The Senate on Thursday said it was working toward separating tourism and culture from the Ministry of Information.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, made this known at the opening of a public hearing on the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Act 2004 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2017.
Mr. Saraki, who was represented by the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Bala Na’Allah, said that the separation was imperative to enable the tourism sector enjoy autonomy for rapid development.
“Our ministries have never been helpful in anything developmental. So, the long and short of the story is that the Senate wants to give freedom to the parastatals, particularly the culture and tourism sector,” he said.
In his remarks, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Tourism, Matthew Urhoghide, said that investment in tourism was very crucial in view of the dwindling government revenue and the current recession.
He said that diversifying the economy was imperative following the contraction in the country which was occasioned by the fall in crude oil prices.
Mr. Urhoghide said that the NTDC Act had never gone through any form of review or amendment since it was enacted, in spite of several years of socio-political and economic changes.
He explained that one of the things the NTDC Bill would achieve was to abolish the existing Act and re-enacted a fresh one.
He explained that the re-enactment, when concluded, would change the nomenclature of the establishment to Nigerian Tourism Development Authority.
Meanwhile, proprietors of hotels in Nigeria, who attended the public hearing, have appealed to the Senate to save them from multiple taxes by state and local government councils across the country.
They supported the move by the senate to empower NTDA to harmonise all tax collections.
The President, Hotel Owners’ Forum, in Abuja, Chike Ezeudeh, said hotel business in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had become difficult because of taxes.
He said that they were subjected to over 30 different levies by the FCT authorities and the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).
“My brother from Ondo State said one of the levies his hotel paid yearly to the multiple tax collectors in the state is N7.5 million but that is more like a chicken change here in FCT.
“We are levied N29 million, N20 million, N15 million and so on, on yearly basis by the various tax collectors.
“This is the reason we are kicking against the one per cent-per-room levy proposed in the bill, although we strongly support the move to empower NTDA as sole collector of taxes from hotels,” he said.
A hotelier from Ondo State, Olafemi Egbodofo, said the tax situation in the state was unbearable.
According to him, since the Supreme Court ruling of 2013, which empowered states and local government councils to collect levies, not less than 15 different bodies have been collecting different forms of tax from hotels.
Mr. Egbodofo explained that one of the levies was as high as N8 million annually.
“This is suffocating and killing because the multiple taxation has landed many of us in very uncomfortable position as it is difficult to pay salaries and even remain in business,” he said.