By Michael Oyetunji
Nigeria’s domestic tourism suffers a major setback as one of its finest educational tour attractions in Abuja, Usuma Dam puts an indefinite ban on any tour-related activity within and around its vicinity.
Lower Usman Dam is the 5th Largest Dam in the world and is on the Usuma River in Nigeria. It was built in 1990 near Abuja, the new Capital of Nigeria., and supplied the city with drinking water. The dam holds 93 million cubic meters of raw water. The water flows to five (5) water plants, where the water is treated before it is passed to Abuja. The total capacity of the water is 10,000 cubic meters per hour.
Usuma Dam once offered a picturesque scenery for picnic, hilly surroundings for hiking and a pacific mass of water body for canoeing and fishing. It is a multidimensional facility, playing host to students, researchers and fun lovers.
It was on this premise that a group of Sustainable Tourism Professionals led by Capt. Emmanuel LordsGreat, CEO at TBS Africa, visited the site very recently for a tourism and sustainability assessment programme. On arrival to the Administrative building at the site, they were greeted by the Head, R & P Department, Mrs Mary Edafe, who stated outright that the site is currently closed for any form of tourism activities.
In a briefing with the representatives, she maintained that the closure has been in effect since the covid19 lockdown and authorities have decided to keep it closed until further notice. She also highlighted, as part of the concerns, “the current security risks in the country, and how difficult it is to trust that tourists can not be bought over by unscrupulous elements in poisoning the entire water body, thus causing harm and possible death to people who consume it in and around the FCT”.
“We are not ready to take chances with our work and pledge to provide clean, safe and portable water for the city”, she remarked. “We also have had rumors that there is a porous border around the dam, so security operatives are on ground to ensure no one intrudes”.
As reasonable as these reasons sounded, it was met with a dose of disappointment in the ears of the visiting tour experts, who had wished the site is accessible for the promotion of domestic tourism. “This is a heartbreaking news for us in the tourism and sustainability industry. We don’t have much eco-tourism sites in the city, and here we are, Usuma dam is off the list”, said Captain Emmanuel, the co-ordinator of the group.
They therefore urge the Government to expedite action in tackling the incessant insecurity issues in the country, so that domestic tourism can grow beyond bounds. The recent pandemic has made outbound tourism an almost impossible venture for frequent travelers, but looking inward for consolation have not been encouraging for the travel and tourism industry.
Michael Oyetunji, a tour operator and media professional writes from Abuja as the Editor-in-Chief of The Winepress Station, and the convener of Travel Writers Forum, Nigeria.