The Kogi state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has pledged to take necessary steps to raise the annual Lokoja Boat Regatta Festival to a national event as from next year.
Speaking in Lokoja, the state capital at the 2018 edition of the festival organised by the Forum of Lokoja Patriots the governor said his administration would make enough funds and human resources available to improve the status of the annual event.
He described the state as a beehive of Nigeria’s culture, saying that the move will also create jobs for the youths and increase the state’s internally generated revenue of the state.
The governor, who was represented at the event by his Commissioner for culture and tourism, Mr Victor Adoji, also commended the organisers of the annual event for its efforts to preserve the culture and tradition of the people of Lokoja and its environs.
He assured the members of the forum that government intention was not to relegate them to the background but to partner with them and the Lokoja Traditional Council to reinforce the unique position of Lokoja in the history of Nigeria.
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Bello also lauded the Maigari of Lokoja, Alhaji Muhammadu Kabir, for defending and promoting the culture of his people.
The Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Sen Olotunnimbe Mamora, said the organisation had concluded arrangement for the development of Lokoja waterfront to add further value to the aesthetical beauty of the town.
Mamora who was represented by Director, Special Project of NIWA, Dr Sheu Gidado, said that move would also ensure the security and guarantee the businesses of the people living along the waterfront.
The Chairman of the occasion, Mr Hassan Kilani, urged Federal and state governments to be more concerned about the development of the country’s tourism potential to reduce dependence on oil.
Kilani said that tourism as one of the fastest growing sector globally if fully tapped can generate millions of jobs and serve as foreign exchange earners for the country.
The Chairman of the Lokoja Forum of Patriots, the organizer of the event, Alhaji Idris Baba’ango, commended government decision to partner with the Forum to raise the status of the festival.
He, however, appealed to corporate organisations and individuals to rally round the forum in its efforts to prevent the traditional festivals of the people from going into extinction.