by crossriverwatch admin
The 2012 Calabar Festival got to an impressive start in the early hours of Saturday with a colourful lighting of the Christmas tree at the Millennium Park, Calabar.
Led by the Deputy Governor of the state, Mr. Efiok Cobham, the crowd at the venue, which included world acclaimed legendry South African composer and trumpeter, Hugh Masekela, was treated to a full bouquet of fun.
Masekela, who has performed in the festival four times, described Cross River State as one of the safest places with peace loving people which he has ever visited.
The musician said he was proud to be part of the celebration which displays talents and allow every community to enjoy life in a free environment.
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Values, Mrs. Sarah Jubril, described the occasion as a sense of joy and beauty for a stable state which is due to the hand work of its political leaders.
Jubril described the occasion as an important event which ushered the month of celebration and festivities and wonderful experience which other states should emulate, adding that the cleanliness and orderliness of the state should be sustained because it makes it unique.
While lighting the Christmas tree, Cobham, who was assisted by his wife, Glory, Speaker of the state house of assembly, Hon. Larry Odey, Masekela, Jubril and representatives of sponsors and development agencies, said the 12 years old event has grown bigger in scope and volume.
Cobham maintained that the state government will continue with the festival because it is a celebration of love, hospitality, courage and resilience of the people irrespective of its challenges.
The Deputy Governor commended the sponsors for identifying with the festival in different ways and described the lighting ceremony as a tip of the iceberg as the best would come during the other days of the festival.
Special Adviser, Governor’s Office, Mr. Nzan Ogbe described the festival as a great gift which the state has for the nation and as one of the best products in its rebranding process.
Ogbe appealed to the federal government to partner the state in the 32 days events which is delightful to the soul and the celebration of God, whose theme, “Celebrating a New Dawn”, as an apt description of where the state is today.
The Group Managing Director/ CEO First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mr. Bisi Onasanya in his address, said as a partner, the mutually beneficial partnership has enabled the bank to return value to a key stakeholders community by improving the social and cultural calendar of the state of the state.
According to Onasanya, who was represented by Mrs. Nkiru Harry Eze, the bank prides itself on its corporate social responsibility and sponsorship initiative which reflect its commitment to being a major contributor to the socio-economic and cultural development of the country.
Later in the morning, the Deputy Governor, Mr. Efiok Cobham also led a four kilometer Paradise City Walk against HIV/AIDS as the state marks the 2012 World AIDS DAY as well as the opening of the Calabar festival village at the Cultural Centre ground.
Cobham disclosed that over the years the state has made tremendous efforts to combat HIV/AIDS scourge and the reduction which has been noticed is due to its contribution in partnership with State Action Against AIDS (SACA) and the development partners.
He further disclosed that the local government councils have made funds available as their counterpart funding which has equally reduced incidence at the grass roots.
The deputy governor stated that though government has upgraded facilities in the state to achieve a remarkable result on the fight against AIDS, more has to be done in the areas of treatment and creation of access as government is committed to work with its partners to ensure the state is HIV/AIDS free.
Commissioner for Health, Dr. (Mrs.) Angela Oyo-Ita, said the fight against HIV/AIDS involves every one as government emphasis is to reduce the number of death which it causes in the state.
Oyo-Ita noted that AIDS is the number one cause of death in the state and that the state has evolved a number of strategies to reduce it by making sure hospitals are equipped and drugs supplied while also undertaking counseling programme and testing for mother/child.
She commended the development partners for their support and assured that the state will not relent in its effort to ensure it succeeds.
Director General SACA, Dr (Mrs.) Irene Aniyom, said the day was to keep solidarity with those infected with HIV/AIDS and it calls for total involvement.
Aniyom explained that this year’s theme ,“Zero Infection, Discrimination and AIDS Death” was a follow up to that of last year. She added that though the prevalence rate in the state as recorded in 2010 was 7.1 percent, more has to be done to reduce it.
There were goodwill messages from the country Director of UNAIDS, Dr Kwame, donor partners and civil society organizations.
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