Despite the security challenges being witnessed in parts of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said Nigeria under his watch was sufficiently safe and secure.
But speaking with journalists in Benin, the Edo State capital on Tuesday, a former Secretary of the National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Ben Obi, said going by the incessant killings across the country, Nigeria could not be said to be safe and secure.
He described the spate of violence in Nigeria as a failure of government.
However, Buhari said since the first thing tourists all over the world looked out for was security, Nigeria was now open for tourism.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President spoke while receiving the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, Mr Zurab Pololikashvili, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari said the security situation in the country before the inception of his administration would have made it inconceivable to host an international tourism conference in Abuja four years ago, like it was being done now.
The 61st UNWTO Commission for Africa conference is holding in Abuja.
The President said, “I am pleased that the country is now sufficiently safe and secure, and the message should go out to the world for all tourists and business travellers.
“The first thing tourists look out for is security and I am happy we have it now. Minister Lai Mohammed has been trying to convince the world that Nigeria is safe and has great potential for tourism and investment. I am glad that you and your team have come here to see things for yourself.”
Highlighting the nexus between tourism and sustainable development, the President said Nigeria would not be left behind in ensuring that communities and businesses benefit from tourism development.
In his remarks, Pololikashvili commended Nigeria for the successful hosting of the conference which brought together African Ministers of Tourism, principal executives of the global tourism body and other stakeholders in the tourism sector.
The UN tourism chief told Buhari that Nigeria had huge potential to develop the tourism sector considering its large economy.
“We can do it in Nigeria, we can create, convert Nigeria to the main tourist destination in Africa. There is huge potential here. Culture, nature, food you have everything here.
“You are investing in agriculture, improving seamless travel through visa-on-arrival programme, reforming the economy and doing so much on security. Nigeria is safe,” Pololikashvili said.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said 166 delegates, including 26 tourism ministers from Africa were attending the UN tourism conference, holding from June 4 to June 6 in Abuja.
However, Obi lamented that the country had continued to witness killings without the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.
According to him, the inability of the APC-led government to take urgent steps to protect the lives and property of the citizens had left many Nigerians in a state of despair.
He said, “You cannot be comfortable with the security situation whereby, every day, you turn on the television and the radio to hear people dying as if human lives are no more important. The lives of chickens have become even more important than human lives in our country today.”