Over the past three months, the Seven Wonders of Nigeria® has unveiled a gamut of destinations in the country, some known and already popular, others unknown and untapped; but both categories offer an avenue for the boosting of the domestic tourism industry, and growing back the nation’s GDP following the COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged global economies.
With the Seven Wonders of Nigeria project set to kick off later in November, the organisers, led by Ambassador Ikechi Uko, back in mid-June kicked off a virtual conference, where tourism experts, specifically members of the prestigious Tourism Top 100 were brought on to discuss on the topic, “Where to Visit in Nigeria: Issues of Access and Security” – and the past couple of months have been revelatory and educative.
On Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, the 12th edition of the webinar took place, featuring another interesting line up of exciting travel and tourism professionals. They included: Aniedi Udofia, CEO of EDC Travels and Tours; Pat Ozioma, Senior Consultant at SmoothWaka; Jibola Oluseye Abati (CEO, ITravels & Tours); Chidozie Uzoezie (CEO, Afritraveller); and Amb. Kayode Adeshola, founder of TourismPlusNG and VP of Abuja chapter of NANTA.
Starting off the show, Ambassador Uko announced that he had just being sworn-in as chairman of the FG COVID-19 palliative sub-committee for tourism, by Chief Olusegun Runsewe of the NCAC on a virtual conference.
Among the places that got a first mention on the webinar was ALMAT Farms, Abuja. Located in Kuje Area Council of the FCT, the 67-hectrare agro-tourism property is a beautiful nature spot with a lovely ambience.
Speaking about the destination, Amb. Kayode Adeshola said it is a great place for picnics and perfect for families. There are a couple of farm animals as well as ostriches, rabbits, monkeys among others. The facility also has a stream where one can enjoy kayaking. In addition, accommodation is available, starting at N35,000 a night, while an entrance fee of N2,100 is charged.
Still in Abuja, Aniedi Udofia who made her presentation from Zuma Rock area unveiled another new site which was recently discovered in Orozo, a suburb of the FCT, about 21km southeast – a 30-min drive from the city centre. The new discovery is a monolith tagged Orozo Rock, taking its name from the local community. There is also a cave. It has a scenic view and can be a good location for a movie shoot.
A new rock was also discovered in Iyin-Ekiti. According to Amb. Kayode Adeshola, the site, about a 27-min drive from Ado-Ekiti was discovered by a pastor who went in search of a praying spot. Known as Okuta Abanijorin (Abanijorin Rock), the site is naturally shaped like an amphitheatre with exits and entrances, and can conveniently seat 500 people. The Ekiti State Commissioner of Tourism, Mr Wale Ojo Lanre has already led a team to assess the destination, Amb. Adeshola stated.
Another site that got a first mention was Lakowe Lakes Golf and Leisure Gardens. According to Pat Ozioma, it is a “resort with everything you need.” Located in Lagos, along the Lekki axis of Lagos, the facility has an 18-hole golf course and general lush environment. There are cottages and living apartments available. There are several activities one can engage in such as birding, cycling, fishing, and pedal boating, and they have special “movies under the stars,” at night.
Still on accommodation facilities, a new resort, MANAL Hotel & Resort located in Utako District, Abuja is set to launch later in the year. According to Aniedi Udofia, the property which is located close to Leadership Newspapers is run by foreigners. It has several facilities such as recreational park, pools, conference hall, etc.
Meanwhile, attractions which were already popular on the zoom conferences also got talked about. For instance, Omu Resort in Bogije, along the Lekki axis was among the destinations chosen by Jibola Abati Oluseye. According to him, the property combines various activities in one location which makes it perfect for everyone – old, young, families, etc. The zoo has several wild animals like lions and two species of hyenas – the spotted and the stripped. There are also several bird species. The swimming pool has a section for children and it reminds him of Disneyland. There is a mini-golf course and several exciting activities ranging from go-kart, quad bike, rollercoaster, etc.
The CEO of ITravels & Tours also spoke about Olumirin Waterfalls in Erin-Ijesa, Ekiti State. Describing it as a “perfect nature spot,” Abati acknowledged that he has only climbed as high as the third of the seven levels of the waterfalls on his visits.
On her part, Pat Ozioma described a visit to Ngwo as “killing three birds with one stone,” when she talked about the interwoven caves, waterfall and pine forest in Ngwo, Enugu. The naturally sculpted limestone rock is good for hiking, while the pine forest is ideal for picnics. She advised going in a group so that one doesn’t get lost in the maze-like forest.
Meanwhile, Amb. Adeshola also spoke about the city of Abuja as a great destination, citing all the wonderful landmarks, such as MKO Abiola National Stadium, National Ecumenical Centre, National Mosque, zoological garden, Mpape Crushed Rock, Zuma Rock, Katampe Hill, and several world-class hotels. He stated that Abuja, as a well-planned city is the only place where you can keep five appointments in one day in Nigeria.
Badagry came up again, and it was Jibola Oluseye Abati who spoke about the coastal destination, labelling it “fresh breeze zone.” Beyond the history, Badagry offer lakes, lagoon and the sea for a great experience. You can enjoy dining at the floating restaurant on the lagoon and watch as the sunset paints the water golden yellow. According to him, “Badagry is where the sun comes to rest.” The beaches are clean and the locals are friendly.
Life just starts on the beach when the sun goes down, according to Oluseye Abati. Campfire nights are organised and you can enjoy the fish grill and coconut juice, or fresh palmwine, while listening to cultural music in the local Egun language or French. The ambience evokes memories of a Caribbean island. You can go on a fishing trip with the locals and pick up souvenirs made from coconut husks. For him, Badagry is the place where you can have “unlimited fun with limited funds.”
Meanwhile, Aniedi Udofia also had a food presentation of Akwa Ibom delicacies which left the audience salivating. According to the CEO of EDC Travels & Tours, men need to be pampered with food, and that is the secret of the Akwa Ibom people. So, when people say the house maid is stealing the husband from madam, the secret is food – how it is prepared.
On his part, Chidozie Uzoezie noted that the Seven Wonders of Nigeria webinars have an interesting and educative forum for him. It has exposed a lot of hidden and untapped riches in the country to him and he called on fellow travel writers and journalist to write and tell the Nigerian story. He said that we cannot allow the foreigners to keep telling our stories for us, because they only see from their own perspectives.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Ikechi Uko on opening the show, stated that the webinar will go on a recess for some time after the 12th episode. He stated that this is to allow the new Tourism Top 100 class of 2020 to be inducted – the induction will be done on September 11, 2020 via a zoom conference. He also announced the 16th Akwaaba African Travel Market scheduled to take place later this month. The MICE event, Youth Conference and Caribbean events are all scheduled to take place virtually.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Uko took time to commend the Federal Government for opening of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu and the great work done on the runway. He the announced the Nigeria Mega tour scheduled for November which features 7 rocks, 7 waterfalls in 7 days.