Atosuma James Gani is the commissioner in charge of culture and tourism Taraba state. In this interview with NATHANIEL GBAORON in Jalingo, he spoke about tourism potentials of the state and how governor Ishaku is developing the state amidst security Challenges. Excerpts
Hon. Commissioner, May we look at the activities of your ministry?
Thank you, since the inception of the administration of Architect Darius Dickson Ishaku who deemed it fit to appoint some of us to work under him and learn somethings as well. We came in November 2015 and it was a newly created ministry because it was created in 2014. When we came in a lot of things were not in shape, there was virtually nothing on the ground to hold on to. We had to start creating and initiating. Actually it is a very big ministry that has a large scope of coverage, but because there was no foundation on the ground . Most of the activities we began was how to form a formidable foundation on the ground, a sustainable one that development can ride on with out having any difficulties in the future.
It was on this note that we started talking stock of all tourism potentials on site, which was the documentation and identification of all the sites. We started that in 2016, we went round the tourism sites so that we could have them in our document so that it will help us start planning towards the blue print which is the developmental master plan of the tourism sector.
Coming to the aspect of culture, culture has been in existence from time immemorial, most of the past administrations did not give attention to cultural aspect,which is a very rich heritage we have in this state in particular. What we did was that we begun to encourage the cultural aspect from the rural areas, various local governments, the tribes and ethnic groups. We let them start building up their cultures so that as we begin to see light in it we see how their coming up the state will now absorb and in cooperate some of them into our plan so that we begin to work towards having cultural festivals in the state.
These have been on the ground and is working now. More than ten cultural groups are coming up now. In some other programmes, we go outside the state and what we do is to pick few from some cultural groups to add them to our own state cultural troops so that they could have the experience and see how it us viable for them to begin to develop that sector ,all these things are in the pipeline and there are coming up.
Okay, what are the tourism potentials of Taraba state?
Tourism potentials in Taraba state cannot be listed within a day. There is potential in virtually all local governments but let me just take the case of the most popular one you all know which is the Mamibila plateau. If you go to the Mambila plateau, from my tour into all the interiors we discovered that they have seventeen water falls and all of them have the minimum of forty to sixty megawatts electricity generation If you’re using it as hydro power. If you go to Gashaka national park , which is one of the biggest national pack in the country. The boundary with Adamawa and also the Cameroon axis. If you go there you will discover so many fascinating things , wild animals are present though they have gone far because of the issue of poachers and all other things but if you go inside you discover that some of this things are still existing. There is a hot spring water in the Mambila,which you don’t need to boil, you just come with your cup of tea and take your tea and coffee there . All these things are so fascinating in the state. In the Mambila plateau itself ,in some areas you can even construct a Golf Court there. Their weather particularly is similar to Europe’s. These are all tourism potentials in the state.
In other local governments like Kurimi, a cementary of early German soldiers is still reserved. Then if you go to Ibi you will see the missionaries cementary . And in Wukari , there are crocodile ponds which have been in existence over two three hundred years. Zing has rock formations, there you will appreciate the work of God. The rocks are as if there are assembled by humans. These are few among the many potentials in other local governments. Tourism potentials in Taraba is not something you can mention in a day.
Recently we discovered quite a number of Hippopotamus which migrated from the other axis particularly from their polls in the Gashaka local government but they are domiciled there because the place is a quiet and reserved area where nothing tempers with them. These are tourism potentials that every tourist will like to go and view see. That was why the state government came up with a plan to invite experts through the United Nation. We got experts from Zimbabwe, who came out with their plans to see how we can conserve this animals so that they can be domesticated within the lake there. We are also looking at how we can bring other animals so that they can co-exist in the lake, if all these are done Taraba will become a world tourism center.
Generally how would you access the administration of governor Darius Ishaku?
Thank you very much for that wonderful question, well the administration of His Excellency Darius Dickson Ishaku as tagged ‘rescue mission’ or ‘God timing administration’, which came and have rescued virtually every aspect of the economy. When he came in, he inherited a lot of issues on the ground but since he is a man whom God have destined he took his time as a matured man and examined every sector particularly the issue of insecurity ,which was almost taking away the resources of the state. Sixty five percent of the state resources goes to security . But he had to face this issues holistically because until there is peace there can be no development. The man’s administration faces a lot of challenges particularly the issue of insecurity which is still lingering.
While he is trying to tackle the issue of security he is still battling with other areas. You can see that he has put the issue of water scarcity in the state to rest. You can see the health, Educational and Agricultural sectors ,he has impacted a lot into this sectors. These are some of things the administration has achieved, I cannot enumerate them all. I want to say that the four years of Darius’s administration speaks more than the eight years of other administrations that came before him. Go to the streets and a common man will attest to this.
Taraba motel is one of the tourist attraction in the state,why is Taraba motel kept unused for years?
This administration meet that hotel with a lot of issues, it was already a none existence hotel, it was vandalised. A hotel that have ninety four rooms. But when we came in there where only fourteen inhabited rooms. It was part of this administration efforts that we renovated twenty studio rooms to see whether we can sustain the little casual staff that were there. Terminating their appointment was a problem to us because we cannot see them roaming the streets.
Then coming to the general management of the hotel it is this administration ‘s deliberate efforts to see that we do not fall into the crisis that the hotel experienced before we came in, because everybody thinks that government properties are properties that can be mismanaged, vandalised. Hotel business, to meet up with contemporaries requires discipline, experience and a lot of technicalities. Hotel business cannot be managed by government alone successfully.
Considering all these we came to a conclusion that we need partners to manage this hotel. All what we are trying to do is that we have some guest houses across the country which we are trying to see how we can link all of them together,have a partner that can put in his money not government money because when they put in their money they will be serious about the business and they will employ maybe sixty to seventy percent of our children which will also fight unemployment. These are the ways we are looking at.