Joseph O. Jiboku
E-mail :
Peace A. Jiboku
Faculty of Social Sciences, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye
E-mail :


The Nigerian State is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state with over two hundred and fifty ethnic groups that are rich in diverse cultures.  Mother Nature has so blessed the country with vast land, beautiful climate and land formation, especially with the swampy coastal lands to the tick rain forests and the savanna. There are also the parks and games reserves  in their natural habitat.  The hills, the rocks, lakes, natural and warm spring water all add colour and beauty to the landscape.  These are some of the natural endowments that are yet to be harnessed in full capacity and requiring attention (of the tourism industry) for maximum exploitation and benefits which, no doubt, will increase the economic fortune of the country and enhance the much desired development while assisting in realizing the Nigeria of our dreams.   This Paper contends that our rich cultural heritage and natural endowments remain as treasure mines to be developed for maximum national benefits especially if the tourism sector is developed.

Keywords:  Nature reserves, cultural sites, monument, tourism and development.



                       “Africa is full of millions of miles of squares of rich and
                        fertile land some of which are opened and park like in
                         their appearance and others covered with expensive
                         forest of valuable timber  where the sound of the wood-
                           man’s axe has never been heard, and which only requires
                           the culture of the husbandman to make their produce
                           an ample of labour returns”.
(a Western Historian in 1879 referred to by Mazrui
                                             in his lectures on African condition)

The above quotation while representing a true picture of the African Continent explains as well the situation of the Nigerian State with a total area of 923,768 square kilometers, land area of 910,768, with water – 13,000 square kilometers and coastline 853 kilometres.  The country indeed has abundant rich and fertile land.  The Southern part which is an embodiment of the swamp and the forest is rich in forest products with several miles, while the North, greater part of which falls within the Savannah Belt is equally very rich.  The country has a population of over 140 million people and over 250 ethnic groups with different cultures and languages.  Each of these numerous ethnic groups has different arts and crafts that offer attractions to outsiders. (Okpoko, 1990). 

There are also different historical sites and monuments that offer tourism attractions.  Festivals abound among the different ethnic groups, the potentials for which only few have been developed.  Archaeologists through their researches and excavations have also analyzed issues on the proliferated people and cultures of Nigeria.  Some of their findings adorn our Museums and Monuments and help to enrich our cultural past.  These cultural and artifactual materials which are kept by the different traditional institutions offer attractions and if explored, will serve as an alternative source of revenue that is sustainable to government.  

Tourism is one concept that may not really invoke the desired passion and attraction among Nigerians.  The reason for this could be the high level of poverty prevalent in a country where the people live from hand to mouth and have little left for other secondary activities like tourism.  However, Tourism is not an issue that is limited to Nigeria but is a language of the international community where people save money in order to visit places of attractions to fulfil their dreams. 

According to Andah (1990), tourism connotes the mobilization of a people’s cultural and natural resources, especially those aspects which make people unique from others.  In essence, the mobilization and packaging of the uniqueness of a people for others to appreciate and admire represents tourism.  Tourism is educative, informative, entertaining and is as well as an economic venture.
Okpoko (1990) on the other hand, adopted the definition of the American Heritage Dictionary (1982) which succinctly defined tourism as the practice of traveling for pleasure, and again, as the business of providing tours and services for tourists.  This definition also corroborates that given by Andah (1990), giving credence to the fact that tourism has to do with pleasures, visiting places of interests which of course, will be educative and entertaining.  The Dictionary meaning also added the economic or business aspect of tourism with its emphasis on providing services for tourists.

In another dimension, the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1981) defined tourism as traveling for recreation or the industry involved in guiding and accommodating tourists.

On his part, Olokesusi (1987) defined tourism as the movement of people within or outside a state or nation for leisure, sports, education, religious, conferences or health reasons.

Hoivic and Heiberg (1980) looked at tourism from internationally accepted definition as temporary movement of visit, the purpose of which include leisure (recreation, holiday, health, study, religion and sports), business, family, mission, meeting, e.t.c.

A common feature of these definitions is that tourism involves temporary movement of people from one destination to another.  Such movements must be aimed at achieving some defined objectives and could be within the country or across the international boundary.  This movement could be made by individuals or groups and tourists are often interested in discovering places, sites, things that offers attractions, social and psychological comfort.

National development

Ekechukwu (1990) notes that the concept of national development has a broad and generic meaning as a result of which different perspectives have been explored by development scholars.  For Okigbo (1983), the diversity of usage and scholars has contributed to lack of consensus on the definition of National Development.  Okigbo (1983) however opined that National Development should embrace political, economic, educational, technological and cultural changes. 

Adopting economic stance, therefore, Ford (1966) looked at Economic Development as sustained increases in output per head.  He went further to say that it is through this that a community’s living standard can increase over the long period.

On his part, Goulet (1971) looked at Development as freeing men from nature’s servitudes, from economic backwardness and oppressive technological institutions, from unjust class structures and political exploiters, from cultural and psychic alienation.

Okigbo (1983) contends that National Development also connotes the process through which a polity improves its standard of living not only materially but also the realm of its value system. 

From these definitions, it is obvious that achieving national development, to a great extent, depends on people’s ability to liberate themselves from oppressive forces of nature and civilization as well as attitudes, and also on their economic, social, political as well as cultural institutions that will help transform and sustain the polity.  These are basic ingredients that ought to be present in the right quality for a polity to convert its material endowments into resources for the attainment of national development.

Nigeria’s tourism potentials
Undoubtedly, Nigeria is a highly blessed country not only with human resources but also with natural resources as well as artifactual materials.  Natural resources which abound in Nigeria include hills, plains, valleys, rivers, streams, e.t.c. while the artifactual materials include Monuments and tools of different kinds.  According to Agbaje-Williams (1990), it is the recognition of these two natural and artifactual resources that always form the basis of any country’s tourism programme. On this, therefore, the East African Countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, for example, base their tourism industry on their wild life and animal population and Western Europe on ancient Monument. 

Among the tourist potentials in Nigeria is what Ekechukwu (1990) called protected ecosystem also referred to as nature reserves.  These were particularly recognized during the period of colonial rule and were often referred to as government lands.  Such government lands were of different types depending on the usage.  Some were particularly used as games reserves.  These games reserves are important tourist attractions in Nigeria and they are located mainly in the Savanna region.  According to Areola (1976), Nigeria has about thirty-three games reserves most of which are not functional. The most important are the Yankari Games Reserve in Bauchi and the Borgu Games Reserve which now forms part of the Kainji National Park. 

It may sound incredible to note that Nigeria has up to thirty-three games reserves with only two really attracting tourists and more games reserves may also have been discovered after the Publication of Areola in 1976.  Many countries of the world do not have such enormous games reserves and if these are developed in Nigeria, they will surely become money springing ventures for the country.  This is just one aspect of Nigeria’s tourism potentials that is yet to be explored.

Another important tourist attraction in Nigeria is the protected landscapes which are usually areas of exceptionally scenic beauty and charm.  They are often protected for recreational purposes and they include areas with rugged terrain, waterfalls and landfalls or valleys.  Among such areas of scenic beauty are the Ikogosi Warm Spring in Ondo State where United African Company (UAC) has been producing bottled water for many years; the Warm Spring along Benue-Adamawa valleys; the spectacular Galleries in Anambra State; the Jos-Plateau Shere hills with its beautiful landscape and mild climate and rock formation; the Wikky Warm Springs; the Bima Hills in Bauchi; the Mambilla Plateau; the Olumo Rock in Abeokuta; the Idanre Hills in Ondo State measuring 3,000 feet above sea level. (Afolabi-Ojo, 1966). The Obudu Cattle Ranch, as well as other landscapes of exquisite beauty found in different parts of the country remain invaluable tourist resorts that have not been fully developed.

The country has large expanse of unused land which include substantial part of the Niger Delta.  It is said that Nigeria has a coastline of about 815 kilometers with very enticing sandy beaches which can be transformed into holiday resorts of international standard.  The coastline stretches from Lagos State, all through the coastal states to Rivers and Cross River States.  Boat cruise along the shore-line itself offers a beautiful scenic attraction.  Although there are many beaches along the coastline, they have not been developed for maximum benefits of their potentials.

Cultural sites and monuments
Archaeologists in the course of their research have discovered different sites where excavations were carried out:  Historic towns and sites, sacred grooves and shrines, monuments of various dimensions, festivals as well as other relics of the past that serve to remind us about the history of the Nigerian people abound in different parts of the country.  In recent time, there was a Documentary on the Island of Bonny in Rivers State.  This Documentary captured important legacies and materials which the Europeans who first came to Nigeria left behind.  Among these are the tombs of Emirs deported to Lokoja by Lugard when he was the Governor of Northern Nigeria in the early days of Colonialism, the tombs of British soldiers who died in the course of Northern resistance to Colonialism also there in Lokoja, the house which Lord Lugard occupied, as another historic colonial monument prefabricated from Britain with only nuts for its construction and no nails. 

A number of Archaeological sites have also been discovered which confirms the proliferated nature of the Nigerian people and their level of Archaeological development.  Such include, the excavation of the rich Nok culture, the Igbo-Ukwu, Owo, Ife and the Benue valleys (Isichei, 1976).  Some of the cultural materials adorn our Museums and are also found in European Museums. The tourism potentials of these important historic sites have also remained greatly untapped.

There are also several cultural festivals that are rich in mythology which can be harnessed to attract tourists as they produce feelings of love and brotherhood among members of different ethnic groups.  These Festivals include, Fishing and New Yam Festivals, Egungun and Oro Festivals among the Yorubas, the Eyo Festivals celebrated in Lagos State, Osun Festival in Oshogbo, and other Festivals celebrated in different parts of the country.  The Igbos celebrate the harvest of yams with pop and pageantry, while the Argungun Fishing Festival, celebrated by the Hausas attracts people annually from different parts of the country.  Other fishing festivals celebrated annually include ‘Mjuwa’ Fishing Festival held annually in Yola and the ‘Nwuyu’ Fishing Festival which is also held annually at Ibi in Adamawa State.  Although these Festivals attract tourists from within and outside Nigeria, their potentials can still be enhanced.

Apart from these, there are several cultural and religious festivals that are celebrated in different localities by different ethnic groups that can be made more attractive in order to boost tourism in Nigeria.  The popular Ojude-Oba Festival celebrated in Ijebu-Ode is another good example of festivals that bring people and organizations in large numbers to Ijebu-Ode annually.

Tourism and national development:  a nexus
Development, first and foremost has to be human centered.  It is the people that are the agent of development, as such, they have to enhance their capacity for the harnessing of resources for positive transformation of their lives.  And from the discussions so far, Nigeria has a lot of unique features that can attract people from different parts of the world.  Awaritefe (2005) gave a detailed evaluation of Tourist Resource Areas in Nigeria and identified eight tourist regions with 99 tourist attractions in Nigeria.  Below are the details of the regions and tourist attractions.

Tourism regions in NIgeria

A  Lagos Tourism Region     B  Western Tourism Region             C Edo/Delta Tourism Region

1 –  Bar Beach Lagos               19 – Olumo Rock                                30 – Abraka River Resort Motel
2 –  Lekki Beach Lagos           20 – Ikogosi Warm Springs                  31 – Benin Museum
3 –  Badagry Beach Lagos        21 – Ibadan Zoo                                 32 – Abraka Turf Club
4 -  Whispering Palms Lagos    22 – Oni of Ife Palace                         33 – Okada Wonderland
5 –  Ekpe Beach Lagos            23 – Old Oyo National Park                 34 – Ogba Zoo Benin City
6 –  Ereko Beach Lagos           24 – Idanre Hill                                   35 – Okomu Games Reserve
7 –  National Museum Lagos      25 – Ilorin Park                                    36– Bembo Games Village Abraka
8 –  Takwa Bay Island Lagos     26 – Owu Water Falls                         37 – Emotan Statue Benin City
9 –  Amusement Park Lagos      27 – Itakpe Hill                                  38 – River Ethiope Source,
10-  Lachampagne Tropicana    28 – Osun River/Waterfall                          Umuaja
Lagos                                 29 – Esie Stone, Kwara State.             39 – Edo Setinary
11– Victoria Island Lagos                                                                           40 – Bomadi Carnival Beach
12– Eko Holiday Inn, Lagos
13– Trade Fare Complex Lagos                 E  East Central/South Eastern   F    North-Eastern
14– Ikoyi Cementary, Lagos                              Tourism Region                        Tourism Region
15– Federal Palace Lagos                          51 – Obudu Cattle Ranch                    69 – Borgu Games Reserve
16– Ikoyi Club Lagos                                52 – Igbo-ukwu Terra Kota                 70– Gashaka Gumti Park
17– Apapa Club Lagos                              53 – Enugu Coal Mine                         71 – Gorada Water Falls
18– Sura Market Lagos                                    54 – Oguta Lake Hotel                         72 – Mambilla Plateau
55 – Orji River Park                             73 – Kwa Falls

D River Niger/Benue Tourism            56 – Enugu Zoo                                          74 -  Kure Falls
Region                                                57 -  Umudike Cave                           75 – Sambissa Game
58- Cross River Park Oban                         Reserve
41 – Kainji Park/Lake                                59-  Ogbunike Cave                             76 -  Gurara Falls
42 – Makurdi Plaza                                    60 – Bakassi Peninsula                         77 – Koma Village,
43 – Lugard Residential House                  61– Enugu Town                                          Gongola State.
Lokoja                                                62 – Port Harcourt Culture Center        78 -  Gembu
44 -  Makurdi Zoo                                      63 – Isaac Bpro Park, Port
45 – Shiroro Dam                                               Harcourt
46 – Mango Park Tomb, Bussa                  64 – Cross River Park, Okwango
47 – New Bussa                                          65 - Ogbonkin Water Falls
48 – Lokoja Town                                      66 – Mary Blessing Cave
49 – Zwanda Hotel Lokoja                                Calabar
50 – Ay Guest House, Lokoja                    67 - Obubra Cattle Ranch
68 – Katsina National Park

G   Middle Tourism Region               H   Northern Tourism Region

79 –  Yankari Games Reserve                               90 – Kano Museum/Zoo
80-   Jos Museum/Zoo                                          91 -  Chad Basin Park
81 – Jos Plateau/Sherry Hill                                  92 – Kano Wall
82 – Nicon Noga Hotel Abuja                               93 – Agura Falls  
83 – Aso Rock Abuja                                            94 – Argungun Fishing Festival
84 – Sheraton Abuja                               95 – Nguru Games Village
85 – Gorada Water Falls                                        96 – Sultan of Sokoto Palace                   
86 – Zuma Rock                                                    97 –  Liyafia Hotel Katsina
87 – Abuja Club                                                    98 –  Nguru Falls
88 – Cocoa House Abuja                                      99 -   Katsina National Park
89 – National Abuja

Source:  Awaritefe (2005), Evaluating Tourism Resource Areas in Nigeria for Development

The above data gives a detailed and precise location of areas of tourist attraction in Nigeria.  It is an obvious fact, therefore that these resources have remained untapped essentially because the Tourism Sector is not well developed.  Investment into the sector will make it more attractive and when made attractive, this will lead to job creation in the support services, such as hotels, eateries, as well as the transportation sector.  The subsequent reduction in unemployment will reduce poverty which has been identified as bane to development.  Jiboku and Jiboku (2008). 

Poverty reduction in itself will reduce the rate of criminality such that the huge tasks before the Police Force will reduce.  Apart from this, when people visit places of interest, they like to acquire souvenirs for remembrance, invariably, therefore production of arts and craft will increase as there will be more demands, thus boosting the indigenous home industry.  In essence, more money will be available to individuals, organizations involved in the sector as well as the entire country.  For example, if there are one million tourists coming into the country and each of them decides to expend $100 Dollars in buying souvenirs, it means that 100 Million Dollars would have been injected into the nation’s economy and this will go a long way in transforming the economy.

In the area of social welfare, development of the tourism sector and making it more attractive will have positive effects on the health and well-being of tourists.  In Nigeria where people hardly have time for relaxation, cases of stress, hypertension and sundry illnesses will be reduced. 

There is no gain saying also that the nation’s sole dependence on oil which is a non-renewable resource will be reduced as tourism represents a sustainable resource that requires very little amount to maintain.

Tourism will enhance youth development, stem youth restiveness, foster unity and social cohesion among the numerous ethnic groups in Nigeria.  The current efforts of the Federal Government at re-branding the country will receive a boost through tourism and this will go a long way in enhancing the good image of the country.

Beyond the walls
Walls are barriers to movement.  They are inhibitions that must be conquered for attainment of goals.  The tourism industry in Nigeria though with high potentials for transforming the country has not been fulfilling its part due to a number of factors that need to be overcome.  Awaritefe (2005) has identified about 99 tourist destinations in Nigeria, but the question is:  How many Nigerians are aware of these?  Even the people in the locality have not visited these places.  It becomes imperative for information and enlightenment of Nigerians to be enhanced through the different media of communication.  And as the slogan goes, “catch them young”, tourism could be incorporated into the Curriculum of schools from Primary to the Tertiary Level.

The idea of school excursion should also be enhanced for the pupils to broaden their orientation about Nigeria and her rich cultural heritage from the young age.  The media should also present Documentaries on the tourism potentials of the country regularly to increase the interest of the people in matters concerning tourism.

The Government at the Federal and Local levels where these tourism potentials are located should invest more on them to make these tourist centers more attractive to people.  And the cost of the services should be made affordable to the average Nigerian. Provision of social infrastructures should be enhanced at the tourist locations such as good and accessible roads, good drinking water, adequate and reliable electricity supply, e.t.c.

In addition, security of lives and property of tourists is very important so that those who come into the country will not return to their home countries and give a negative impression that will scare others.

A politically stable polity will attract investors and tourists.  Therefore, the gains of the past ten years of civil rule must not be truncated by ambitious military men.  Also, the political party in power should govern according to the rules to instill the confidence of the international community in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s foreign missions too should be in their vanguard of promoting tourism in their host countries through education and enlightenment. They can, as well have mini museums or galleries of arts and craft in their missions.  This would help to project Nigeria and her tourism potentials.

The efforts of the current Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Board, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe at enhancing the tourism industry in Nigeria should be commended.  The Board needs to participate in Trade Fares, Arts Exhibitions and cultural shows outside the shores of Nigeria to project the country and her tourism potentials.

Finally, one discovers that there is hardly any University offering a Degree Programme in Tourism.  The effort of the Olabisi Onabanjo University at this was truncated by lack of manpower. There is need for gradual development of manpower in this area which could be from the Diploma Level to the Degree awarding level.  It is a multi-disciplinary course that Academics in allied disciplines should be able to design Curriculum for its success.  Without indigenous manpower, sustaining the programme will be difficult.

Nigeria, no doubt, is a country that is blessed in mineral and natural resources.  The discussions so far has pointed to the reality of the fact that up North, down South, in the East and in the West, enormous cultural and natural resources abound whose potentials, if explored, will become a source of sustainable revenue for the country, reduce the country’s dependence on oil, boost the economy and transform the country socio-economically.

The beauty of tourism, apart from the ripple effects on other sectors is that it is a highly sustainable industry with little expense for maintenance and protection.  It is indeed an enormous treasure mine for exploration and exploitation.  We now know the tourist potentials, where they are located and it only requires the will, dedication and commitment of all, particularly the Leadership of the state to provide positive direction so that others can follow suit in investing in the Tourism Sector that is rich, sustainable with high and long term returns on investment. 

As Okude (1997) rightly observed, international tourism is second only to oil as the single largest item of the world trade.  The global economic melt down and fallen prices of crude oil at the international market more than before makes it imperative for alternative sources of revenue to be exploited. Tourism can help us achieve the Nigeria of our dreams not only for the present but also for generations to come.

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