Ayade Seeks Legal Backing For Northfest, Says Rice Mill A Promise Kept

In Akwa-Cross Entertainment, Breaking News

By Jonathan Ugbal

Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade on Saturday called on the six members of the State House of Assembly from the Northern senatorial district to sponsor a bill to give legal backing to the Cross River Northern Festival, Northfest in order to ensure its sustainability.

The festival was established in 2017 by the Ayade’s administration to celebrate the cultures of the people of northern Cross River State which comprises five Local Government Areas – Bekwarra, Obanliku, Obudu, Ogoja, and Yala with over a dozen sub-dialectal groups.

At the fifth edition held on Saturday which will be Ayade’s last while in office as Governor of the State, he urged the lawmakers, “to bring a bill to the House of Assembly, which will have my assent ultimately to ensure that as we are sustaining the Carnival Calabar and the Leboku, we also sustain NorthFest.”

He said this was imperative because “we want Northfest to become the symbol of unity for us the people of the North.”

The festival has always been held at a space near the Ogoja rice mill constructed by the current administration.

And, the Governor said the establishment of the rice mill was a fulfillment of a promise he made to the people.

“Some of you do not remember the promise I made when I was contesting for the Senate. I had said then that one day I will build a rice mill so that our people would stop taking our rice to other states to mill.

“Today I have fulfilled that dream. The biggest challenge we have now is that the carrying capacity of the rice mill is much bigger than the raw materials we have got. So how do we explain that I have a rice mill with 66,500 tonnes capacity in terms of storage and you need to have that quantity before you switch on the engine, yet I cannot get 3000 tonnes?” He queried and charged the people to take up the challenge and farm rice as the mill was ready to off-take their produce.

Pointing out other efforts by his administration to improve the agro value chain, he averred that; “If you go to Obanliku, we are building a maize semovita factory, if you go to Obudu, we are doing Yam poundo, we are doing biscuits. If you come to Bekwarra, we have two major factories. One is in Nyanya, the other one is in Gakem. One is producing vegetable oil, while the other is producing animal feed.

“If you come to Ogoja and Yala, you have this massive rice mill, which is the biggest and the only vitaminized rice mill in Africa. Can you imagine if every one of us here had one hectare of rice farm? This rice mill will not be lying prostrate. Now we go as far as Taraba State to buy rice paddy because the mill is working but there is no rice to mill.”

Unlike the previous editions, this year’s Northfest did not feature a pageant that will produce a new King and Queen. However, there was a reunion for past contestants and winners.

Also, the grand finale featured a display of farm produce, performances, eating competition, and traditional wrestling among others.

It also drew monarchs from the different clans and communities as well as political bigwigs including Ayade’s deputy, Professor Ivara Edu; his wife, Dr. Linda Ayade; two-term federal lawmaker, Legor Idagbo and first-timer, Jude Ngaji among others.

Below are scenes from the Northfest finale…

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