November 30, 2021

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We Can’t Say If Calabar Carnival Will Hold This Year –Commissioner

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In this interview, Eric Anderson, commissioner for tourism in Cross River State, gives insight on the 2021 Calabar Carnival. He told TNN that the picture is still hazy, to hold or not to hold.

Excerpts:

 

This is November and there are signals as to whether the Carnival Calabar will hold this year. What is happening?

We are yet to decide on that.

On whether it will hold?

Or not, yes.

I know that preparations usually begin around February and this is November and nothing has been heard.

Preparations can start at any time, not particularly February. So we are yet to take a stand on that. I’m sure within the next week we will take a position on it.

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But how come in November, a position has not been taken? What could be the problem? Those who may want to travel outside Nigeria into Calabar for the Carnival, those who are in Nigeria who may want to plan to attend,  if by November there is no decision, how do people plan?

There are many factors that we need to clarify, to take a position on it. From the end of the government, even for participation and also from the federal government task force on COVID-19. So once all of the communications are agreed upon, we will make a statement and unveil the theme. But again, as I said, I can’t say if it is holding or not at this moment. I don’t have the final authority to do so. Once the communications are right, we will give out a statement on that.

And the state and its people will not be very happy, people who benefit from the value chain of Calabar Carnival.

(Cuts in) I won’t be happy as well if it doesn’t hold. Let me speak as an individual now.

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Yeah!

But you know you asked to know if the carnival is holding or not and I’ve given you a position on that. Nobody will be happy if it doesn’t hold. We know what it does to our economy, people get busier and all of that, we know that. Personally, I won’t be happy but the government is doing its best to round up on all that communications and see to it holding but for now, I can’t say it is holding or not. So give us a few days and we will surely give out a statement.

That means even if it’s going to hold, it’s not going to be the same tempo, it’s not going to be in the same spirit, it’s not going to be the same vibe, it’s not going to be the same in any….

(Cuts in) we will take it in bits. Let’s have the assurance that it will hold first. When you talk of the tempo, that we can build, there wasn’t carnival last year and I know a lot of people are eager, anticipating. So let’s not go back and forth on this, tempo. However it will look, the outlook is secondary, but what is primary is to have it hold.

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Let’s look at tourism drive in the state generally. It looks like the spirit of tourism has really gone down. What could be responsible?

The spirit of tourism has gone down in Nigeria, not only in Cross River. In fact, it’s not a Cross River thing and when you say spirit, I also try to wonder in which area, is it participation, is it influx of people and all of that?

It’s been the same everywhere in the country where people prefer to want to travel even with the restrictions, so it’s not a Cross River thing. We are doing our best to make our tourism sites ready for tourists, from Obanliku to Akamkpa, where we have the Kwa Falls and you see how people come by. So when you talk of the spirit, I wonder which other area.

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I am looking at Calabar generally, the town itself, within the town, the road network is still not the way it should be. Coming into Calabar is a nightmare especially from Uyo or even from the northern part of Cross River, entering Calabar is a nightmare.

Cross River has totally been cut off from Akwa Ibom because of the bad road. Totally, when I say totally, totally cut off. I spent three hours crossing to Akwa Ibom. It is not the responsibility of the Cross River State government, it is the responsibility of the federal government to fix the road, that is a federal road. I understand that contract has been awarded and work has commenced. I also I’m not impressed with the tempo of work, it is very slow but I see some work and on the other side going to the northern part of Cross  River State, you can see that remedial works are being done. It’s been scrapped up and worked up until Biase after the oil palm. So you see that the federal government is also doing some level of work. Then you talk of the road network in Cross River, that’s, I mean.

(Cuts in) Let’s limit it to Calabar.

Okay, to Calabar.

Yes.

What about the road network in Calabar?

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Potholes here and there, even on Calabar road where people use to trek for the dry run and the Carnival walk, you still have potholes.

You won’t be fair in your report if you say there are potholes on dry run routes. As I speak to you now, this is four O’çlock, I am driving on IBB. I am driving round. We go round and we look, trying to protect each other, not necessarily the ministry of culture and tourism. If I see refuse heaps, I will call my colleague who is a commissioner of environment; if I see any pothole, I will call my colleague who is in the ministry of works because I am doing tourism and I expect that people should come and see a clean environment and also see good roads so I do that a lot. If you say there are potholes on our carnival routes, then you won’t be fair on us.

 Talking about the clean town, there was a time Calabar was known as the cleanest in the country. But now I doubt if that remains the same. You still find refuse dumps in in various places, even in the morning hours.

(Cuts in) I even doubt if that statement has been taken away from us because I go round. I travel a lot, as much as I want to. Maybe you can say we need to step our game up, but I doubt if that statement has been taken away from us because we still have the best, the cleanest town in Nigeria.

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Alright, one of the things that attracted people into Calabar was Tinapa, that place is dead.

Tinapa was built and it has a lot of elements, it has a tourism element and a business element. I try to, when you talk of the business element of Tinapa and the tourism element which are…

(Cuts in) which is directly under you

(Cuts in) under my purview, exactly and then up until October last year when the EndSARS thing happened, we were running the tourism element which is the hotel and the water parks. The cinema, overtime, hasn’t been working because of influx of movies to Calabar or Cross River State but since October nothing has really happened because the entire facility was looted. So we are hoping that the federal government will come to our aid and the aid of other private individuals that their properties were affected during the EndSARS protest.

So, the state government is not doing anything concerning Tinapa right now especially the tourism segment?

Well, after the EndSARS protest, a lot of facilities were affected, state government facilities, federal government facilities and private facilities. So state government has started a few repair works. But we haven’t approached the issue of Tinapa yet.

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Let’s round off with security issues as it affects tourism. We are still hearing about kidnap cases. A pastor of Redeemed Church, kidnappers went, deroofed his building, got in and took him away.

I actually spoke in a summit few days ago and we spoke largely up to the point that we feel that it’s our collective responsibility. Yes, the government has to put down apparatus to chase insecurity but we also have to be part of it.

The security agencies are not gods so they can’t see where they are not around, they can’t act without information. So it’s unfortunate that Redeemed pastor was kidnapped. My prayer is we are able to get his release. But we also need to be more proactive in our day to day watch, we need to communicate more with the police, we also need to re-orientate our people, our kids at every level. So it’s unfortunate, we are trying our best. I know sometime last year it was worse, but the state government was also very intentional by setting up the operation Kpaku, which of course you will agree with me, they’ve done a good job in the past one year. But you know the criminals never give up. You chase them to the right and they turn round to the left. The government will not gain anything by not doing anything, we are trying our best and we also expect that we should share communication, we should share information.

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