By Chris Steven, Abuja
Musa Muhammad Bello, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has given insight that other low hanging fruits expected from the Abuja light rail system, would include a boost to domestic tourism.
This was as the Minister hinted that the Abuja light rail has been completed and is due to start operation in December.
According to him, the rail station system traverses important scenes of the Abuja eco-system and landmarks and will, among other qualities, unveil to tourists, the beautiful reliefs and panoramic landscape of the Territory.
Some of these, he said, include the national stadium, a national park and the Wupa Waste Treatment Plant – the largest in Nigeria,
The Minister gave this insight while receiving the management team of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation – NTDC, led by, Folorunsho Coker, its new Director General on a courtesy call.
FCT Minister revealed that the network of 12 metro stations has five already completed.
He expressed joy that the administration has met a partner in its comprehensive plan to reposition Abuja as a conference destination in Africa and secondly as a hub for domestic tourism and investment.
He said, “Within the next two to three months, the Abuja Light Rail system phase one will be functioning. Phase one is a municipal rail system that will emanate from the airport, right to the centre of the city and terminating at what we call the metro plaza station.
“That gives people coming to Abuja or leaving Abuja option of coming to the city by light rail without having to drive the 45km expressway distance, even though, on its own, the expressway offers a beautiful window on the city.”
The Minister noted that commuters have the option of moving from the city centre to the airport. Other qualities that make Abuja a preferred destination, the Minister disclosed include, quality infrastructure, beautiful weather, strategic road networks and more importantly, its status as a diplomatic and government centre.
Bello expressed belief that most of these plans will be accomplished by leveraging private sector investment because of the poor record of the public-sector interventions in the sector.
In his remarks, the NTDC DG stated that the Corporation plans to reverse the drifts out of Abuja during weekends and holidays stating that it is unacceptable that a city that is one of the best in terms of tourism assets in the country, should empty out during these periods.
Coker disclosed that NTDC has come out with a social media hashtag called myAbujaweekend, as one of its efforts to reverse this drift.
His words, “We have negotiated and reached memorandums of understanding with some airlines and major hotels who also see the potentials of using their hotels and aircrafts. We hope to achieve a price of N50,000 for Lagos-Abuja-Lagos and two nights in a five-star hotel inclusive of airline ticket.”
This, the DG stated, is an introductory offer to get people to see the value and rich potentials of this great city and expressed hope that the plan would drive revenues into hospitality and boost commerce in Abuja.
The Corporation, Coker, further disclosed has created a brand called Countdown Nigeria, an end-of-year ceremony that would welcome Nigerians and, indeed, the world into the New Year as is the tradition in most great cities in the world.
He said, “if you watch CNN or BBC, during the new year eve, you see them start in Australia and they skip the whole Africa and go straight to Europe and the USA. We believe that Nigeria as the most populous and richest country in Africa in terms of population of black people, can actually anchor that challenge and make the global news trail stop in Nigeria and I think Abuja is the best place for that to occur.”