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Today's news from Nigeria


A great concept for all African cities


By Wolfgang H.Thome  January O3, 2016


When Ikechi Uko, a few days prior to Christmas, called to invite me to attend the African continent’s largest carnival street party, Calabar in Cross River State, was I torn between grabbing the ever packed suitcase and rushing to the airport or honouring commitments made for the festive season to family and friends.
The latter prevailed when the pointed comment was made to look for a new family somewhere along the lanes normally travelled if the already extensive absence from home – in 2015 I traveled as much as 70 percent across the year – would now be extended to the Christmas and New Year period too.
Thankfully did Denis Gathanju of Safari Communications in Nairobi not have such sentiments to deal with and so he did grab his suitcase and traveled to Nigeria, promising to file a review of his experience as soon as he had returned to Kenya.
That said, Ikechi Uko already got my acceptance for the 2016 festival confirmed and that gives me a good 11 months to prepare the ground of being away for the Festive Season 2016.
Read on to get his first hand experience of the Calabar Carnival:
Celebrate Culture
Reporting from Africa’s biggest street bash – Calabar Carnival 
By Denis Gathanju, Safari Communications Nairobi
When the Nigerians said that the Calabar Carnival is the largest street party in Africa, I chose to take that statement with some slight reservations. The Nigerians already have the largest economy and population on the African Continent. Now they lay claim to hosting the largest street bash in Africa? I will only elieve it when I see it. So, I thought to myself.
The carnival is hosted in the city of Calabar in Cross River State in south-eastern Nigeria over a 30-day period. However, it hits a crescendo in the last week of December, just between Christmas and the eve of the New Year.
This year, and for the first time in the carnival’s 12-year history, the organizers toyed with the idea of hosting the local carnival alongside the international carnival, which was taking place for the first time. The organizers went a notch higher to spice up the event and invited bikers who brought their loud and big mean machines to town. A hundred strong delegation of bikers from all over Nigeria and the African Maghreb descended into Calabar and with them, they brought in a crowd of another 500 motorbiking enthusiasts.
And that marked the recipe for some controlled chaos – if there is anything like it.
The city of Calabar welcomed to its shores a total of 10 international teams drawn from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Brazil, Belize, Italy, Spain and France.
Logistical Nightmare
However, it was the organization of the international teams that generated a logistical nightmare for the organizers. Right from receiving the international teams at the international airport in Lagos and organizing their entry visas to checking-in the international teams at their respective hotels in Calabar; the organizing committee of the Calabar Carnival seemed to be overwhelmed and not have made adequate plans to receive such a large number of people coming from overseas.
Moreover, the diary of events from the first day to the last day of the carnival was not readily available leading to more confusion amongst the international participants. Some did not know where they were supposed to be at specific times or when and where they were supposed to perform. The logistical challenges were glaringly obvious to both the organizers and the international visitors.
However, the hiccups seemed to quickly fade into the distance when the carnival was finally flagged off by the Governor of Cross River State H.E. Senator Professor Ben Ayade. This was clearly what the doctored had ordered as everyone was looking forward to having a wonderful time together. And so the music played, the bands marched, the flags waved. The biggest street party in Africa was now underway.
The grand march of the carnival started at Calabar’s Millennium Park with the first teams to arrive on the grounds being Kenya and Italy. They were met by a large number of both local and visiting Nigerians who had converged into the city to witness the carnival. It was selfie and groupies galore with the residents keen on snapping memorable pictures with the cultural groups adorned in their cultural garb.
Order and Co-operation
Also in attendance were visitors and observers from all across West Africa and the rest of the world. Theirs was to experience the continent’s largest street bash. And indeed, it was time to make merry as soon as Governor Ayade cut the tape to official kick-start the Calabar Carnival 2015.
With the governor were a number of high-ranking government officials from the Cross River State as well as other invited guests. These included members of the Cross River government, legislature, ambassadors and high commissioners and Nollywood stars.
The carnival slowly made its procession through the streets of Calabar. But what seemed to be quite interesting is that in spite of the carnival attracting more than 2.5 million people over a three-day period, there was so much orderliness and untold patience, especially by the huge crowds of people that patiently waited along the route of the carnival and at the Calabar Stadium in central Calabar. To me, this seemed so much unlike Nigeria. It was a pleasant surprise.
On the first 2 days of the carnival, the show ran non-stop for 48 hours. Ikechi Uko one of the key personalities involved, especially with the international visitors said thus: “The procession was so long that the head became the tail, quite literally.”
I was pleasantly surprised by the co-operation the entire city of Calabar and its citizens gave to the organizers and the participants. The procession snaked through commercial and residential areas where residents would patiently sit on the sidewalks and along the roads dancing, waving and cheering. In the commercial areas, companies would put up tents of all sizes and invite their employees and clients to sit under the shade as snacks and soft drinks were served. In the residential areas, families brought chairs from their houses and invited their friends, neighbours and relatives to sit by the road-side to watch the procession.
There were four official stop-over points along the entire route, but due to the size of the crowds, participating teams decided to walk a little bit longer just to entertain the swelling crowds while some teams made unscheduled stops to offer the enthusiastic visitors a taste of their cultural dances.
To ensure that the show got the coverage it deserved, there was a battery of accredited journalists from across Nigeria and the rest of the world. The event was covered live on multiple television channels that included DSTV, Ebonylife and the Cross River Broadcasting Corporation (CRBC).
Green Carnival
This year’s theme of the carnival was also cognizant of the fact that global warming was making a negative impact on the environment. Cross River State is one of the greenest states in Nigeria and also plays host to the last remaining virgin tropical rainforest in the country.
Governor Ayade and his government are alive to this fact and made it clear that they wanted to engage the residents and all the participating teams and visitors coming for the Calabar Carnival to the need of preserving and protecting the environment.
He announced the Green Carnival, which ran on the third and final day of the carnival. The city of Calabar has designated a park where residents and visiting teams were given tree seedlings to plant.
According to Governor Ayade, the State Government of Cross River State plans on planting more than 5 million trees under this campaign to ensure that the state and his government play a role towards helping save our planet.
And after the flags stopped waving, the bands stopped marching and everyone returned to their homes, the organizers and the visiting teams agreed that this was one of the best carnivals, in spite of the logistical challenges. The organizers were sent back to the situation room to plan for the Calabar Carnival 2016.
Mark your diaries and come attend Africa’s most vibrant events ever. See you all in Calabar.

“If You Build It- They Will Come.”

West Africa's Showcase of Sustainable Tourism
by Jerry W. Bird

I am Calabar, an historic seaport city and former slave trading post, strategically located on the Atlantic Coast near the Cameroon border. I am capital of Nigeria's Cross River State and considered the future superstar of West African tourism. That bright, shiny future is just around the corner according to the Governor's active timetable. In terms of economic potential, I am located near Port Harcourt, heart of Nigeria's petroleum industry, a magnet for business travelers from all corners of the world.

What about my mission for the new millenium? I was selected host city for the Africa Travel Association's 10th Cultural and Ecotourism Symposium, a prestige event that attracts tourism industry executives from North America and the world. What was the key factor for this decision?

The answer lies in the federal and state governments' new focus on tourism infrastructure , with three world class megaprojects well underway and coming into play at the very same moment, with 2007 being the pivotal year. This combination affects the fortunes of the city, state and country in a positive manner and will be a magnet for further trade, tourism and investment in the area. Members of the Africa Travel Association (ATA) contingent from the USA and Canada saw the big picture at a glance, and felt it in the unbounded optimism of their Nigerian hosts.

"The successful hosting of the Africa Travel Association (ATA) Ecotourism summit by the Cross River State government will go a long way in changing the face of the country's tourism." Sumonu  Bello-Osagie , Nigerian Consulate , New York.

The visitors from ATA were shown each of these megaprojects in the following order (1) An outstanding waterfront development that will change the face of the city dramatically and become a focus for enhanced marine tourism and river cruises. (2) The giant Tinapa Business and Leisure Park, where engineer Len Dickinson gave the group a presentation and walking tour through this fascinating area that will be West Africa's first Free Trade Zone, and (3) The Obudu Cattle Ranch, operated by Protea Hotels of South Africa, a pleasant drive from Calabar on good roads, or a short hop by aircraft or helicopter. What's more, a modern gondola system whisks visitors to the broad, upper plateau from a theme park on the lower road not far from the Obudu Ranch airstrip. Expect much more to come on the big three plus more impressions of this exciting city, which is old in terms of history, but young in terms of spirit.

Visit my Slave History Park and the International Museum with its many relics of the British Empire and mementos of local chiefs and colonial dignitaries. You will discover that I have been inhabited for two millennia, being discovered by European navigators as early as the 1400s. Prior to independence I was the former seat of Government of Niger Coast, Southern and Oil River Protectorates. Other visitor attractions include the Botanical Gardens, Sports Stadium Complex and University of Calabar.

I have become a showcase for another valid reason - being considered the nation's cleanest city - and perhaps the model for all of Africa. How did it happen in such a short time? Perhaps it was inspired by the same human urge for beauty, order and cleanliness that made "America in Bloom" such a huge sucess in transforming entire communities, setting up a healthy competition that's bound to catch on worldwide. Here are some comments in that regard relating directly to Calabar

“The cleanliness of Calabar's is amazing to Nigerian visitors to the city and even those who haven't been there have heard of how clean it is.  So much so that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai who wants to make Abuja the Singapore of Africa in terms of beauty, had to pay a pilgrimage to Calabar to see things for himself and find out from Duke and his team how they did it."\

"With so many Nigerian cities overflowing with refuge and generally lacking in cleanliness and hygiene one of the things Duke did when he became Governor was clean up the major cities in the state, implemented a maintenance strategy to ensure they remained clean, including a zero tolerance policy for people who choose to throw waste around. Waste management in Calabar is very efficient. The city is organized into 45 cells and given to private contractors to manage. The contractors are responsible for street-sweeping and waste management and contractors are immediately replaced if they fail to perform.”

I am a pleasant riverside community located amidst lush tropical forests and saltwater swamps. Thanks to an ideal climate, my public markets offer a bountiful array of fresh seafood, plus pineapples, bananas, plantains, cassava and palm oil products. I was the former capital of Britain's Southern Nigeria Protectorate and its main eastern port to the Gulf of Guinea. For the Efik people, I was the traditional cultural centre. Along the river in Old Calabar, an area now being enhanced and redeveloped, are a number of attractive colonial homes and government buildingss. Most ot the homes were shipped from Liverpool and assembled on site. As museum visitors will note, many local chiefs had their private homes sent, complete with period furniture, from England. Some adopted British names, such as the Henshaws, Dukes and James. Scottish missionary Mary Slessor arrived here in 1878 and became a well known figure. Later, the Dunlop Company established rubber plantations in the area, providing employment.
Photo: Wild Drill Ranch, Calabar.

"Many who pick a holiday destination in Africa opt for Kenya, South Africa, Tunisia or perhaps Morocco. But the city of Calabar in Nigeria -- Africa's most populous nation, a global oil producer and a continental powerhouse -- probably doesn't figure high on many destination lists. It's remote, even for Nigerians. But the governor has grand plans to change all that." NPR

Tinapa - Birth of a Super Oasis
Tinapa is the resort that means business &endash; the business of combing business, pleasure and leisure! This will be the first time that anything like this has been experienced in West Africa. No longer will you need to go to Europe, the Far East or America to enjoy the best entertainment, shopping and leisure facilities the world has to offer! The total Tinapa complex is massive &endash; 80 000 m2 of retail and wholesale emporiums alone. The emporiums feature a borderless, seamless shopping environment - a unique concept that unfolds a new dimension in retailing for the first time in Africa's history! These massive 21st century shopping emporiums will be supported by a vast array of retailers offering everything from exclusive bookshops, specialty CD and DVD outlets, pharmacies to beauty salons, banks and jewellery stores! Plus an incredible entertainment centre including cinemas, food court, internet cafe and games arcade! There will be a dazzling range of six hotels to choose from - accommodation to suit a variety of lifestyles and budgets. The magnificent waterfront development incorporating a Fisherman's Wharf, will showcase even more restaurants, bars and tourist kiosks. Imagine, after an endless night of fun, enjoying a champagne breakfast whilst watching a beautiful sunrise over the azure waters of the Calabar River! Continued

"The Federal Government of Nigeria in its determined efforts to develop at promote tourism into economically viable industry had in 1991 evolved a tourism policy. The main thrust of the policy is to make Nigeria a prominent tourism destination in Africa, generate foreign exchange, encourage even development, promote tourism-based rural enterprises, generate employment, accelerate rural-urban integration and foster sociocultural unity among the various regions of the country through the promotion of domestic and international tourism. It also aims at encouraging active private sector participation in tourism development "


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