Director Captain Ayo Ajayi (Rtd) in the early 1990s conceptualized the project Happy Land/Happy World Tourist City, Lekki Peninsular, Lagos. It was planned to be a joint venture/collaborative project between the United Nations Development Programme, the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Lagos state Government and Happy World/Happy Land Nigeria Limited. The objective of the project was to promote large scale domestic and international tourism development in Nigeria with multi-various multiplier effects on the economy.
In pursuance of the noble objectives of the scheme the Lagos state government allocated a parcel of land measuring 6,384,394 hectares for the project in Eti Osa Local Government Council and subsequently issued a C of O to Happy World/Happy Land Nigeria Limited. Dated 30th December 1991 the C of O was registered as number 28 on page 28 in volume 1992 at the land registry in Lagos.

The Ground Breaking was done by the Military President of Nigeria General Ibrahim Babangida.
In preparation for the takeoff of the project the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing put up adverts in newspaper requesting consultants interested in working on the project to submit financial and technical proposals. The Military Governor Raji Rasaki Approved the CofO for the Land.
While the Federal Government of Nigeria, the United Nations Development Programme, and the management of Happy Land Happy World Nigeria Limited were busy sorting out modalities for realizing the projects, the New Civilian Government of Lagos State Stopped the Project.

By a Lagos State Government Gazette number 16 volume 26 of 15th April 1993 the C of O issued to Happy Land Happy World Nigeria Limited was revoked! This completely threw the entire project into confusion.
Before the C of O was revoked, the management of Happy Land Happy World Nigeria Limited had entered into many contractual agreements with forty six companies having one thing or the other to do with the project. Following the revocation of the C of O the 46 companies, under the umbrella of Florry ‘P’ Sons & Associates, sued Happy Land Happy World Nigeria Limited to court in order to recover their money.

The company entered into an out of court settlement with the Lagos State Government. The Lagos State Government carved out a total of 250.003 hectares of land in Lekki and gave it to Happy Land Happy World Nigeria Limited – Lagos State Government Gazette number 43 volume 26 of 21st October 1993, the land was given to Happy Land Happy World Nigeria Limited to enable them to pay all outstanding debts to its creditors on matters relating to the project. The land was shared out to the 46 creditors in a judgment delivered by Justice Ligali Ayorinde on 5th November 1998.

Another parcel of thousands hectares is to be given to Happy Land Happy World Nigeria Limited – a condition yet to be honored by the Lagos State Government.
Capt Ajayi struggled for 15 years to Sort out this Matter but Never Did until he died.

28. Prince Adedapo Benjamin Adelegan
Born on April 20, 1962, is a Nigerian politician and entrepreneur who was the 14th president and chairman of the council of the Nigeria British Chamber of Commerce(NBCC). Mr. Adelegan’s foray into entrepreneurship started with his successful planning and execution of Lekki Sunsplash, Africa’s biggest musical event in 1988. The event has the likes of Raskimono, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Daniel Wilson, Majek Fashek, Alex Zitto, Kwam1 and more. This concert led to a radical re-engineering that changed the Nigerian musical scene. Conceptualized, packaged and promoted by DP Lekki Limited, the concert was created as a podium and vehicle for introducing and harnessing the abundant talents in the nation’s music industry. Lekki Sunsplash opened up the Lekki Peninsula Area of Lagos State for Tourism and Development.

It was the first major beach mass tourism event in Lagos.
Mr. Adelegan ran the first electronic billBoard business in Lagos with Benjamin Black and Company, a revolution that calibrated the OOH Media to prime position in the marketing, communication industry in Nigeria. In 1999,he conceived the made – in Nigeria exhibition in the UK in 1999 and 2000, as well as in South Africa in his 2005 and 2006 in partnership with the Nigeria Export Promotion Council. He is currently the Group Managing Director of Celtron Group, a PR/marketing group in its 25th year.

29. Ben Ikeakor
Founder Leisureland Lekki

30. Aiyegboyin Alabi
Pioneer DT NTDC was Transformed when Chief Aiyegboyin Alabi become the First Director General.
Notable Director Generals after him include Mrs. Omotayo Omotosho and the Very Popular Otunba Segun Runsewe Known for his Slogan “Tourism is Life”
Alhaji Tukur Mani created Federation of Tourism Association in Nigeria (FTAN) when he was the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce.

By Chigozie Chukwuemeka

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