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OMICRON ‘spoils the fun’ as Ayade, again, suspends Carnival Calabar over new COVID-19 variant 

This is official: there will be no Carnival Calabar 2021; the international annual cultural fiesta for which Calabar, the Canaan City and capital of Cross River State, has become world-famous, will not hold this year, no thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially its new variant called OMICRON currently ravaging parts of Africa, according to the State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade.

This is the second time that the annual street party in Nigeria has been suspended.

The annual event, introduced by former Governor Donald Duke to boost tourism in Cross River, was first suspended last year following the outbreak of the pandemic and this year, 2021, again due to a new variant of the pandemic.

Announcing the suspension of the 2021 Carnival at State Executive Council Chamber in Calabar today (Monday, November 29) Ayade cited the health concerns arising from the outbreak of COVID-19 variant, Omicron as well as prevailing security situation as reasons for the suspension.

He said he would not as a Governor and leader compromise the lives and safety of the citizens for the fleeting excitement of the carnival.

Before announcing the suspension, Ayade had subjected the decision to popular votes, following which majority of the stakeholders voted for the suspension of the carnival.

Stakeholders present at the meeting included carnival band leaders, speaker of the state house of assembly, Rt Hon Eteng Jones Williams, members of the state executive council, 18 local government chairmen and some members of the Carnival Commission.

However, it was gathered that the government might not have been prepared for the yearly festival as there were no usual pre-activities such as unveiling of the theme, marketing it to the outside world through media campaigns, organising of dry-runs that runs through to December and rehearsals by revellers of different bands and other minor programmes signalling readiness for the event, so Omicron became a most convenient excuse.

Sources close to Government House disclosed that the poor financial standing of the state might have been one of the reasons stakeholders agreed to suspend the party.

It was also learnt that non-payment of salaries to civil servants and political appointees for about two months running might have been another reason for the postponement.

A top official of NLC had confided in our reporter that workers were said to be ready for a protest if the government had gone ahead to host the event amid poverty ravaging the workers following non-payment of salaries and gratuity to senior citizens who had served the state meritoriously.

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