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YUSUF MAITAMA TUGGAR: We have been distracted, too busy with life to focus on tourism



YUSUF MAITAMA TUGGAR: We have been distracted, too busy with life to focus on tourism

Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Tuggar is the head of Nigeria mission in Germany. He recently facilitated the visit of three Germans to Nigeria, touring such places like Abuja and Lagos. ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA encountered the team on the Lagos visit during a boat cruise where he spoke with the ambassador on the gains of such a visit


What is the lesson from this trip facilitated by you?

Well, beyond the usual cliché, ‘seeing is believing,’ I will say that the take home is the memories, the experience, which is not something that you can explain verbally.

It is not something that you can read and experience, no, you just have to live it and that is what our guests are going through. For instance, on the boat, one of them said to me, just sitting on that boat, the breeze, the whole scenery was something that he has never experienced before and this is somebody that is widely travelled and has lived in different continents.

Nigeria is unique in that regard. We have been distracted, even we, Nigerians, have been distracted from enjoying and projecting this side of the country. We have been too busy with life, without realising that tourism itself is an industry that has enormous potential that can really form the bedrock if not a bedrock of our economy.

This is just the beginning because we need to attract the right sort of people, the right sort of influencers that will come and experience Nigeria. They have been in Abuja and now they are in Lagos then they can take the message out.


But why hasn’t the embassy been engaged in this kind of undertaking over the years?

We have been doing this maybe you are probably not aware of it. We have to take advantage of circumstances as they present themselves and then use that to bring in people to experience Nigeria.

As we speak now there is another delegation that came but focusing on agriculture. Information technology driven agriculture and we put them in touch with the right people. While they are here they will also experience a bit of Nigeria.

The hospitality aspect of the country is boosted by this kind of visits because they have to sleep in hotels, they have to eat Nigerian foods, they listen to Nigerian music and if they are here on weekend they have to go out.

So, this is what we have been doing. There was another German team that was with me and the head of our economic and commercial section in Abuja. They are exporting ginger out of Kaduna.

They were there just a few days ago and we break our fast together (Ramadan period). They asked questions, people always think that the whole of the north of the country is Muslim and the whole of the south of the country is Christian.

But then they begin to realise that on the table was a Christian from the north breaking fast with us and then you a Muslim from the north. Then they start asking questions. So, it inspired their curiousity. That diversity.

As we were coming to Ilashe, there was a mosque on the Atlantic Ocean and so too when you go to Nigeria border with Niger Republic you will see churches. All of that diversity is the strength and potential that need to be harnessed.

And then it completely changes the perception.


With this kind of exchanges, do you think that the narrative about Nigeria will be better told?

The story has always been there and always been told but sometimes you don’t have listeners. If you look at Nigeria’s history, we have history. People have been telling this story and letting people know that Africans’ history and story does not start and end with the perspective of outsiders.

No, look closer and listen to us and if you listen to us then you will understand that we have a sense of history and the solution even, if you will, to our problem. We just need that partnership to be able to achieve our potential and also solve our problems ourselves.

We are not saying that we don’t have challenges, we are a developing country. But we have home grown solutions to our problems and the way to engage African is not to come with the approach to say I know how to solve your problem or coming with an altruistic approach to help.

Nigeria is not typical of Africa, of what people, especially in Europe perceive African to be. But we are saying we are the giant of Africa, let us meet half way and address our problems and by addressing our problems helping you address your problems and helping you to benefit.

It is a symbiotic relationship.


For how long have you been be at the mission?

I have been there for over one year.


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Travel and Tourism

Calabar Festival 2019: Nigerian Culture to take centre stage



Calabar Festival 2019: Nigerian Culture to take centre stage

As this year’s edition of Calabar Festival opened to the public, the showcase of Nigerian culture will take centre stage as the Cross River State government, host of the yearly event, looks to attract inbound tourists to Destination Cross River and Nigeria in general through the festival.


The festival, which is a 30 day celebration commenced early this week and is expected to climax on December 28 with the celebration of Carnival Calabar. Not less than 20 states from across the country are expected to showcase their cultural wealth at the festival while about 35 countries from across the world would participant as well at the event. This was disclosed recently by the Chairman of the Calabar Carnival Commission, Gabe Onah while speaking on this year’s festival.


He further revealed that in line with the focus this year that the display of Nigeria’s cultural tourism offerings will take centre stage with the intent of using the platform to promote inbound tourists. “We will have over 20 states within the country showcasing their culture in various ways in a street procession by December 26,’’ he said, adding that: “More of Nigeria’s cultural and tourism content will be showcased to these international delegates at the carnival, because we want to encourage in-bound tourism.


To this, he said more culture based activities will be unfolded at designated centres across the city for the benefits of the visitors. “In order to create more excitement during the carnival, the governor has established 10-performance centres to engage a good number of the audience, this has always been his wish,” he said. The theme for the carnival this year, according to him is, Humanity as he explained that the theme was meant to reflect on, and address the problem of man’s inhumanity to his man.


“Man has become so mean that the animals are doing better than us. There is the need for us to be one another’s brothers’ keeper, and positively change our society for the benefit of all. “Man has become insecure; man has become unfair to fellow man that for a pot of porridge, we can sell our own brothers. This cruel behaviour must not be encouraged. This is the most challenging theme we will experience since the inception of the carnival as it touches everyone,” he said.


He urged Nigerians and foreign visitors to take advantage of the unique offerings that will be on offer at the Cultural Village, particularly during the Christmas period to celebrate the Yuletide. He said that the Christmas Village was set up to enable the youths set up stands stocked with Cross River products that would be of interest to tourists.


On the Carnival Calabar, Onah said that: “The carnival is actually drama on the move, all the elements of theatre are found in it. On December 26th, we will hold the cultural carnival while December 27 is the bikers’ parade. December 28 is the main carnival.’’


Besides, he also disclosed that the Diaspora will this year have a special place in the festival, with a day dedicated to it. “On December 30, the Black African music festival will hold to introduce the Blacks who have become successful in the Diaspora in arts and music.


“The carnival is also being used to woo Nigerians in the Diaspora back to their roots,” he said. Onah also assured tourists to the state of the safety of lives and property during the festival, adding that adequate security system was already on ground.


He said that crime rate in the state in the month of December is at its lowest as a result of the festival, which engages the interest of everyone. “It is a platform for the youths to engage themselves. So, they are often too busy to engage in frivolous ventures. “In providing security, we work closely with the Navy, Army, Police and other para-military bodies, even the state security services,” he said.

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Travel and Tourism

INAC hosts Cultural Diplomacy Day For Peace



INAC hosts Cultural Diplomacy Day For Peace

The celebration of this year’s edition of the International Arts and Craft (INAC 2019) Exhibition held in Abuja last month may have come and gone, but the echoes of it will continue to linger in the memory of many of the participants at the five days long event. The yearly art and craft festival hosted by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) yearly to celebrate the beauty of the arts and craft industry, this year assumed a different dimensions in many respects.


And as promised by the Director General of NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, it lived up to its billing as it was indeed an exciting, colourful and magnificent event. One of the major highlights of this 12th edition of the International Arts and Craft Expo, was the platform it created for foreign countries, over 20 of them, to showcase their cultural wealth, both tangible and intangible as well as performance art; thus elevating cultural diplomacy to a greater level as never witnessed before.


Special occasion was created in the course of the event for each country to be celebrated and this climaxed with the Cultural Diplomacy Peace Day, which was held during the closing night of the expo, with all the ambassadors in attendance and presented with certificates. The envoys admitted they were highly impressed with the expo this year, even as they affirmed the role of cultural diplomacy in the promotion of global peace and unity.


Runsewe was highly commended by many of them, who lauded his visionary and creative acumen, in putting together the expo, which has become a box office event in Abuja.


The envoys also agreed that November 24th as chosen by the Runsewe to celebrate global cultural diplomacy day for peace was a masterstroke as far as culture and global unity is concerned. Many of the envoys captured the essence of the celebration in their speeches on the night.


One of the speakers was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, Senator Rochas Okorocha, who is the immediate past governor of Imo State. According to the senator, no nation can grow beyond it culture and traditions.


He lauded Runsewe for a hugely successful outing, disclosing that: “When people say Nigeria is the giant of Africa, they are referring to our culture, very soon the world shall hear from us because the Senate is giving serious thoughts to culture.”


Turning his gaze on the NCAC DG, he said: “Otunba; you are doing well and the Senate will support you.” Runsewe used the occasion to expressed gratitude to all the envoys and countries that attended the event as well as the delegates from across the country and other participants and also the residents and visitors who daily turned the venue of the event to a Mecca of some sorts. The theme for the expo was: Networking Nigerian Arts To The World.


In the awards for the expo, Ogun State was named as the best exhibitor overall while other states and countries were also celebrated in different award categories.

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Travel and Tourism

Owerri: Nigeria’s undiscovered gem



Owerri: Nigeria’s undiscovered gem

When you mention Nigeria, most tourists think of big cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. But there is another destination with a huge heart and plenty to do and see; and best of all, it’s still waiting to be discovered.


Situated in Eastern Nigeria, Owerri, which is the capital of Imo State and home to the Igbo people, is known as the heartland of the Eastern Nigeria. With a rich and enduring history, it is a destination waiting to be discovered and explored as it is home to a number of unique and enchanting attractions, both natural and manmade that you may never know existed until to venture into the bowels of the city.



The city has of recently undergone some level of transformation in terms of its facilities and services when it comes to travel. For instance, it is well known for its plethora of hotels, bars, restaurants and nightclubs, which has earned it a reputation as Nigeria’s entertainment centre.


Besides, it also fast assuming the status of a MICE city given the numbers of conferences and events facilities that are located in the city. But it still eschews a touristy feel, which is part of the reason why so many visitors find Owerri appealing.


Plus you’re spoiled for choice in terms of hotels and local eateries, all of which won’t blow your budget. With entrylevel hotel stays coming in at less than N10, 000 per night, restaurant fare at less than N500 a plate and cheap transport options (think motorcycle and Tuk Tuk taxis), your holiday will end up costing you very little.


Where to stay Hotels still make the best choice for places to stay in Owerri. They range from basic and budget, to ultra-luxurious. One of the most stylish hotels on offer is BON Hotel Tripod Owerri, which boasts 66 rooms, two of which are presidential suites. It is conveniently situated close to the Imo State Trade Investment Centre and the Imo State House of Assembly, making it ideal for business and leisure travellers. The city should rate as a favourite destination for Nigerians and foreign tourists looking for a relaxed weekend getaway, disclosed the Chief Executive Officer of BON Hotels, Guy Stehlik.


“We mostly have locals visiting the hotel, with some overseas travellers,” he revealed.

“They mainly come for food and beverage on the roof bar, which is the only one of its kind in the city.”


What to do Owerri never sleeps, so there’s plenty to do, whether you’re on holiday with your family or wanting to find the city’s best restaurants or nightspots. Owerri Zoo, also known as Nekede Zoo, is worth a visit, where animals as diverse as lions, gorillas, pythons, monkeys, crocodiles and many different bird species are on display.


If culture’s your thing, be sure to pop by the Mbari Cultural and Art Centre, an open-air museum, where you can view several monumental art works; celebrating Igbo culture. Lovers of architecture should visit the Assumpta Cathedral, one of the largest Catholic cathedrals in Nigeria.


There is also Oguta Lake Motel and Golf Resort, the perfect setting for a boat cruise or a relaxed game of golf. Families will want to visit Owerri Amusement Park, which has something for the whole family.



Where to eat and party You can’t leave the city without trying its tastiest dish – ofe owerri, so popular that it has had songs written and sang about it. Also known as the ‘king of soup,’ it’s so famous that beautiful Igbo women are compared to it.


Want to know what’s in it? It can contain anything from snails, ponmo (cow skin), goat meat, okporoko (dried hake fish), pumpkin leaves and oporo (smoked prawns), with plenty of spices added for flavour. The best restaurants in town are Sunic Foods, and Jevinik Restaurant, , where the portions are large, but be aware that you pay extra for rice or yam with your stew, and Hungry Man, which has a cosmopolitan ambiance.


These are all located in the city centre. Night life In terms of night life, the best places to go are NV Lounge and Night Club, Pizzano Night Club and Cubano Lounge, where the party goes on well on into the night.




“For those who prefer to stay in their hotels, there’s lots on offer, too,” said Stehlik. “Many hotels have their own restaurants and bars, where locals and tourists can mingle and you don’t have to think about organising transport late at night. At the BON Hotel Tripod Owerri, for example, the rooftop bar is extremely popular and is the ideal spot for stand-up comedy, karaoke nights and live performances.”

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Travel and Tourism

Why we introduced Pay-Small- Small, by Wakanow CEO



Why we introduced Pay-Small- Small, by Wakanow CEO

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Limited, Mr. Adebayo Adedeji, has disclosed that his company introduced its Pay-Small-Small (PSS) product as part of efforts to help Africans find solutions to travel related economic and financial challenges. According to Adedeji, “in most parts of Nigeria and Africa, travelling is still considered a luxury because of the economic position of the general populace.


The fact that over 50% of the Africa population live below the global poverty line and the abysmal state of the formal credit system in most developing countries, has made travel financing quite challenging. Wakanow is committed to finding lasting solutions to these travel related challenges.


“Our ground-breaking travel financing product called Pay-Small-Small (PSS) is a flexible instalment payment plan that gives the traveller as much as 150% savings on their travel expenses,” he added.


Furthermore, the head of Marketing, Mrs. Olajumoke Bolu-Kujero, disclosed that: “PSS is designed to allow travellers lock down choice travel deals by making only a minimum of 25% down payment of the travel cost and paying the balance in convenient instalments for up to three months before t h e travel date.” She further revealed that PSS is for all categories of income earners.


“It is a travel planning tool as well for high income earners who want to take advantage of existing travel opportunities without tying down cash needed for other business or personal commitments. Pay-Small-Small affords everyone the means to conveniently plan and pay for their travel no matter their earning capacity.”

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Travel and Tourism

4th UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture



The 4th UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture responds to the calls for action from the past three Declarations on Culture and Tourism, namely: the 2015 Siem Reap Declaration, which recommends closer and targeted partnerships between stakeholders of culture and tourism; the 2017 Muscat Declaration, which encourages the contribution of tourism and culture in national SDG strategies, and the 2018 Istanbul Declaration, which promotes tourism development as a tool for safeguarding culture, contributing to sustainable cities and the use of technology to facilitate access for all.


This Conference will continue the discussion on how the tourism and culture sectors can work more collaboratively together and increase public-private partnerships to ensure the protection of our shared cultural heritage.


The theme of the 2019 World Conference, ‘Investing in future generations’ will concentrate on cultural transmission, community and capacity building.



This conference will demonstrate the importance of enabling local stakeholders to have a voice in how tourism is managed both now and in the future. Panelists will share their perspectives on the priority investments that need to be made today to ensure tourism is developed in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

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Travel and Tourism

TRAVEL BEATS: Finchglow Travels named Best Travel agency



Finchglow Travels has been voted as the best travel agency in Nigeria at the Balearica Awards held by the organsiers of the Nigeria Travel Week (NTW).


The travel agency with headquarters in Lagos and branches across some of the major cities in the country, is one of the largest travel management companies in Nigeria, with international affiliate and accredited by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).


The Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the travel agency, Mr. Bankole Bernard, expressed delight over the honour, describing it is a testament of the commitment of the agency commitment to deepening development in the travel trade and customer orientation based. He was represented at the award ceremony event, which held recently in Lagos by the Public Relations Officer of the company, Olamide Oni.


“We are glad to have been named the Best Travel Agency in Nigeria, which was determined by the votes of the citizens. I would like to specifically thank first and foremost, our customers from all over this prestigious nation for the strong vote of confidence. Thanks to the entire staff of Finchglow Travels who always make extraordinary efforts to satisfy our customers.



We have grown to establish our branches in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt delivering efficient services to our customers and trade partners,” he said. “As a customer-centric organisation, we always ensure that we meet and exceed our customers’ expectations through our unrivaled services and dedication.


I would like to use this medium to reassure our customers of our commitment to providing the very best of service. We continue to support smart initiatives like the Nigerian Travel Week and we look forward to seeing it grow bigger in the coming years,” added Bernard, who is also the president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA). Finchglow Travels is a subsidiary of Finchglow Group, and it has stood the test of time and it continues to expand in line with its set vision. Having been established in 2006, the agency has built a solid reputation and has continued to soar even in the digital age by adopting excellence as its watchword

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Travel and Tourism

Time out at Southern Sun Ikoyi



The coverage of the 8th edition of the Southern Sun Ikoyi Annual Golf Tournament recently at Lakowe Lakes and Golf Resorts in Lagos afforded one the opportunity of spending two nights at the hotel as one of the winners of the raffle draw that was held as part of the celebration.


One has over the years experienced the offerings of different top rated hotels both within and outside the country, but the two nights at the hotel was something different and magical. Right from the entrance you feel the warmth and welcome ambience of the hotel.


The doorman and receptionists bid you welcome with a courtly smile as the check in formalities are concluded within few minutes and led to the room by the butler who takes you through the various amenities of the room.


What easily comes to the fore is the professionalism and culture of excellent service displayed and personal touch by them, which in the course of one’s stay was a common factor in all the service outlets of the hotel. There was a concerted effort by every of the personnel to ensure that one had a memorable experience.


The room setting was quite sophisticated and more like luxury personified, with the best of amenities at one’s call. It was a total new experience for one as no effort was spared by the hotel to make my stay comfortable and enriching.


The minibar in the room was heavily stocked and enticing but one has to restrain himself from the enticing offerings.


However, the culinary treats were top notch, rich with wide selection of offerings both local and continental. The breakfast for me, was a game changer, with varieties of delicacies on the menu basket. It is a treat I will love to have a go at again as I thoroughly enjoyed my two nights spent at the hotel.


Looking forward to the opportunity to explore the rich offerings of the hotel again.

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Travel and Tourism

Filmhouse Cinemas opens MX4D cinema in Landmark Village



Entertainment and leisure in the country has received a boost with the recent opening of a cinema multiplex at Landmark Village, Victoria Island,Lagos by Nigeria’s premiere entertainment company, Filmhouse Cinemas. A most unique attraction of this new cinema complex is that it features a MX4D theatre, which is the first in West Africa.


This development is coming to fruition over one year when in July 2018 the company announced the signing of an agreement with American cine-tech giants, MediaMation, creators of MX4D technology. It is a 319-seat multiplex theatre, with such features as four Real 2D screens, a bar, and The Cube, which is a luxurious screening room, with private dining and a children’s play area.


Following this development, guests now have the option of either purchasing their tickets from self-service kiosks at the entrance or being served in the foyer.



The cinema is the fourth location in Lagos and the eleventh in Nigeria. The Chief Executive Officer of Filmhouse Group, Mr. Kene Okwuosa, expressed delighted with this new move, as he said that: “We continue to innovate in an effort to provide more choices and enhanced viewing for our guests. Coca-Cola MX4D allows viewers to not just see the movie in 3D, but to feel as if they are part of the action, experiencing the weather, smells and motion in exciting sequences.”

As part of the experience, he explained that the theatre seats will move in sync with the movie action and special effects generators in the cinema, allowing one to ‘feel’ the movie’s motion, jolts, pokes, wind, water, and even scents and odors.


The in-seat features like neck-tickler, back poker, air blast, water blast, seat popper, rumbler, and leg-tickler, among others. Along with the theatre’s atmospheric interventions like snow, fog, rain, bubbles, strobe, and scent will leave the audience enthralled and spellbound with the flawlessly synchronised timing of each effect.


The new Landmark site is Filmhouse’s most luxurious site yet, The newly acquired Coco-Cola MX4D theatre was on November 11 test run with the screening of the “Terminator; Dark Fate.”


It opened to a selected audience, which included Sasha P, Toni Tones, Bisola Aiyeola, Frank Donga, Akah Nnani, and Peju Adewusi. Sasha P described the experience as electrifying: “It was an amazing experience, loved how it felt like being at the cinema and amusement park at the same time. Definitely my new favourite.”

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Travel and Tourism

2019 MIRROR PRIDE OF BRITAIN AWARDS WINNER: My foray into the world of sickle cell nursing –Anionwu



2019 MIRROR PRIDE OF BRITAIN AWARDS WINNER: My foray into the world of sickle  cell nursing –Anionwu

Dame Elizabeth Anionwu is an Emeritus Professor of Nursing at the University of West London who co-led a campaign to have a statue of the nurse, Mary Seacole, erected at St. Thomas’ Hospital in 2016. She was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards for her dedication to nursing and the care of people living with sickle cell.

The award highlighted the struggles Anionwu faced in her early life and the kindness of a nurse who treated her eczema and inspired her to follow in her footsteps. She has had a 50-year career as a nurse and in 1979 (alongside Dr Misha Brozovic) set up the UK’s first sickle cell and thalassaemia screening and counselling centre in Brent, North West London. In that same year she became one of the founding members of the Sickle Cell Society.

Born in 1947 to a 20-year-old Irish student and a Nigerian law student, Anionwu’s early life was dogged by racism and the stigma of illegitimacy. She was involved in setting up the Sickle Cell Society, which this year celebrated its 40th anniversary. Today, she is a Patron of the Sickle Cell Society, the Nigerian Nurses Charitable Association and the Sickle & Thalassaemia Association of Nurses, Midwives and Allied Professionals.

Below are excerpts of her remarks from The Wendy Williams Show.  Excerpt: 




When did you start your nursing career?

I came into nursing in the late 1960’s and as a black nurse I was very conscious that certain black health conditions were just not being addressed. I visited one mother at a time when her son was lying on the sofa, writhing in pain. She was crying her eyes out and she was asking me what she could do. I was really helpless and it really upset me because no child should suffer like that.

Did that inspire what you are doing today?

I was witnessing the impact of a genetic blood disorder; it primarily affected African and Caribbean communities. It was known as sickle cell disease and caused extreme pain, organ failure and even death. A boy was diagnosed with sickle cell at the age of three. I don’t think it’s a pain that you could ever imagine. I remembered his father was sitting next to him and he just looked at him and said: “Dad, do you think it would be better off if I had died or if I would die, because it would take this pain away.”

Were you aware of the disease before that time?

Despite sickle cell was affecting thousands of people in this country, we knew nothing about it, we were taught nothing about it. A lot of people were dying of this disease, and it was really outrageous. As far as clinical care of black people was concerned, we simply didn’t exist, it was nothing short of scandals. The NHS had to get to groups with these conditions, I was fuming, I was so mad, something had to change and quickly.

Where did you study about disease from?

I travelled to the U.S to study the disease, and in 1979, became the U.K’s first sickle cell nurse specialist. I immediately sought funding to set up a sickle cell centre in Brent. Thousands of people contacted the centre, people were coming from the North of England, from Wales, I couldn’t believe it. People were desperate, this went on.  I was on my own for six years, just me.

What happened afterwards?

Determined to spread awareness, I took to the road, launching a series of nationwide campaign. Having got a lot of information for the newly formed sickle cell society, one of our campaigns was to write to every single MP in the country.

Was it about activism?

This was about activism; I came into that situation as a clinician and a black woman at a critical time. I couldn’t be ignored.  We finally started to break through, people were contacting me from up and down the country to set up similar centres and as a result, patients were accessing services more easily and a voice, a national voice, at last! Patients were now fully supported in the NHS with lifesaving treatments. Our campaign also led to a national screening where every new born in the UK has to be screened for sickle cell disease.

What would you describe as your legacy?

Our legacy was love, love in action, not of some soft sentiment but it is a strategy for change.  It is such an extraordinary story and one would wonder in why we had a fierce anger on what was happening and we went out and did something. Our work continued to blood transfusion, blood donation to individuals and those were very helpful. DNA check is now a very common thing, so there is a combined campaign to recruit more donors from similar backgrounds but I have to say that one of the many reasons I’m pleased to be here is that it has given sickle cell a much higher profile and I’m really pleased about that. The NHS means a lot to me, I’ve grown up with it and it has helped me enormously.

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Travel and Tourism

THEOPHILUS NZEI: Nigerian hotel owners are hoodwinked by expatriate professionals



THEOPHILUS NZEI: Nigerian hotel owners  are hoodwinked by expatriate professionals

Theophilus Nzei, until recently the general manager of Treasure Suites and Conferences, Abuja, spoke with DEBORAH OCHENI of his sojourn and the state of hospitality business in Nigeria among others



With a vast experience in the hospitality sector, working his way through the bottom ranks of the ladder to the top echelon, Theophilus Nzei, is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the Nigerian hospitality business, where he has made a mark as an hotelier of note.

He started out 21 years ago with Starwood, having a stint at Hilton Hotel, Sheraton Lagos Hotel and Four Points By Sheraton. Marriott Hotel in Doha then back to Nigeria again where he had a stint with All Seasons Hotel, Owerri,  Planet One, Maryland, Lagos and Ibeto Hotel, Abuja.

‘‘I have been in hospitality industry for 21 years, I started my career in Starwood. I started with Sheraton Hotel Lagos and like every other junior staff I was a front desk personal, then I was working closely with the then general manager, who is an American.

‘‘He was later transferred to Marriott Hotel, Doha, Qatar, so he suggested that I work with him. I was in Marriott Hotel Doha for eight years. I did the six grade course in Leicester, United Kingdom for 11 months before returning to Doha”.

He further explained that: ‘‘Six grade course is a Starwood training programme where you learn about the industry in another clime, with people who don’t think or eat like you. That gave me the opportunity to see the industry from another clime and it was a different ball game altogether.’’

In 2007, he returned to the country and took up appointment as the first general manager of All Seasons Hotel, Owerri; general manager of Planet One, Maryland; manager of Ibeto Hotel, Abuja and now general manager of Treasures and Conferences, Abuja.

Why did you returned to Nigeria at the time you did given the fact that you were making name in Qatar?

It was not an option for me to come back to Nigeria, the truth is, I wouldn’t want to come back to Nigeria because the circumstances there is better than that of Nigeria. If I were privileged to work in the United Kingdom I wouldn’t have returned but stayed back.

I tried to stay back in the UK but the Marriott policy wouldn’t allow me so I returned to Doha, there I found it difficult to cope with their Arabic software, which is what is used for operations. I have some knowledge of Arabic, I understand and speak Arabic but I found it difficult to write with it, I tried to learn to write with it but it was so difficult for me and that in a way stunted my growth in the industry because most of my colleagues became general managers and that was why I returned to Nigeria.

What is your view of the increasing independent brands by Nigerians owners of hotels?

I want to look at Nigerian hospitality sector from a different perspective because most of Nigerian hotel owners are not looking for hotel managers but magicians and there is no magician in the industry. You can’t place something on nothing and expect it to stand, there is a base for everything.

They have this mentality that Nigerians are not good hotel managers but they are wrong because Nigerians are good hotel managers. The expatriates you are bringing from Europe to come and work for you are coming here for one reason, which is for him or her to come and make his or her money and return to his or her country.

A Nigerian manager is working to build his career, while he is making the money he is also building his career and developing others. The white man does not care about the growth of your company, you may think he care and that is why the moment there is small crisis, they are back to their country.

In most of the facilities I have worked, you will find out that white men come in there, stay for months and return back because the owners of the facilities didn’t give them the leeway to have their way. Most Nigerian hotel owners give the whites more leverage than they give to Nigerians and the whites do little and return to their country.

But is it right to say that your international exposure places you in a vantage position?

Yes, of course because the reason why some of them call me to come and work for them is because of the international experiences that I have garnered. It is a psychological thing, there are many Nigerian hoteliers who didn’t work in Doha but are professionals who are boxed with unreliable demands. The truth is, some Nigerian managers do way better than the whites but the whites are given more opportunities and tools to work with.

The standard white hospitality professionals won’t come to Nigeria for any reason because those who come around here are the little white professionals that I know as junior staff in Doha.

The manager of Four Points in Lagos is somebody I know in Four Point Abu Dhabi, he was an assistant front office manager that has not done the 6G course. Meanwhile, I did mine 10 years ago.

Nigerian hotel owners pay white men who don’t know anything about hospitality science huge sums of money to manage their hotels, and some of these managers are not up to half a waiter that I know.

Many of the foreign brands live longer than the local ones because they know the importance of service charge. The simple logic is, take care of your staff, and automatically, your guest will be fine. The industry suffers in Nigeria and Africa because they don’t understand that service comes first before any other thing.

How are you able then to cope with these obvious challenges?

It is very difficult for me to cope with the psychology of an African man, they want a magician and not a hotel expert. Hotel owner tends to tell you what to do instead of you telling them what should be done.

Would you say you are satisfied with your choice of career?

I am satisfied with my choice of career; I have realised that people with rare skills are the ones that make the money. While we were growing up everybody wanted to be a lawyer, medical doctors and the rest, but at the end, you find out that it is one of the very best that gets the job because the system is choked.

People who took unfamiliar courses made it more, 6G course in hospitality is an unfamiliar course just like the football of those days. I didn’t go into hospitality because I wanted to make money; growing up, I like meeting different kinds of people.

What is your philosophy and motivation in life?

Nigeria and her culture will be great if we downplay religion. Religion is one major things that is destroying the world. Kill religion the world will be good. Religion is one of the deadliest tools that destroys. I have found out that some countries that downplay religion are living great. I stay away from everything that has to do with religion but I believe in God.

What is the future of hospitality business in Nigeria?

It looks bleak.

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