It is incontestable, that Nigeria is sitting on a tourism goldmine that is rich, if not richer than oil, and among the 36 states of the federation, perhaps no state is as blessed and endowed as Taraba state in terms of its tourism potentials and rich natural resources. This probably describes why the state is often called the ‘Nature’s gift to the nation’. For Taraba state, no area can be more attractive and hugely rewarding than tourism. The state can offer a lot, even to the most demanding tourists such as an undulating and rolling hills, thick forests, as if one were in the Amazon forests of Brazil, all season rivers, parks, including the Gashaka-Gumti National park, the largest in the country, various species of rare wildlife, including buffaloes,elephants,hyenas,tigers,hippopotamus,antelopes,baboons,birds,reptiles and many others.
Also, there is the temperate Mambilla plateau, with its highest point standing majestically at over 9,000feet above sea level, and in fact, the highest point anywhere in the country.
There is more going for Taraba. The state’s mild climate, especially on its high hills and mountains, is good for livestock breeding and the cultivation of crops, such as tea, coffee and cocoa. It is, therefore, not surprising that Taraba state has the largest herds of cattle in the country, and thus contributing greatly in meeting the meat as well as the hide and skin needs of the country.
In addition, the state’s rich multiculturalism in which its various language groups, unique crafts, foods, dances, dresses and indigenous technology have endured for centuries and different ethnic groups co-existing in an atmosphere of peace and harmony, are values that should be highly celebrated.
For the tourists, such rich varieties are irresistible attractions. For instance, the Rio festival in Brazil attracts millions of dollars that boost the Brazilian economy. There is no reason why annual cultural fiestas in Taraba state, if properly organized, given their richness, cannot do the same for the state and the country in general.
It is in recognition of this, that the government has made determined efforts to improve areas of tourists attractions like the Mambilla tourist centre, the Gumti National park and game game reserve in Gashaka, the Nwonyo Fishing festival in Ibi which usually holds in April of every year, where activities such as canoe racing, swimming competition and cultural dances take place.
Other festivals receiving government attention include the Purma of the Dunga,Takum and Bali;the Puje of the Junkuns, Kuchecheb of Kutebs in Takum and Ussa, and Kati of the Mambilla, among others. Also,the government is working tirelessly to attract foreign investors to invest in the natural resources that abound in the state.
Again, as a result of the massive presence of tourism potentials in the state, the federal government, it would be recalled declared the Mambilla plateau in the Sardauna local government area of the state as venue for the yearly World Tourism Day celebration, taking place on the Mambilla plateau every year, is our own equivalent of the cool Swiss Alps which is attracting good publicity and attention to the state. Taking practical steps such as the provision of infrastructure, like roads, airport and air-strips would go a long way in the intended repositioning of Taraba’s tourism industry.
Therefore, repositioning the tourism industry in the state, no doubt is a bold and indeed a welcome goal by the government. Just as important, such a desire of the government could not have been more timely, considering that governments around the world, including developing ones, are faced with mounting economic slowdown and deteriorating revenues, and are exploring ways of diversifying and expanding their economies and revenue sources.
Truly, nature has been good to Taraba state, it has vast natural resources, including mineral resources, fertile lands, rivers and lakes, unmatched scenery, good climate, hospitable people and perhaps more importantly, an enduring peace in a region that is lately going through trying times. The snag though is that this blessed state of nature has not been fully matched by commensurate efforts and investment in order to turn these potentials into reality for the good of the whole state. For this to happen, there is a need for partnership between the government and the private sector, which is happily what the state government has in mind today.
In conjunction with the private investors, who are focused on the big picture and long-term returns, rather than immediate gain. Taraba can develop and turn its forests, lakes, rivers, parks, wildlife and the temperate mountains into first class tourist sites and destinations. Then the tourists from far and near will come in large numbers with bulging pursues containing foreign currencies and spend them as they enjoy the pleasures of these attractive sites. If this were to happen, in the long run Taraba’s economy will receive a boost and benefitting both the government and the citizens, who may want to be involved in the industry, as operators of lodges, tour guides, or handcraft vendors.
No doubt, the tourism industry is a daunting business, not the least because it requires big capital to develop the necessary infrastructure such as roads, airports or air-strips, hotels and perhaps above all, patience, as the rewards may not start flowing immediately, unlike say the case of oil.
On the other hand, its benefits are truly enormous. Not only is the industry a great employer of labour, which in this period of increasing unemployment is the perfect antidote to these problems, it is also a true, not like say again, oil, which while plentiful today, could suddenly dry up tomorrow, leaving dependent nations holding the long end of the stick.
In this regard, it is very important for governments, and in this particular case for Taraba state to start the process of weaning itself from the unhealthy dependence on the monthly allocation from the federal pot, made largely of oil revenue, by intensifying efforts to develop the vast untapped tourism industry in the state. Such an effort also has the added advantage of accelerating and bringing fresh impetus for the socio-economic development of the state.
Thus, if Taraba state really wants to develop and faster too, few areas offer a better prospect than its latent tourism sector. It is, therefore, the time to turn these enormous nature’s gifts for the benefit of the state and the country at large.

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