Nigeria has over 7000 tourist centres and with the concerted efforts of the government, tourism is becoming an essential part of the country’s economy. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in 2014 also envisaged a growth of six per cent per annum for a period of 10 years for the Nigerian tourism industry. Tourism remains one of the fastest growing industries in the world and although Nigeria is reaping some of the benefits of this trend, the sector still remains a minor player in the national economy.
Managing Director/CEO of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, NEPZA, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, recently said: “Over the years, tourism has contributed 1.5 billion dollars to the Nigerian economy, which was scarcely 0.3 per cent of the total GDP.
In 2020 this value dropped, largely due to COVID-19 Pandemic. Tourism presents economic, social and technological opportunities for Nigeria. Economically, it serves as a channel for foreign reserves and investment in the economy, which by extension, leads to GDP growth and economic diversification. Socially, tourism serves to promote tolerance.”
In Kebbi State, the Argungu Fishing Festival has become a way of attracting tourists to the state and Nigeria in general. The festival preserves tradition and promotes conservation. The annual festival takes place in February and marks the end of farming season and start of the fishing season. The festival is a four-day cultural event. It begins with an agricultural show, water sport displays, traditional Kebbawa entertainments and ends with the spectacular fishing competition in the Mata Fadan River.
Similarly, the Argungu Polo Tournament and Culture Fete is creating another niche in the efforts of the state and the federal government to boost tourism and diversify nation’s the economy. This year’s event will be held from Sept. 8 to Sept. 10 at the sprawling Nura Sani Kangiwa (NSK) Polo Ranch and Resort in Argungu. Over the years, it has lived up to its billing as one of the most spectacular and massively visited African Polo and cultural tourism festivals in Nigeria.Alhaji Nura Kangiwa, Director General, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), disclosed that Nigeria’s dominance of West Africa’s sports and cultural tourism industry, will be further showcased at the annual event.
He said international dignitaries would herald the event, adding that since its inception in 2016, leading Polo teams from popular Nigerian Polo clubs had regularly featured in the prestigious Tournament.
The tournament is powered by Argungu Emirate Council, the Government of Kebbi State and Fan Milk, among other corporate organisations that have historically supported the event.
“Over the years, the tournament organisers have consistently rallied stakeholders in the Polo and Tourism communities and Corporate Nigeria, to partner in making the event more beneficial to the rural host communities.
“NSK Ranch & Resort started hosting the Polo Tournament in Keffi, Nasarawa State and now holds the event in Argungu, Kebbi State,” he said.
Kangiwa stressed that the cultural entertainment groups from neighbouring West African countries had been enchanting players, residents, visitors and tourists with awe-inspiring traditional performances.
According to him, the groups come from Niger Republic, Benin Republic and the host destination, the ancient kingdom of Argungu, now referred to as Argungu Emirate.The NIHOTOUR DG said the organising Committee of the event had announced that participating Polo clubs in the tournament would be playing to win any of the prestigious Cups such as Governor’s Cup and Sultan’s Cup.
Others include Emir of Argungu’s Cup, Emir of Kano’s Cup, King Appolos Chu’s Cup, Lai Mohammed’s Cup, Shehu Kangiwa’s Cup and Abubakar Dangiwa Umar’s Cup, among other laurels.
“The committee indicated that 6 polo teams will take part in the tournament, which is the NSK Farms Team, H. Hago Team, Ayatun Team, JRB Solar Team, NIHOTOUR Team and Osolo Team,” he said.
He stated that not less than 24 polo players, some of whom are the best in Nigeria, and over 80 Polo horses would be involved in the tournament for three days.
Kangiwa, who holds the traditional title of Turakin Kebbi, and also Patron of Argungu Polo Tournament and Cultural Fete, promised that the activities lined-up for this year’s tourney would surpass previous editions.
“This year there will be more emissaries, international dignitaries and foreign governments’ officials in attendance at the event.
“The cultural entertainment groups from West African countries have confirmed their participation and are currently making arrangements accordingly.
“Some of the traditional displays at the event will be culinary arts, Traditional wrestling, Camel racing, Horse racing, mini-Durbar, folk dancing, Bull fighting, and many other uncommon traditional spectacles,” he added.
He disclosed that the event is one of the most veritable examples of successful Nigerian tourist product management by the private sector, in partnership with host communities.
Kangiwa extolled the pioneering roles and fatherly support provided by the Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samaila Mera, who is the Grand Patron of the Polo Tournament.The Argungu Polo Tournament and Cultural Fete served the domestic and inbound Nigeria markets; by offering the majesty of the Polo game, traditional sports and cultural activities in a historic African setting.
The objective is to sustainably improve the economic multiplier-effects of the event to Kebbi State residents and tourist host communities.
With the right policies and measures taken by the Federal Government to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic as well as tame insecurity, the potentials of the Argungu Polo Tournament and Culture Fete should be maximised to showcase the tourism greatness of the country, encourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and launch Nigeria further into the world tourism master plan.
The experience, commitment, dedication and doggedness of Nura Sani Kangiwa, the DG of NIHOTOUR, is also a feat to be celebrated and fully exploited for creating a continuous development in the industry for the success of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s quest to move the economy from oil based only.