The glory days of the Cultural Centre, Calabar, once touted as a relic for the unity of the 18 local governments and unique selling point to visitors into the nation's paradise seem to be permanently over. Reptiles are gradually taking over the edifice.
In the past, it has played host to many events that are synonymous with the state which has made many Cross Riverians more attached to this relic which sits on the sprawling nerve centre, opposite the premier Etim Edem Motor Park.
Questions begging for ready answers reverberate silently in the minds of many who had wished the state relic remained functional in line with the vision of its founder, U.J Esuene, of blessed memory, who conceived the idea to erect a monument like this to host state functions and other glamorous events.
Cross River Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mr. Eric Anderson, in an earlier report on the decaying cultural centre acknowledged that it was built to promote theatre and cultural activities in the state. In the report, he attributed the decay to poor management by those the former government of Liyel Imoke leased the maintenance of the facility. Since this revelation two years ago, nothing tangible has been done to give the edifice the attention it deserves.
Huge sums of money sunk into the renovation of the facility by the state government has not yielded noticeable results. The former administration's sale of three hectares of land in the cultural centre to ARTEE Group which has since built a mall around part of the land and resultant demolition of some parts in the cultural centre leaves many dance troupes with lesser space during rehearsals.
Apart from internal decay, the complex and its surroundings have been taken over by hawkers and lunatics who identify the space as a nest for relaxation. More worrisome is that hawkers pass faeces and urine in gutters. The gutters have turned into a complete mess with sachet water and garbage littering every part, particularly the entrance. The cultural centre is indeed sliding towards infamy.
TNN investigations reveal that the cultural centre has completely been abandoned, at least going by activities of those who find the surroundings as a place for convenience. Bassey Etuk in an interview said “poor enforcement of sanitation with stiffer penalties to those who openly urinate on the surroundings emboldens offenders. This indiscipline mainly from hawkers is a serious threat to health of those doing business on the area”
He advocated proper hygiene to save people around the area from contracting airborne diseases. Charlie, a photographer on the street close to the cultural centre said they have tried severally to make sanitation a priority but to no avail and that most of the hawkers were the ones making the environment dirty. The lush green grass though maintained constantly, hawkers have free access to making it smell very unpleasant with their activities.
Bernard Elias told TNN that the government must not allow the centre deteriorate beyond repair even though the steam has died down in terms of hosting events but must assiduously work towards keeping it in a top shape as a relic.”
Government should be proactive in ensuring that it doesn't become a waste because it is a monument everyone is very proud of when events are hosted. I urge government to make strict enforcement in order to make the surroundings as beautiful as it used to be” he said.
In a startling confession, a source which craved anonymity told TNN that the centre was becoming a breeding ground for snakes."Na grass cutter and snakes get cultural centre now, so sad!"
It is common knowledge that many relics associated with the state have become shadows, left to be imagined during the good old days. It is therefore imperative for government through the ministry of culture, to step up measures to keep monuments like this in good shape for generations yet unborn, just like other cities have kept their heritage intact.