Unlike in the past when preparations leading up to the commencement of the Calabar Christmas Festival were always pinch perfect, preparations for the 2017 Calabar Christmas Festival appear to have been half-heartedly put together, www.calitown.com can report.
Just days before the December 1, annual commencement date, the Cross River State Ministry of Information circulated a press release, signed by Ben Okache, Information Officer in the ministry, on behalf of Rose Archibong, Commissioner for Information, inviting government officials and members of the public to the traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony that normally flags off the festival. Specifically, the press release stated November 30, 2017, as the date for the tree lighting ceremony. That ceremony did not hold. A well placed government official who spoke with www.calitown.com revealed that this ceremony was shifted because “most of the potholes in the streets of Calabar are still being worked on. We have deemed it fit to hold on with this aspect of the festival till a later date.”
When we visited the Millennium Park, where this particular ceremony normally takes place, early this morning, a handful of persons were seen labouring to erect and decorate the one Christmas tree that was visible as well as decorate the Eleven-Eleven roundabout. The walls of the fence at the park were yet to be painted and decorated as well. Some persons who were at the cenotaph in the park, expressed surprise that “even the decorations on the street that we normally see at this time of the year, are not there and we are not too sure the streets will be decorated”, as one of them put it.
At the Calabar Christmas village on the grounds of the Calabar Municipal Council, our reporter noticed that unlike in the past, most shop owners were yet to commence business. One seriously agitated woman who refused to give her name was seen engaging policemen and a crowd of persons in a heated argument. On enquiry it was discovered that the lady and several others may have fallen prey to the antics of a few persons who collected monies and made multiple allocation of stalls to unsuspecting clients. “They started by telling us a stall was N75, 000 (seventy five thousand naira only) and most of us paid. When the governor heard about this amount, he told them to reduce it to N70, 000 (seventy thousand naira). Those of us who paid the first amount have not had refunds made to us and now we have come here to discover that the stalls given to us have been reallocated to several other persons. I have been coming to this village and doing business here, what I am seeing this year is something I have never seen before. These people are corrupt and seem to think that we will just let our money go like that”, the woman was heard saying.
We could not at press time validate her claims even though several persons were seen in groups bemoaning this same fate, cursing and swearing. “We will sort all of these out, the people are not patient”, we heard one government official say.
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