By Benson Ezugwu
Ugep (Cross River) – The Cross River Government has created three new Agro-Cultural festivals in each of the Senatorial districts, to ensure harmony among the various communities in the state.
Mr Kenneth Akler, Special Adviser to the Governor on Events Management, said this in Ugep, Yakurr Local Government Area on Wednesday in Ugep, Cross River, while briefing newsmen on activities marking this year’s Leboku International New Yam Festival.
He said the state government regarded agro-cultural festivals as very important for peaceful co-existence of among indigenous communities across the state and decided to accord it top priority.
“The administration of Prof. Ben Ayade is very passionate about New Yam festivals and other important cultural festivals that showcase the great cultural heritage of our people.
“We are also aware that these agro-cultural festivals have over time served as rallying points for peace and affinity of our people and communities.
“Therefore, in an attempt to preserve this very important part of our existence, the government has created three new festivals to be celebrated by each of the three senatorial zones.
“We are beginning with the 2017 Leboku International New Yam Festival in Ugep on Aug. 22 for the Central Senatorial District; Otumobong Festival for the Southern District; while the Northern zone will come up with their own on Sept. 30.”
The special adviser said that the state government was committed to ensuring the expansion and upgrading of the festivals to meet international standard and attract more tourists to the state.
According to him, Cross River has the richest cultural heritage in Nigeria and government is ready to blend culture with the agricultural potential of the people for agro-tourism to thrive.
“We believe in value addition in whatever we are doing.
“It is our desire to promote agro-festivals so that our people will get value for their agricultural products.
“We also want to expand our drive for job creation through agriculture.”
He assured the people of Ugep of government’s support for this year’s event, saying that some international tourists had indicated interest to participate.
Mr Chibuzo Aguche, the Representative of MTN Nig., official sponsors of the festival, said that this year’s Leboku Festival would attract better offers, including free digital e-credit sale to 10 people.
“Since the past 10 years that we have been in this partnership, we have tried to improve the festival and bring it to international standard.
“MTN Nig. is assuring the people of Ugep and Cross River of our continued participation and partnership.”
Meanwhile, Ofem Eteng, the Traditional Ruler of Ugep and Paramount Ruler of Yakurr Local Government Area, said the people of Ugep were ready for the annual festival.
He debunked claims that there was insecurity in the area, saying that the Ugep Traditional Council was working in close collaboration with security agencies to rid the community of cultism and other vices.
“Ugep is free, peaceful and ready to receive visitors. We have put in place security measures before, during and after the festival.
“I can assure you that Ugep is currently the most peaceful community in the whole of Cross River,”Akler said. (NAN)