By Archibong Jeremiah, House Of Assembly Correspondent
The Chairman, Cross River House of Assembly Committee on Culture, Tourism and Event Management, Hon. Hillary Bissiong, has revealed that the House will soon introduce a bill that will create a management bureau for the Calabar International Convention Center, CICC.
Hon. Bissong said this in a recent interview with CrossRiverWatch in his office in Calabar.
According to the young legislator, “We assist the government through making legislations where and when necessary. For example, you have the Calabar International Convention Center, CICC which you can’t appropriate money to because it is not an agency of government, so what we are to do is provide a suitable legislative framework for it to operate like creating a Bureau for the Convention Centers, BCC which very soon will be introduced, when created, funds can now be appropriated to it”.
He added that: “All over the world, convention centers host world class events which the construction alone will tell you. When multinational companies want to hold their general meetings they don’t just wake up and go for conventions, you have to bid to attract them to come, you have to meet them. For example, you have General Electric, GE general meeting coming in 2016 one has to convince them to come. Take a look at Kenya convention center for example, they earn revenue from it and ours won’t be an exception.
“You need to have a bureau to bid on behalf of the State, so you see it is a standardized global practice that you need a bureau to go and bid for these conventions as their primary focus is to market the convention centers. All over the world, where there is a convention center, there is always a bureau managing it”, he maintained.
Hon. Bissong who is the Chairman, House Committee on Culture, Tourism and Event Management, defended his assertion holding that, “Laws of the Assembly are influenced by the socio-political policies of the administration. The focus of government defines the kind of legislations we make. All over the world, the Executive provides the policy; provide the economic direction in consultation with other arms with the Legislature supporting in areas deemed fit with legislative frameworks and oversight over the implementation process and life time existence”.
Extolling the Donald Duke led administration he said: “Between 1999 and 2003, the then governor, Mr. Donald Duke created what is called a plantation economy by building massive infrastructure that supports tourism where people were lured to; we are now in a new order under Professor Benedict Ayade, the old order which lasted 16 years was political where government pays for everything, this is a new era with the governor saying all MDA’s should be solution architect; they have to generate revenue on their own and solution to many other problems.
“When you create money on your own, you create employment opportunities and reduce the burden on the government, by this you will see that the government spending will go down which is in line with the trend of national meltdown because the revenue from the central is not forthcoming as before. To do this, he has decided to expand the infrastructural and economical scope of the State to drive in traffic and self sustainability”.
Also, while reacting to poor adherence to prescribed regulatory practices by hoteliers within the State, he said: “The tourism bureau has a department for quality assurance that standardizes the practices of hoteliers, their problem however is implementation and they are trying to develop a mechanism to combat that.
“They also have a unit where hospitality operators do what they call operational licensing but you know enforcement is not easy and again when tourism was finding its feet in the state, government was paying for everything, when it got to the stage that you want people to take ownership of it, it is difficult. It is not easy and there are too many remunerations attached but our people have to understand that their leisure is no longer paid for by the government, they need to pay for their leisure.
“Secondly, because we aim to be world class, our hotel activities have to be standardized, there is hoteliers association in the State which we will also hold consultative meetings with as a committee because we need to design a template, a work schedule. We are going to see how to persuade them to upgrade. However, all hotel facilities are not of the same grade but we will see how they can all be upgraded to suite the various grades”.
Decrying the poor level of participation in several sporting activities in the State, the former Personal Assistant to erstwhile governor of the State, Senator Liyel Imoke on Students Affair who is also a member of the House Committee on Sports, Youth Development and Labor Matters was hopeful that, “The comprehensive sports program of the state with intensified efforts and targeted areas if continued, we will go back to the days of Mercy Nku but now schools don’t even have conducive and enough athletics field for practice”.
Continuing, he said: “The beauty of Cross River State is in its multi lingual culture. The department of Culture and Heritage are charged with the responsibility of protecting and ensuring the preservation of our languages and cultures. The diverse languages are part of our cultural heritage; this also we will look critically at as a committee to see how we can institutionalize our major languages”.
He concluded by charging Cross Riverians to “take opportunities created by government and create wealth for themselves. We should participate in the processes of governance. Cross Riverians need to benefit and they can only do that by participating for example, many tourism operators are not Cross Riverians so it is a situation where we create the enabling environment and people come in and take advantage because we don’t have requisite capacities.
“There is Micro Enterprise Development Agency, MEDA apply to them and get loans, get involved, there is CBN Tourism Credit Facility, find out how you can develop yourselves by getting involved, we are not taking opportunities, that is what I will charge this generation to do”.
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