New Telegraph

February 24, 2024

Nigerian Tourism Development Authority DG, Coker, Mocks Nigeria’s Participation At WTM London

Nigeria’s formal representation at the just concluded World Travel Market (WTM) London, which held between November 6 and 8, after almost a decade absence from all international platforms, has been applauded, with the Minister of Tourism, Lola Ade-John, who made this possible, though unable to attend personally, was commended for her commitment to ensuring that Nigeria returns back to the international community for the good of the country and its tourism.

In the absence of the Tourism Minister, who has been out of the public space shortly after her inauguration, the Director General of Nigerian Tourism Develop- ment Authority (NTDA), Folarin Coker, whose responsibility it is to market and promote Nigerian tourism, both nationally and internationally, was expected to step forth and mobilise Nigerians for the exhibition, based on the directive of the minister.

However, this was not to be and not many operators in the sector expected Coker to perform his statutory duty, which in the last six years he has failed to perform just like his predecessor, Mrs Sally Mbanefo, who unceremoniously pulled out Nigeria from the international scene.

A policy that has been faithfully continued by Coker, since taking office as the number one promoter and marketer of Nigerian tourism in the absence of a tourism minister, which the country never had till President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, created the Ministry of Tourism and appointed Ade-John as minister.

Investigation revealed that when the minister mooted the idea of returning Nigeria to the international scene, starting with WTM London, which is the leading global travel and tourism trade exhibition and conference event, Coker was said to have opposed the move, but was overruled by the minister, who insisted that NTDA should work with the ministry in collaboration with the private sector to ensure that Nigeria officially make a return to WTM London.

With the minister suddenly taken ill midway into the preparations, Coker washed his hands off the plan and travelled out of the country for weeks. The ministry officials too, including the permanent secretary and the director of international tourism, who should actually be at the centre of preparations for the exhibition, was also said to be elusive on the matter, claiming that her hands were tied as the minister was not available to issue further directives on the matter.

However, Ms Ola Wright, who is the Chief Executive Officer and President of the West Africa Tourism Organisation (WATO), who the minister had earlier contacted to assist the team in preparing for the exhibition, despite all the difficulties, was able to pull of the show, ensuring that Nigeria not only make a return but made a huge statement and impact at the event.

While the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) also mobilised her members to participate at the event. What was, however, shocking to many Nigerians, was the fact that Coker, who had kicked against Nigeria’s participation, later attended the exhibition and was said to have participated at the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) organised Tourism Ministers conference and other meetings, under the guise of representing Nigeria’s Minister of Tourism.

As that was not enough, Coker also visited the exhibition hall where he sauntered around Nigeria and WATO’s stands without stepping into any of the stands but was seen on the sideline taking pictures and holding talks with some Nigerians. He was said to mocked and reprimand them for coming to the event, saying that it was a waste of Nigeria and individual’s money, time and resources, attending the exhibition, which is of no benefit to neither the country nor the operators.

Many of the operators were said to have been disappointed with his comments and even him showing up at the event after denigrating it and refusing to take part in its preparation. Back home where his photos with some of members of Nigeria’s delegation, posted on his Instagram page by him, have generated a lot of discussions, with many calling on the Minister and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to instantly sack him from office as his action is a betrayal of Nigeria, noting that he is a complete failure, as his over six years on the saddle as NTDA DG has yielded no good.

This is hoping that the minister on her return to office will carry out thorough investigation of Coker’s action and activities as NTDA DG. This many people said is to check his excesses before he does further harm to her office and the nation. The private sector is believed to have since given up on him knowing that he is only good at smooth talks but lack the capacity to function in the office assigned to him.

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