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The forgotten Abuja tourism plan

One of the attractive features of the Gwagwa Plains in Abuja that drew the attention of Nigeria’s new capital city planners within the new Federal…

One of the attractive features of the Gwagwa Plains in Abuja that drew the attention of Nigeria’s new capital city planners within the new Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is its undulating landscape. Yet, other identified landscapes with potential to make the undulating city more attractive are the Bobo Plains located close to the city site and earmarked for tourism. Unfortunately, it appears there is no interest in the implementation of the tourism aspect.

In the city’s master plan, facilities are recommended appropriate to the scale of the FCT in general and the capital city in particular. The Bobo Plains is an entirely enclosed valley of about 80,000 hectares, comprising a discrete watershed area sparsely populated and is not penetrated deeply by roads. The opportunity exists to make a neatly environmentally self-contained game reserve. It is of sufficient size and isolation to allow the propagation of mammals which once existed in profusion in Nigeria. The unique opportunity lies in its relatively short distance from the capital city.

The combination of the new city and a national game park adjacent to it will create a locational situation in West Africa, comparing favourably with that of Nairobi, Kenya, and its adjoining national park in East Africa. With such a wide variety of habitats and topography within the Bobo Plains complex, there is rich and varied fauna.

Experiences in Kenyan, Tanzanian and Ugandan parks indicate that tourists spend the majority of their game-viewing time seeking the “big six”: lion, cheetah, elephant, rhino, buffalo and giraffe. A number of these species, as well as others, sought by the tourists have been exterminated locally or restricted to a few areas. The Bobo Plains has the potential for exciting game viewing and is desirable for it to be developed with the view to reintroducing some of the species into suitable habitats within the plains.

Wildlife tourism is a major generator of revenue to some nations and provinces within nations. When large numbers of international tourists are involved, it is a significant source of foreign exchange (forex). National parks and other strictly protected tracts of habitats are the primary focus of international wildlife tourism. If a park is to have long-time local support, it must have local value as cultural or natural heritage, an education resource, a recreational resource or as a direct economic resource.

A nation the size of Nigeria could well have more wildlife reserves and parks. Several East African nations have between five and 10 per cent of their total land areas set aside in protected parks, game reserves and conservative units. The Bobo Plains will be a suitable addition to the Nigerian system of parks and reserves.

Apart from the Bobo Plains, the Abuja Master Plan recommended other areas as national monuments/wilderness protection areas in the immediate vicinity of the capital city: the Zuma Rock area, the escarpments of the Bwari-Aso Hills, the Zangon-Kuku Hills and the hills bounding the Eastern and South Eastern areas of the FCT. All have unique and superb inselberg outcroppings.

As a major economic force in the world today, tourism is increasingly recognised as a driving force both for creating job opportunities and preserving national assets and cultural heritage. Hence, it becomes one of the strategies being used to facilitate the attainment of one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in many countries. Its advantages lie in its employment creating potential and the challenges it presents for the enhancement of the quality of the environment. Also, as the world’s biggest employer of labour, it is said to be the world’s prime economic force because it circulates more money and generates more investments and social contacts than any other economic factor.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), tourism is one of the top five exports for over 80 per cent of countries worldwide. The UNWTO, in June, 2008, revealed that international tourist arrivals reached 903 million and international tourist receipts grew to $856bn in 2007, corresponding to an increase in real terms of 5.6 per cent in 2006. There is no doubt that, with our tourism potentials we are either not aware or are unmindful of the fact that we are sitting on untapped gold.

The Tourism Development Decree No 81 of 1992 empowers the establishment of state tourism boards and also made possible the establishment of the Abuja Tourism Development Board (ATDB). Unfortunately, due to the lack of attention on the implementation of this beautiful proposal, the Bobo Plains as the potential tourism hub appears to be eaten up by mass housing development. As it is, it is not known whether the proposal will see the light of day.


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