Following series of allegations and counter allegations, the supervising ministry of Culture and Tourism has finally issued a query to the embattled Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Ms Sally Mbanefo. Apparently irked by many allegations and petitions received on the Brazil’s FansVillage, the ministry is demanding explanation from the DG on how the event ought to promote Nigeria has degenerated into a monumental scandal.
It was exclusively gathered that no sooner had she received the query than she assembled her strategist to work on how the entire scandal could be managed without media attention. A major step she finally took was a press briefing with news editors where she begged to be blacked out of the unfolding scandal. One of the editors who attended the briefing informed that majority of the editors were miffed at such request that they should not write anything about her except those emanating from her consultants.
Apart from the controversy surrounding the alleged Memorandum of Understanding between the NTDC and Za Entertainment, the ministry is equally worried about how the event ought to be a crowd pulling event ended being a one-room show.
It was gathered that the board of NTDC gave an approval for 12 persons to travel with the DG to Brazil for the tournament and the Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) had been paid for that number of persons. Contrarily however, it was alleged that Mrs Mbanefo travelled to Brazil with about three journalists, the Chairman of the NTDC staff union, her daughter and Omo-Agege, without any member of the NTDC project unit in the entourage. It was still unclear who the DTA was paid to, a matter the ministry is trying to unravel.
One of the management staff of the corporation being dragged into the crisis is Fatima Obadakin whom the DG is alleging to have introduced the Za Entertainment to her. A top source however countered the allegation that Fatima’s department had since be outsource technically to a consultant simply identified as Ola Wright.
It would be recalled that the first international exhibition this year was FITUR held in Madrid, Spain in January. The country was expected to be represented at the event but just at the last minutes, the DG cancelled and pulled out of the event without any official explanation for such an act although reports emanating from the Abuja office attributed the withdrawal to lack of fund.
Many of the operators and even staffers of NTDC were shocked by this development as this event was captured in its budget. Therefore to many, the excuse of lack of fund was untenable as she was berated for what some observers say was her lack of understanding of the importance of global exposure for the development of a destination, particularly that of Nigeria; Which is still struggling for attention.
If many thought that what happened with FITUR in January would not repeat itself again, then they were utterly proved wrong when Ms. Mbanefo again cancelled and pulled out of the ITB Berlin event, which held between March 5 and 9. Again, reports from the Abuja office blamed lack of funds for this action.
Even though observers are beginning to notice-an emerging partner with her handling of tourism affairs, especially with international events, what many of the operators find so worrisome and disturbing was the fact that two days into the Berlin event NTDC DG flew to Berlin with about 10 persons made of a member of the board of NTDC, her staff, journalists and a member of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN).
Not as exhibitors as the allocated stand for Nigeria (Stand 21/118) at the Africa hall, was empty as the country has recorded ‘no show’ but as ‘observers.’ Many wonder why she would show up as an observer to an event that the country has exhibited in at least in the last one decade without fail.
Reports from the event pointed out that attempt by the Nigerian team led by her to hoist a solitary flag of the country at the empty stand or stay around was rebuffed by the organizers who were miffed by the ‘no show’ act of Nigeria after the space booked for by NTDC was reserved. This development it was gathered made the tourism ministry to write international agencies that henceforth, the ministry shall take charge of international tourism activities like exhibition.
All efforts to speak with the DG was unsuccessful as all calls made to her mobile 0706***4030 were not answered.