By Steve Steve, Yenagoa
The Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), the umbrella body of all tourism and hospitality related associations in Nigeria, has called on the governor of Bayelsa state, Rt. Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson to replace the Rector of the state-own International Institute of Tourism and Hospitality, Yenagoa, Chef Samuel Timi Johnson with a qualified person without further delay, saying that quality training was the key to good customer service in the in the tourism and hospitality industry.
National Vice President of FTAN South-South, Mr. Ofuka Peter made the call when he paid a courtesy visit on the chairman of Bayelsa state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Mr. Samuel Numenege, at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre, Yenagoa on Monday.
Mr. Peter said the call became necessary, following recent media reports of the discovery by Members of Bayelsa State House of Assembly that the Rector of the International Institute of Tourism and Hospitality, Yenagoa does have the required academic qualifications which led to the refusal of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) to the programmes of the institute.
He regretted that over sixty (60) pioneer students who registered for the National Diploma programmes of the institute in the 2016/2017 academic session ended up spending three (3) good years in the institute for a two years’ programme, without obtaining their National Diploma certificates due to the non accreditation of the institute’s programmes by the accrediting body, owing to the lack of relevant academic qualifications of the Rector.
According to the FTAN Vice President, it is only quality tourism and hospitality training that could the produce the required work force to service the hospitality industry and as such the tourism federation will no longer fold its hands to watch training institutes cutting corners in their training programmes.
The visiting FTAN national vice president informed the NUJ chairman that “FTAN has the mandate to act as the apex body to provide leadership, direction and control for private sector travel, hospitality and allied services, co-ordinate, promote and protect the interest of the sector in the nation’s economy with a view to protecting the interests of its members”.
“Liaise, interact and work in concert with the government (Federal, States, and LGAs) and its agencies in order to guarantee the timely and effective development of travel and tourism resources in Nigeria, establish a code of operating standards and ethics to enhance credibility of the profession and encourage its acceptability, provide a vehicle as a platform for self-development, interchange of knowledge, experience and formal professional training, publish regular directory of member associations, including their areas of undertakings to the public at large as deemed necessary and maintain contact with similar bodies worldwide to prompt bi-lateral exchanges between FTAN and such bodies/organizations”, he noted.
He commended the state governor for his foresight in establishing the International Institute of Tourism and Hospitality to train middle manpower for the tourism industry, adding that FTAN has been following up the governor’s developmental strides in the tourism and hospitality sector, particularly the construction of a golf course, polo club, the Royal Tulip Hotel, the proposed tourism island and film village among other loadable tourism initiatives under the restoration government.
He used the visit to announce the intention of FTAN to attract over one thousand visitors to the state through FTAN South-South Tourism Fair in the state in December, informing that national executive of the body has approved the event for Bayelsa, after considering the state’s drive in tourism development.
Responding, the State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Samuel Numenege thanked the FTAN vice president for the visit. He gave him the assurance that journalists in state will cover all activities of the federation
He said as correspondent of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) he has severally covered tourism and hospitality events, informing that Bayelsa state could be become the hub of aquatic tourism activities because of its maritime nature the rich cultural heritage.
Earlier, the newly inaugurated coordinator of Bayelsa state chapter of FTAN, Mr. Ebi Iyoro, had solicited the support of the NUJ, saying that the state chapter will soon set up committees in hospitality, resort and leisure services, transportation, tours and travel services, tourism events and marketing, manpower development, legislation and standards, tourism facilities, support and allied services, intergovernmental relation, finance and investment services and public affairs.
Recall that: Serious indications recently emerged that the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), the accrediting and regulatory body for Polytechnics and Monotechnics has reportedly stepped down the accreditation of the newly established International Institute of Tourism & Hospitality Yenagoa, on account of worthless academic credentials of the institute’s Rector, Mr. Samuel Timi Johnson, which he claimed to have obtained from an undisclosed university in the United State of America, where he claimed to have practiced as chef for 35 years prior to his appointment by the Bayelsa state governor, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson in 2017.
According to a source, the Bayelsa State House of Assembly Committee on Public Petitions, chaired by Hon. Tare Pori, during an interrogatory session with top management of the institute, following an earlier invitation by the committee on account of a petition to the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Tonye Emmanuel Isenah by six aggrieved academic staff against top management of the institute reportedly uncovered the Rector’s academic qualifications.
The cat was left of the bag on Rector’s “Toronto” certificates while he was responding to questions by a female member of the Committee who asked the Rector pointed questions as to whether he possessed the required relevant academic qualifications to be appointed as Rector of the International Institute of Tourism & Hospitality, which is meant to award both national diploma and higher national diplomas as a Monotechnic.
The Rector, in response, reportedly told the lawmakers that he was a certified registered ServSafe instructor of the National Restaurants Association of America, USA. However, findings at the Federal Ministry of Education Abuja showed that Rector’s highest academic certificate, being the “ServSafe certificate” from the National Restaurants’ Association of America, was not an equivalent to the least recognized academic qualification in Nigeria, being First School Leaving Certificate, not to talk of obtaining a Senior School Certificate or a Degree.
It will be recalled that the NBTE guidelines for appointment of a Rector in Polytechnic, Monotechnic and other allied technological institutions stipulates that the person must be of the rank of Chief Lecturer (Polytechnic) or its equivalent (Professor) rank in a University and holder of a Doctorate Degree in the relevant field(s) from a recognized institution with at least 12 years of teaching/applied research work experience.
In addition, the candidate should have five academic papers, read at national/international conference/seminar; four additional papers/articles published in reputable journals and must have contributed four meaningful chapters in standard textbooks or two standard textbooks. Such appointee must also show evidence of community service and membership of a relevant academic professional body as with valid registration.
From this reporter’s findings, Mr. Timi Johnson does not have any of the aforementioned requirements (not even the least First School Leaving Certificate).
Sources hinted that the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), the accrediting body for Polytechnics and Monotechnics in Nigeria had since declined to continue with the earlier accreditation process of the institute’s National Diploma (ND) programmes, pending the removal of the current Rector on account of his incompetence and lack of required relevant academic qualifications to become a Rector of a Monotechnic that would be awarding NBTE’s National Diploma and Higher National Diplomas. A letter emanating from the Federal Ministry of Education after an evaluation of the Rector’s American certificates, with ref: No FME/SE/S/174/C.3/LXXXII/212, dated April 12, 2013, obtained by this reporter, stated that the “Servesafe” Certificate, being the highest qualification the Rector presented is just a “Proficiency Certificate for the Enhancement of Skill on the Job’’.
It was also learnt on good authority that the embattled Rector has been making spirited efforts to reach out to the Speaker of the House and the House committee chairman, including a frontline governorship aspirant and some commissioners in the state to conceal the matter before it gets to the ears of the governor.
Mr. Johnson is also said to be having a running battle with the Registrar of the Institute, Mr. Leo Adeh, over alleged monumental fraud and diversion of institute’s fund, amounting to over 80million naira.
A Government House source in Yenagoa, who pleaded not to be mentioned, hinted that some top government officials were still bent on ensuring that the certificate scandal was concealed from the governor to allow the Rector stay in office till the end of the governor’s second tenure, being February 14, 2020.
When contacted for comments, he agreed that he is the Rector of the institution.
In his words: “Yes, I’m the Rector. I’m in a meeting right now. This is a state institution. So, whatever findings you want, you need to go through the state and get what you need.
“This is not a private institution. I’m not obliged to give you any report. I can’t even do phone conversation with you.”
When our reporter urged him further to speak despite on phone, he retorted: “I can’t talk to you. I cannot talk. I have told you it’s a state institution and not mine. You go through the state and get your report. The state will be able to give you the facts that you need.”
When further reminded that the certificate in question is his and he could speak on it being the owner, he said a call was on his phone and he needed to pick the call. “I need to pick this call, the chairman is calling me, thank you,” and he hung the call.
FTAN was founded in 1997 by the Federal Ministry of Tourism Culture and National Orientation with a view to have easy liaison with the organized private sector in the tourism, hospitality and culture.
At the global level, FTAN is similar to Egypt Tourism Federation, Kenya tourism federation, Ghana Tourism Federation, confederation of Tanzania as well as Hospitality and Tourism Federation of Uganda.