Thursday, October 17, 2013

In Ghana: Igbo king is now member of native authority

In Ghana: Igbo king is now member of native authority

…Admitted to Ga Traditional Council


A historic milestone in Ghana-Nigeria relations was clocked on Wednesday, 9 October, 2013; with the induction of Eze ndi Igbo in Ghana, Eze Chukwudi Jude Ihenetu, into the Ga Traditional Council (GTC). Ga are the aborigines of Accra, capital city of Ghana; and, the Greater Accra Region; one of the 10 federating units of this much-loved neighbouring country.

Igbo 1, HRH Ibe Nwosu; flanked by Eze Okpotemba, Chief Dimgba (2nd left) as well as Eze and Lolo Ihenetu 2nd and 1st right.
Going by the Accra suburb once solely known as Lagos, renamed New Town; Oluwadare House on Kojo Thompson Road, built in 1924, as well as John Abokye House nearby; Enugu House on the Teshie-Nungua Road, all in Accra; and, Kano House in Cape Coast; some Nigerian settlers evidently made home in Ghana close to 100 years ago or even earlier.

Despite being part of various Ghanaian societies for centuries, it is doubtful that a Nigerian traditional ruler ever became a member of any native council in that country. However, that proverbial rubicon was finally crossed with the admission of Eze Ihenetu to the Ga Traditional Council, last week. And, the investiture, which threw up much euphoria, was, to put it simply; exciting!

Crossing the Rubicon

In his speech, after conferement, Eze Ihenetu aka Ohazurume 1; observed: “Today is a special day. It is a date that Igbos in Ghana shall always remember. It is a day that our descendants will forever be proud of. It is also a date that the Ga who welcomed us with open arms shall never regret”.
Acting President General of Ga Traditional Council, right with another royal personage during the event.

Continuing, Ihenetu, who prayed that God should continue to bless Ga rulers with wisdom and resources, so they would always lead their indigenes and foreigners living on their land well; added that admitting Igbos into Ga Traditional Council is further confirmation of the enviable hospitable disposition of the average Ghanaian.

Mauricearchibongtravels gathered that with this development, Igbos in Ghana have thus become part of the decision-making process within the GTC. It is worth recalling that, to whom much is given, much is also expected. The induction therefore had sombre moments, where Eze Igbo said elders of the GTC should feel free to call him or his followers to order, whenever necessary.

“Although I am king, in terms of age and experience, I and my people are still children compared to you. Therefore, there might be aspects of the culture that we are yet to fully grasp. So, should we ever err, please feel free to correct us”, he intoned.

Speaking further, Eze Ihenetu pointed out, that; positive repercussions would follow the endowment of a seat in Ga Traditional Council for Igbos resident in Ghana. Alluding to contribution toward community development, this Eze Igbo promised: “Whenever we are called upon, we shall play our part”.

Tokens from the rites of passage

During the colourful occasion, which was interspersed by several parades of dancers and melodious songs, Eze Ohazurume was presented with a certificate confirming his membership of the Ga Traditional Council. The ceremony also featured, among others, pouring of libation, visit to a sacred spot within the palace complex, where lengthy incantations were recited amid pouring of more libation after which Eze and Lolo Ihenetu were offered sips of a drink from that presumed fountain of wisdom.
At the sacred spot under an ancient tree, where the pact was formally sealed.

HRH Ibe Nwosu and Eze Uche IC Dimgba, Igbo 1 and Okptemba respectively, who among others travelled to Ghana to witness the august process; and, select few others were also allowed to partake of the special drink from the sacred place, said to be the source from which all powers derive.

Now, a toast to this: It was nice listening to the chorus of, Okorobia di nma, Eze Chuks, Okorobia di nma, anyi sokwa gi n’azu (roughly translated: King Ihenetu, a good man; we’re solidly behind you); by a troupe of Igbo women. But, the concerto became even more soul-lifting through the accompaniments offered by Yoruba minstrels on hand.
Yoruba minstrels who enriched the entertainment with their music.

In deed, this was a touching example of how much Nigeria stands to gain, if her various ethnic/religious groups would join hands and contribute toward national development. And, even this is applicable to countries across various borders, too.

‘Our people are republican’

Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that fear was raised that another Igbo person or group might later come to the Ga Traditional Council to ask for the same privilege accorded Eze Ihenetu. In fact, Eze Ndi Igbo Ikeja and Okpotemba Igbere, Eze Dimgba, personally expressed this view, when he declared: “Before we depart, I want to inform you that our people are republican. Therefore, somebody or another group might come here tomorrow to ask for admission to the GTC, too”.
Igbo women choristers.

Concluding, Okpotemba, who is also Vice President (South), Association of Ndi Eze n’uzo ije Worldwide; pleaded: “I hope you will not recognise those ones”. Responding, the Acting President General of GTC, who spoke through the MC; assured: “That will not happen. It is not possible, given the special rite that has been performed at the sacred spot”.


The event, which took place inside the Palace of the Ga Mantse in the Kaneshie neighbourhood of the Ghanaian capital attracted hundreds of witnesses. Although the Ga hosts and Igbo made up the majority of the crowd, the guests also included Nigerians from other ethnic groups.
A view of other Nigerians during the investiture.

Apart from numerous Ghana-based Yoruba and Hausa-speaking folks, Igbos from the five states in Nigeria’s South-east geopolitical zone; viz: Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, were all represented.

A snappy roll call of the Igbo personalities in attendance revealed: HRH Ibe Nwosu (Igbo I), Eze ndi Igbo Abuja, and current President Ndi Eze n’uzo ije (Association of All Ezes in Diaspora) Worldwide; Eze Uche Dimgba (Okpotemba); Chief Gilbert Onwurili (Onowu); Nze Kennedy Obi, Chief Johnson Isaac Chigbata, CEO, ICJ Farms Limited; Secretary of Ohaneze ndi Igbo in Ghana, Comrade Emmanuel Irechukwu; Elder Shedrack Okoro, Chairman of Imo Community; Chief Reginald Azubuike, Chief Ugo Onugu; Chief Douglas Emeka Onodugo; Chief Ernest Chibueze Ogbu (Nwachinemeru of Enugu); Chief Onogo (Ezedino obi), Chief Samuel Eke; and, Mr. Kelechukwu Ike, fondly called KK.

Igbo youths, Prince Anayo Nwaogu (2nd left) and others at the palace party.

The Yoruba guests included Mr. Albert Bayo, a chieftain of All Nigerians Community (ANC) in Ghana and Mr. Taheed Owolabi, while Chief Nelson Okon, Chairman of South-south Community in Ghana also led select members to the event; where other Igbo-born personalities like Chief Godswill Chukwu; Chief Harrison Mba, Prince Anayo Nwaogu, Mr. Patrick Nwachukwu; Prince Kingsley Ugochukwu, MD/CEO of Ikeja, Lagos-based 100% Hotel & Suites; and, Valentine Dike of Corporate Protection Security; put up a strong presence.
Some members of The New Osadebe Band that entertained the crowd during a post-induction celebration at Eze’s Palace in East Legon.

Dignitaries on the Ga side included Nii Doodo Nsaki II, Acting President General (GTC); Nii Ayikai III, Nii Ayi Bonte II of Gbesie Traditional Area; Nomo Ogbeamey III (Sakumo Wulomo) and Naa Adokailey Notse II (Queen Mother).
A section of Ga elders at the ceremony.

Among other notable Ghanaian indigenes at the event were king-makers, clan heads, palace courtiers as well as a Ghalleywood star, Vivienne Achor, Production Coordinator of West Coast Entertainment (Gh) Ltd.

Below, are three more pictures from the event:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

ZUNGERU: Amalgamation Centennial Prelude (1)

Amalgamation Centennial Prelude (1)

Zungeru: Thrills, frills of Nigeria’s Amalgamation site, birthplace of Zik, Ojukwu


Once upon a time, Zungeru was a cynosure of the British Colonial Office. Those days, this town; located in today’s Niger State, actually served as seat of the administration of the then British Protectorate of the northern parts of River Niger.

The primary school Zik attended in Zungeru.
This was after then Governor, Frederick John Dealtry Lugard, abandoned Lokoja, Kogi State; reportedly over torrid ambient temperature. But, Lugard would again pull stakes from Zungeru, taking with him the seat of government of the Northern Protectorate to a sprawling, virtual virgin-land further north.

It would seem that Lugard’s new administrative centre had no name because in its early days folks drawn there by work simply called this destination Gari Gwamanti. Gari Gwamanti (pronounced Gay-ree, Gua-manty) is a Hausa language phrase that translates as Government Town. That Government Town is today known as Kaduna, a Hausa word for Crocodiles because the river that straddles this terrain used to be infested with large numbers of that amphibious reptile.

Unlike Kaduna, then probably used only as farmland by Hausa and Gbagyi aborigenes, Zungeru was an already established Nupe settlement with traditional leaders; and, it is believed in some quarters that one of the reasons Lugard relocated to Kaduna was to avoid dealing with indigenous chiefs.

Many of Zungeru’s indigenes are always keen to remind any tourist that it was in their town, inside Lugard’s office that Nigeria’s Amalgamation papers were signed. There is no argument regarding Zungeru’s status of a former capital of today’s Northern Nigeria because Lugard actually operated from here, at least for a while.

Government House at Zungeru, which is one of Nigeria’s 65 Declared National Monuments, is an incontrovertible proof that Lugard once ran his government from this settlement. Sadly, however, like virtually all of this town’s claim to fame, which have disappeared over the last 100 years; Government House at Zungeru was no-where to be seen during our visit.

Although, pictures of Government House Zungeru can be found at Nigeria Archives, the structure is practically extinct. It is worth pointing out, that Government House Zungeru, is not the only Lugard-era legacy that has vanished in this town.

In any case, it would seem that Lugard did not only desire to ditch Zungeru, he appeared determined to punish the town, for yet unknown reasons; for, apart from moving the seat of government, Lugard even decreed the dismantling of a bridge on which he and his wife, Flora (nee Shaw), enjoyed romantic struts, when he had nothing to do or chose to do nothing. That bridge, Lugard’s Footbridge, is one of the many tourists’ attractions in Kaduna, today.

Mauricearchibongtravels went to Zungeru to capture the surviving vestiges of this settlement’s place in colonial times as well as fragments of Nigeria’s history, before they disappear completely. Although many of Zungeru’s antique objects/sites are already evocative of the dinosaur, gone, we captured the ruins of Lugard’s Office/Residence, Zungeru’s First Church and First Mosque, among others.

But, even these may not be around much longer. We discovered that the foundations of Zungeru’s monumental CMS (then United Mission Church) and its bell’s pedestal were considerably washed away by erosion. Going by an inscription on a plaque affixed to one corner of the building, this church’s construction began with a foundation-laying ceremony by His Excellency W. Wallace Esq CMC FRCS on 16 June, 1905.

Although the church’s original bell and furniture were still in use, erosion and dilapidation had taken serious toll on this structure. Completely gone is the office, where Lugard reportedly signed Nigeria’s Amalgamation documents on 1 January, 1914.  Although a spot on bare soil is identified as where that historic treaty was made, there is no office on ground. Moreover, but for a few surviving columns, nothing remains of both Lugard’s Office and Residence.

In an exclusive chat with mauricearchibongtravels, Mr. Oluremi Adedayo, who is Director, Heritage, Monuments and Sites at the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM); said: “The site of Government House at Zungeru was declared a National Monument on 13 February, 1962” and that the building was erected “in 1902, the year that Frederick Lugard established the Administrative Headquarters of the Northern Protectorate”.

He added that, with the exception of its columns and the structure’s concrete foundation, Government House at Zungeru was completely dismantled in 1916, when the seat of government relocated to Kaduna. Aside the remnants of the building itself, this particular National Monument also includes 100ft of land on either side of the crest of the hill on which the house stood and that Government House at Zungeru is one of the 65 Declared National Monuments in Nigeria.

However, we found no attendant on ground during mauricearchibongtravels tour of Zungeru. In a normal setting, there ought to be a site manager at each of Nigeria’s National Monuments. Sadly, however, this is not the case due to want of funding, it would seem. Adedayo confirmed: “The Site of Government House at Zungeru has no Resident Manager”. He however stressed that the place is “under watch by the Heritage Staff and Curator of National Museum Minna”.

Zungeru is home of Lugard’s Mess. Lugard’s Mess is part of the complex, where the then governor’s office and residence stands. Interestingly, this mess boasts a swimming pool. This swimming pool and Lugard’s footbridge could be pointer’s to the syberite disposition of an administrator in whose hand Nigeria’s fate lay, at some point. Fortunately, unlike the bridge that was dismantled, the swimming pool at Lugard’s Mess had not (yet) completely vanished, even though we found it in decrepit state.

Zungeru is a prospective viable domestic tourism booster. But, to realise its tourism potential, this town’s monuments and other attractions must be properly documented, rehabilitated and projected. The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and NCMM ought to work hand-in-hand in this regard.

As seat of the Northern Protectorate, Zungeru naturally hosted the Office and Residence of Lugard, the Colonial Governor. That is how this town came by what some locals call Golden Gate. Evocative of the Golden Gate at Abuja’s Aso Rock, its Zungeru passage-way name-sake used to lead to Lugard’s office.

Apart from being where Nigeria’s Amalgamation Papers were signed, Zungeru is also important as birthplace of two of the nation’s most impactful citizens. Zungeru is the birthplace of Nigeria’s first, albeit ceremonial, President; Dr Nnandi Azikiwe. Zik (the late Owelle of Onitsha) was born in this settlement in 1904 and the block, where he did Class 6 as well as the primary school he attended, were still extant during our tour.

Aside Zik, erstwhile Biafran warlord Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was also born in Zungeru. Yes, Zungeru is where Ojukwu entered this world, in 1933. In its halcyon day, Zungeru was site of a large estate called Clerks’ Quarters, where government officials were accommodated. There were as many as 150 units at Zungeru’s Clerks’ Quarters, which was for intermediate-cadre staff, almost entirely blacks, who worked for the colonial authorities. Interestingly, Zik’s parents lived within this condominium.

Welcome to Zungeru

From a vibrant administrative hub barely 100 years ago, Zungeru has whittled into inconsequentiality. Zungeru is currently under Wushishi Local Government Area (LGA), whereas it was administrative centre for the entire Northern Protectorate about 100 years ago.

This is Zungeru, a classic One-horse town, as far as banking is concerned. The only financial institution in these climes is Unity Bank. With regard to rail services, Zungeru was a Dead-horse Town for 15 years due to the near-death of Nigeria’s railway service as well as the collapse of a bridge along the Lagos-Akere-Zungeru-Kano railway line.

Although many locals were quick to remind that “Zungeru was site of the first railway station in Nigeria”; for over a decade, their town was practically cut off from the world. Mallam Mamman, real name Mohammed T. Jubril, is a 61-year-old retired teacher. He recalled with sadness that the collapse of a bridge at Akere, which cut off Zungeru from the Zungeru-Minna-Kano route many years earlier; further worsened the community’s plight.

Since trains stopped coming to Zungeru, both passenger and goods’ freighting came to an end. This in turn made Zungeru Railway Station irrelevant and it wouldn’t be long before this station folded up. The death of Zungeru Railway Station would take severe toll on the local hospitality sector, leading to loss of jobs and, consequently, despair and despondency. As a result of the death of railway service in Zungeru, the local Railway Recreation Club no longer offered accommodation. Also, the Railway Rest House was no more in use. However, its bar and restaurant, we discovered, were still struggling to stay alive.

According to Mallam Mamman, a retired Head of School Services in Wushishi Local Education Authority (LEA), Zungeru’s inhabitants all rely on water got from boreholes, nowadays; whereas the town had pipe-borne water decades before Nigeria became an independent nation.  Mallam Mamman should know: he worked in Zungeru as teacher at Central Primary School, and later; at the elementary school, United Mission School, where Zik’s education began, in the 1970s. Such is life in Zungeru for you.

Hear the lament of a native regarding Zungeru’s viccissitudes: “By 1905, Zungeru had pipe-borne water and 24-hour electricity. When Lugard was here, a steam engine powered by coal and fuel-wood generated power to light up the community. But, today; we have nothing. It’s so sad”. Little wonder why many of this community’s youth were angry, when we came this way in 2010.

Across Nigeria, dozens of cities with vast road networks have sprung out of what used to be barren lands a century ago, while Zungeru; the heart of northern Nigeria at a time, basically boasts only three streets, today. Take out Bank Road, where Unity Bank is located; and Nnamaye, named for Nnamaye River, which washes into River Kaduna; as well as Zungeru Road from the picture and Zungeru would be more like a village, these days.

Possible way out

As to possible solution, Zungeru resident Mallam Mamman, quickly volunteered: “The only reasonable thing to do is to restore and reconstruct all the heritage sites allowed to collapse in Zungeru. Assuming that the structures had been preserved and were still standing, you can imagine the number of tourists that would have come to this town during celebration of Nigeria at 50; and the difference it would have made to the economy and the inhabitants’ welfare”.

Nigeria turned 50 as an independent nation on 1 October, 2010. Next year, Nigerians are again celebrating. This time, the first Centenary of the Amalgamation of the British Protectorates North and South of the River Niger. It remains unclear what is being done to encourage tourism both international and domestic in this regard.

What does Zungeru mean?

Pray, what is the etymology of this town’s name? Natives, including Mallam Mohammed Yahaya, said Zungeru derives from Dungurum, itself coined from a Nupe language phrase. The lore of the root of Zungeru’s name mentioned Nda (man in the Nupe tongue) and Dungurum (a sort of traditional guitar or goje, molo aka kora). Nda, the man, was a fisher; but, he was also a popular guitarist (dungurum-player).

Daily, upon returning from fishing, Nda would play his dungurum to announce his arrival in order to attract buyers. And, soon; when asked where they were heading, some traders would respond, Nda-dungurum (to the place of the guitar-playing man). This was later shortened to Dungurum before Lugard and others corrupted everything to Zungeru, mauricearchibongtravels gathered.

Getting there, where to stay

The journey to Zungeru was not smooth, at all. We came in from Minna, capital of Niger State and left through Bida, where Palace of Etsu Nupe stands, which is why this ancient settlement serves as the spiritual hub of the Nupe nation. Roadside blurs as we shuttled included sights of numerous communities, markets and villages. Along Bida-Zungeru route, the wayfarer is likely to notice Badifu-Zhaba as well as Toroko and Wushishi, hometown of retired General Ibrahim Wushishi.

The Bida to Zungeru road also boasts a settlement called Lokongoma, and; at Yabatagi, which stands between Kele and Kuchita, we noticed that erosion had washed away one lane of a narrow bridge resulting in gaping craters. A disaster was waiting to happen here, we mused. After Kuchita Wawagi, lookout for Gbako, Ewanko and Lemu also on this route.

Coming from Abuja, we had first travelled to Bida through Suleja and went to Minna to spend the weekend before setting out for Zungeru. Between Suleja and Bida, the major settlements we saw on the way included Lambata, Agaie and Badeggi. Cheeringly, we also sighted numerous stations of the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI) as well as paddy rice fields along the way.

Minna’s major motor park seems to be the surroundings of a Mobil filling station, whereas an Oando gas station’s environment serves that purpose in Bida. During a previous visit, in 2010; the fare to Zungeru from Minna, capital of Niger State was N200 per passenger over a distance of roughly 65km. Today, the same journey extracts N400. And, this is even as six passengers are cramped into seats meant for four. To make matters worse, the majority of bush taxis in Niger and surrounding States are compact VW Golf, Nissan, Toyota et cetera models.

If you ever need a place to stay in these parts, remember; Zungeru has only two lodges, Yanka Noga and Jamaa Guest Inn. Both are modest budget outfits with nothing to write about, really. Zungeru’s apparent importance and eventual abandonment are aptly captured in the book, Zungeru the forgotten capital of Northern Nigeria, written by Bamtsoho Mohammed, a retired Brigadier General of the Nigerian Army.

A happy ending

On a cheery note, after some 15 years since railway service disappeared from Zungeru, the town was agog six months ago; following the resumption of train services there; according to Mallam Mamman. He added that Zungeru was also lucky because for more than a year now, electricity supply has really, really improved. With these developments, it is hoped that the social and economic life of Zungeru’s inhabitants would be improving, soon.

During our visit and subsequent telephone conversations, mauricearchibongtravels spoke with dozens of respondents. However, Alhaji Salisu Madaki, District Head of Zungeru; Tanko Madaki, Adamu Bagudu, Mohammed Yahaya and Mohammed T. Jubril aka Mallam Mamman were particularly helpful.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More, from national museums’ can of worms

More, from national museums’ can of worms

…National Zoo boss escapes death


Unconfirmed reports indicate the official vehicle of the Manager, National Zoological Garden Jos (NZGJ), Mr. John Aruwa, came under a hail of bullets as he was returning to the Plateau State capital penultimate Wednesday, 25 September, 2013.

The NZGJ is at the heart of ongoing outpouring of revelations regarding misappropriation and diversion of staggering sums of money. Although both Mr. Aruwa and his driver escaped unhurt, it was gathered that a bullet pierced through the body of the automobile they were riding in. The NZGJ is under the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), which is an agency of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.

The NZGJ is a unit of the NCMM’s Department of Monuments, Heritage and Sites (MHS). Messrs Yusuf Abdallah Usman, Oluremi Adedayo and Bode Oke are Director General; Director, MHS; and Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA) respectively at the NCMM. Mauricearchibongtravels has also been reliably informed that the NCMM management had, in a recent memo, directed Mr. Aruwa to suspend work on a so-called Picnic Grounds inside the NZGJ.

Interestingly, the authorities had also directed the zoo manager to recover some N450,000 paid to contractors handling the “planting of carpet grass” at that picnic grounds. It is not known, if the zoo manager has complied. The NZGJ stands within the sprawling Jos Museum complex and insiders that spoke with mauricearchibongtravels on condition of anonymity, said the attackers’ motive remains a mystery. One source said that, going by the narration of the zoo manager, the assailants were suspected robbers clad in military fatigue.

Meanwhile, the litany of fraud and corruption in the NCMM has morphed into a never-ending story with the disclosure of more and more scams on virtually weekly basis. Apart from the many startling incidents of looting at the NZGJ, the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA) is another area through which money has been serially siphoned.

At MOTNA, money running into tens of millions of naira had been spent over many years under the pretense of preservation of the replica of ancient Kano City Wall, there. The most recent MOTNA preservation effort gulped close to N10 million, yet all that money has practically gone down the drain since the tumbling-down Dick structure has again crumbled!

It would seem that, the more the amount of money voted for the maintenance of this wall; the more the fence seemed determined to collapse the following year, calling for yet more money to be commited to its protection: all to no avail. It is worth pointing out that, the NCMM has a unit called Centre for Earth Construction Technology (CECTECH). Whereas CECTECH could better handle maintenance of MOTNA structures, NCMM fat-cats continue to cling to that responsibility. Very interesting curio, if you know what we mean!

Lease of NCMM DG Residence at ridiculous price

Another sticking point in the sides of NCMM Management members is the lease of a Federal Government estate on Adeola Hopewell Street in Victoria Island, Lagos; without authorisation, and at a fee that many consider laughable. Recall: Until the relocation of NCMM headquarters from Lagos to Abuja, the Commission had an estate that served as residence for its director general.

Curiously, that compound escaped the radar during nationwide audit of Federal Government property. How the former residence of the director general of an important federal government agency could have been concealed remains a mystery. But, what has blown into the open and now threatens to drown the entire NCMM leadership is the fact that the property was leased out under alleged dubious circumstances, and for a laughable sum.

In a memo to the culture minister, the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) claimed that the estate situate on Adeola Hopewell Street in the highbrow Lagos neighbourhood of Victoria Island had been leased out for two years at a ridiculous rental of N10 million: i.e an incredibly paltry sum of N5 million per annum.

Not surprisingly, insiders believe there was more to the transaction than meets the eye. AUPCTRE insists that N24 million had actually been collected for that transaction, but NCMM leadership chose to remit N10 million to the commission’s coffers. In any case, it is worth noting that the NCMM Management has thus far not come forward with any answer to this accusation.

Wiped out: Dad, mum and child chimps

Believe it or not, a whole family of chimpanzees has perished at the NZGJ. The victims are: Peter, Paulina and Rahina. Although the daddy chimpanzee, Peter, died more than 10 years ago; the daughter, Rahina, perished in 2009. Paulina, which died on 14 July, 2013; was mother of the late Rahina.

Sired by Peter, Rahina was one of numerous fatalities recorded at NZGJ in 2009. The wave of deaths was caused by contaminated water. Those days, NZGJ authorities fed the inmates with water fetched from a gutter. At some point, the water was contaminated, and the animals were simply drinking poison.

This consequently led to an epidemic that resulted in the demise of dozens of animals, aside from Rahina, at the NZGJ. It was after this disaster that NCMM authorities drilled a borehole at NZGJ. Interestingly, that source of water would become dysfunctional within a year. Ever since, NZGJ operatives have been relying on a borehole drilled at MOTNA for water for its zoo’s inmates. Such is the situation at Nigeria’s only National Zoo, for you.

More scandals

Aside from damning evidences of financial irregularities, serious incongruity also surges to the fore in the inventory of the inmates inside Nigeria’s National Zoo compiled by NZGJ managers, against that of independent observers. Although a list drawn by NZGJ managers shows 97 as the total number of inmates, we counted over 110 creatures here during our latest tour!

The reason for concealment of the true figure of inmates by NZGJ managers is best left to a conjecture. However, it could be a strategy to obfuscate the extent of fatalities inside this park. Such discrepancy, critics of the Usman-led NCMM administration, observed; “is simply another manifestation of incompetent leadership”.

This view was reiterated by executive members of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE); during a recent chat with Travels in Abuja.

Brazen impunity

At this national zoo, favoured workers have no need to observe due process. Such ones do not have to come to work everyday. But, once funding arrives, the top-dogs in whose paws management of the Jos-based park has been put, show up: they collect their booty and disappear never to be sighted again, until the next subvention has been deposited.

Why the world must show more interest

Nigerians must show more interest in the goings-on at their National Zoo, for it is a reflection, albeit microscopic, of the entire nation itself. So, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and Nigerian Field Society (NFS), et cetera as well as every humane person must be interested in developments at Nigeria’s National Zoo and the leit motif of those at the helm of affairs in the NCMM.

It is also worth reiterating that within 20 years, this National Zoo has practically morphed into a classic metaphor for Nigeria’s endemic corruption. It was here, that a worker that was sent on transfer blatantly shunned management’s directive. But, instead of being penalised for insubordination, this particular employee was practically rewarded with a promotion.

Not only that, this staff; whose co-workers had often complained was running the repository aground, was eventually crowned head of the National Zoo. Interestingly, it was a member of the then NCMM Management, Yusuf Abdallah Usman, who advised the woman, Mrs. Rahina Haruna Garuba, to ignore her transfer memo.

It is also instructive that Mr. Usman, then NCMM Director of Heritage, Monuments and Sites; would himself later be rewarded with appointment as NCMM DG. Following the transfer of Mrs. Haruna Garuba to the NCMM-run Institute of Archaeology and Museum Studies (IAMS) also in Jos, a veterenary surgeon; Dr. M.C. Ekwuonu, was directed to take over.

But, when Mrs. Haruna Garuba would not handover, the new appointee had difficulty assuming duty as there was no official document with which he could begin his assignment. Curiously, instead of NCMM’s managemnt compelling the woman to hand over to Dr. Ekwuonu; an accountant, Mr. Sabo Bature, was put in charge of Nigeria’s only National Zoo at some point.

When we met Mr. Bature during one of our numerous trips to Jos, he made serious efforts to explain that things were not that bad, there. However, when asked, if corruption and poor management were the reasons so many animals had died with dozens others looking malnourished and emaciated; the retort of an obviously irritated Bature was: “Animals die everywhere! So, there is nothing special about animals dying here”!

Mr. Bature later died and had since been buried. There’s more where these came from. Truly, the more you look, the more you see: such is the depth of our knowledge regarding the NZGJ and NCMM, for you.

For the record: successive Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); Head of Service of the Federation; Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation; Minister of Labour and Productivity; Permanent Secretary, Tourism and Culture Ministry; Permanent Secretary, Labour and Productivity Ministry; Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism; and, Chairman, House Committee on Culture and Tourism; among others, were briefed on the shenanigans at the NCMM. Therefore, those that failed to act accordingly, even in the face of perceived overwhelming evidence, could in the future be held responsible for aiding and abetting corruption.

Nihotour lauded for splendid summit

Hotel registration to begin in Kogi soon

...Nihotour lauded for splendid summit


Plans have been completed to launch a hotel registration exercise across Kogi State, according to Mr. Joseph Maiye Olowolaiyemo, General Manager of Kogi Hotels and Tourism Board (KHTB). There are currently over 100 hotels in the Kogi State capital, Lokoja, alone; and, during an exclusive chat with Travels, Mr. Olowolaiyemo revealed the exercise will begin in a fortnight.

Each hotel’s representative is expected to pay N2,000 for the hotel registration application form. After submission of application form and subsequent inspection, any hotel that deserves approval will then pay the registration fee proper. The registration fee ranges between N10,000 minimum and N120,000 maximum, depending on the number of rooms, facilities and other criteria; the KHTB GM added.

An earlier hint of this development was dropped by Mr. Olowolaiyemo during a two-day sensitisation workshop for hospitality and tourism stakeholders, which held at Confluence Beach Hotel, Lokoja on September 12 and the 13th. Speaking during that summit, which revolved around the theme, Nigeria at 100: Transforming the tourism industry for national development, Mr. Olowolaiyemo revealed: “In my roughly 30 years in the (tourism) industry, this workshop is the best I’ve ever attended free-of-charge”.

The Kogi Tourism Board boss went on to commend the Dr. Munzali Dantata-led Nihotour for putting together the training exercise, even as he advised that such workshop should be held more often. The workshop was declared open by Kogi State Governor, Captain Idris Wada,  while the welcome address was delivered by Nihotour Director General, Dr Dantata. Furthermore, Kogi State Governor’s Cabinet was fully represented alongside other dignitaries that are members of the state’s Centenary Celebration Committee.

Among others, the workshop aimed at: Increasing public awareness on the rich tourism potentials of Nigeria with a view to harnessing them; Identifying the challenges confronting the Tourism Industry in Nigeria with a view to proffering solutions to them; and, Improving service delivery.

From the paper presentations and deliberations, participants noted and agreed that: For tourism to eventually take its rightful place and compete favourably at the international level, the issue of manpower training and development of the workforce must be taken very seriously; that there are abundant potential tourist attractions with very huge and viable investment opportunities in Nigeria, particularly Kogi State, which are waiting to be harnessed; that Lack of reliable tourism statistics in Nigeria has adversely affected proper planning and funding of the industry; that the roles of all tourism stakeholders should be well defined with effective synergy; that Tourist attractions in communities are potential catalysts for economic growth; and, that there was need to change the general orientation of Nigerians to tourism through legislation, educational curricula as well as encouraging domestic tourism, marketing/advertisement and so on.

The summit threw up many issues and sparked lively debates and discussions, which in part explains why the opinion of Mr. Olowolaiyemo that such workshop should be more frequent; was seconded by virtually everyone in attendance.

Due to want of space, we cannot delve into any paper in detail, but; in her lecture, entitled Quality Services in the Hospitality sub-Sector, NIHOTOUR’s Director of Planning, Consultancy and Information Services, Ladi T. Dakwo JP; observed: “Passion is vital. Hospitality and Tourism is not only about money. You must have a passion before you venture into hospitality and tourism”. To further drive in her point, she stressed: “Your passion will enhance good quality and good quality will ensure sustainability. If good quality is not there, people won’t come”.

She added that Nihotour is determined to push for quality service through emphasis on professionalism. “Training and re-training is important”, she emphasised, while advising hospitality and tourism outfit entrepreneurs to take advantage of Nihotour’s educational services. “Nihotour”, Dakwo continued, “also organises training in-situ, for operatives at work places”.   

Lecturers and their papers

Three papers were taken on day one, while the remaining two followed the next day. An overview of the tourism industry in Nigeria, by Dr. John Adzer, an Abuja-based Tourism Consultant; was the first of the five papers presented during the two-day exercise.

Aside from Quality Services in the Hospitality sub-Sector by Dakwo JP, which was the fourth paper; the other three lecturers and their papers were, Exploring and promoting the tourism potentials of Nigeria for effective transformation by Philip E. Maga, Nihotour’s Academic Secretary; Challenges of accessing and utilising funds by the hospitality and tourism SMEs by Sunday Victor Jimoh, a Lokoja-based Hospitality Consultant; and, Concept of tour operation and tour guiding by A. M. Sheriff, Nihotour’s Director of Travel and Tourism Studies.

Although Mr. Sheriff was initially billed to present his lecture on day two, he had to swap places with Maga, who gave his lecture on the following day, instead. The event, which was attended by Kogi State Governor, Captain Idris Wada; also featured addresses by Mr. Thomas Acholo, a Barrister and Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Kogi State.

Permanent Secretary, Kogi State’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Dr. Andrew Mubo Eniola, chaired the Technical Session on Day One, while Dr. S. Jerry Agbaji, Director (Tourism) in the same ministry, played that role on Day Two.

Apart from tea/lunch breaks as well as sightseeing, the paper presentations were also interspersed with interactive as well as Q & A sessions. Nihotour’s Head of Consultancy, Mr. Mohammed Olanrewaju, was on the committee that drafted the communique that trailed the two-day workshop.

The workshop, which was covered by travel writers and journalists from dozens of media, both electronic and print; drew scores of participants from Kogi, Niger, Plateau and other neighbouring states. Also attended was a young man, who gave his name as Dave Oluseggun. Mr. Oluseggun. Oluseggun said he works for Qualba Services, an outfit established to promote “Quality life and business”. He also echoed the praises heaped on Dr. Dantata and the entire Nihotour team as well as relevant Kogi State authorities for making such an illuminating exercise possible.