The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on behalf of the Federal Government is seeking for free movement of people and trade through the abolition of visa requirement among the members of the Developing Eight (D-8) Countries Organisation for Economic Cooperation.
The D-8 countries include Nigeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey.
The Minister made the call at a meeting with the Secretary General of the Organisation, Dr. Seyed Ali-Mohammed, on Wednesday, in Abuja, seeking to prioritize tourism development among its members.
“One area that I think D8 must to work on and if really they want to succeed, they must make sure that there is no barrier in term of visa among those eight countries.
“You cannot grow any trade talk less of tourism, if I cannot have easy access to Malaysia, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan.
“You can imagine the volume of trade that will develop over night if only you can make sure that if I want to go to Iran that there is bilateral agreement between Nigeria and Iran, between Nigeria and Pakistan and among those eight countries that there will be free movement of people.
“It is free movement of people that will guarantee free movement of trade. So, this is one area that I believe that you need to work hard on,” he said.
Lai Mohammed observed that it was not by coincidence that the countries with the highest traffic of tourists are those whose visas are least difficult to access.
He told the D-8 Secretary General that the present administration is committed to harnessing the potentials in the tourism sector in the renewed drive to diversify the nation’s economy.
The Minister, however, identified the dearth of infrastructure, access to tourism sites, preservation and conservation of cultural heritages, perception and failure to involve the locals in the tourism economy as some of the challenges confronting the development of tourism in Nigeria.
Alhaji Mohammed therefore stressed the need for D-8 member states with similar challenges to close ranks in order to make the economic bloc a tourist destination.
While commending the organisation’s focus on tourism development, the Minister said the provision of infrastructure was critical to the development of domestic tourism, saying “Until you develop domestic tourism, you cannot have international tourism”.
Dr. Seyed Ali-Mohammed stressed that the organization is doing a lot to integrate its people, governments and economies in order to promote the prosperity of member states, adding that the D-8 had been actively involved in the development of agriculture, trade, industry, energy and transportation but it recently resolved to delve into tourism because of its huge potentials for the economic development of member states.
He said purpose of his visit was to inform the Minister about the organisation’s resolve to focus on tourism development as the area of cooperation among member countries.
“The meeting today I am enthusiastic about tourism. Very recently, on the proposal of member states, we came to conclusion that tourism or so could be one of our priority areas,” he said.