Saturday, 29 October 2016

NIGERIA: Niger State Govt Plans To Transform Zungeru, Baro To Tourism Hot Spot

Niger State is home of Tourism. Zungeru town is where a Briton, Lord Luggard, as well as the first President of the country, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe settled, and married. It was the same town where the amalgamation of the country took place and the name Nigeria chosen. Besides, Lord Luggard, the first indigenous President of the country, Dr. Azikiwe, late Biafra leader, Odumegwu Ojukwu and some other prominent Nigerians were born there.

Also in Baro is the Lord Luggard Empire from where Luggard left for Zungeru and the relics of the radio station from where he was communicating with the Queen and other personalities is still on the Baro hill. But today, these tourist sites are in need of transformation to attract tourists now that the governments are thinking of diversifying the country’s economy.

In this interview with Wole Mosadomi, Niger State Commissioner of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Jonathan Vatsa, said the state has come up with plans to transform the tourist sites in Zungeru and Baro into international standard and also use the two sites especially as a unifying factor for people of the country.

ON plans to transform tourism in the stateThe state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, has given my Ministry a matching order because in the past sixteen years, the tourist sites had been totally neglected despite the fact that we have very rich tourist sites in the state and if they are well developed, they will definitely boost the state internally Generated Revenue (IGR), so we are seriously working on the Zungeru Amalgamation centre.

As you know, Zungeru is where Lord Luggard settled, discussed between the North and the South and where the name Nigerian came about was in Zungeru. It is just like a forgotten capital. There are many sites there including where the white officers and Black officers had as their Mess. The Lord Lugard swimming pool which is the first swimming pool in Nigeria is in Zungeru, The centre where the Amalgamation took place, the West African Frontier Force and even the cemetery where the white dead were laid is still in Zungeru.

So Zungeru is a place that when developed will boost the state Internally Generated Revenue, (IGR.) On how to achieve the task The government has taken bold steps to go into partnership with private individuals and companies to boost the sector because tourism is capital intensive and so the state wants to explore the private sectors that will partner with the state and we will soon advertise that of the Zungeru for interested partners to come in.

We have sent an official to the National museum in Lagos to see if they could give us the real pictures the way they were. Because of the neglect of the buildings for so many years, most of those buildings are falling, but we want to get them back the way they were and our official has gone to the National Museum to get us the pictures and we are following the process laid down to get the pictures, get the design and build them back the way they were. Similarly, we want to showcase the thirty six states of the Federation there because we are planning that each of the state across the country should come and build their cultural design to showcase the centre of Amalgamation to further cement the unity in the country.

We also want to have a big conference hall and develop Lord Luggard international Library as steps have been taken to go into partnership with the British Embassy in Abuja so that all Researchers will have the opportunity of going to the library to carry on with their researches from all parts of the world in Zungeru. “I must tell you that if you go to Zungeru today, you will really feel very sad with the total neglect by the previous administrations but with the interest the present state administration has shown to Tourism, by the time we start, the town will come back to limelight.

Zungeru should not be forgotten. One thing interesting about Zungeru is that Lord Luggard got married there so it is a Centre that can be used to bring unity, bring in newly wedded couples to go to the proposed Centre and have their wedding Reception there and it will serve as keeping the spirit of love alive and make the relationship glow between old and new couples. On immortalizing Azikiwe, Ojukwu and others in Zungeru You know the first indigenous prime minister of the country, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, late Biafran leader, Odumegwu Ojukwu among others were also born in Zungeru.

If we have to unify Nigeria as one, we must surely remember Zik, Ojukwu and other military fallen heroes in the cemetery, because their names are there and we will not only leave their names on the tomb but we will find each of these chalets we want states to come and build and name after them because that is the only way you will remember that these people fought for the oneness and unity of this country.

On reviving Zungeru, the forgotten capital of the country Reviving the relics in Zungeru and renaming them after prominent people late and alive may not be enough if the town its self is not redesigned and rapidly developed since it is the gate way to these monuments. The town which served as the first seat of Nigeria is presently a shadow of itself with no water, no single access road and instead of developing, the town is even deteriorating with speed with settlers relocating to other cities. One of the primary things that made Zungeru very popular was because it was the first capital of the country.

Equally the rail line and the present backwardness of the town, prompted the state government to make a case to the federal government on the need to also focus its attention on the road network. Railway project The Abuja-Kaduna railway project was given adequate attention and commissioned recently, attention should also be given to Niger state by linking Minna from Abuja and from Minna to Zungeru and because Niger state is a gateway to the North and the South and by the time the Railway becomes very functional, the activities in Zungeru will be revived.

On the plans for Baro tourist site The same problem Zungeru is having is also what the Baro Port is having. Baro and Zungeru have some similarities and one of the most visible similarities is total neglect because Baro is a Railway Terminus but if you remember, Late Musa Yar’adua awarded the contract for the dredging of River Niger and building of Baro port and good enough, the Port is almost completed and I know President Muhammadu Buhari has a plan of visiting Baro to see things for himself and also see how his administration can revive the Rail line.

If the rail is revived, goods and services, agricultural produce and many things will take place there and it is hinterland transportation and goods will come in from all parts of the country. If you visit Baro today all the land surrounding River Niger has been bought by land speculators for future development. So, we are going to partner with the federal government to get rail from Minna to Abuja and from Baro to Abuja and by the time this is done, the state will be open up and create business activities along that route and the people will now be busy doing one business or the other.

Besides this, there is a fantastic tourist site in Baro which is Called Lord Luggard Empire hill. It was from Baro that Luggard Left for Zungeru so the first Radio where he communicated with the Queen is still in Baro; his Barracks are still in Baro and the cemetery of the West African frontier forces, where some of them died are equally on top of that hill. So if you visit Baro and you have not climbed that Hill, then your journey to Baro is incomplete.