By Tunde Oguntola, Abuja
The federal government has hinted that it is planning to make the annual Calabar Carnival a major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, dislosed this in Calabar while flagging off the third dry run of the 2017 Carnival with the theme, ‘Migration’.
He said the carnival, which has united the people over the years and attracted wider participation, was the longest street party in the world, with 12 kilometre-long route.
According to the minister, it was time for people to start seeing the carnival beyond entertainment by looking at the seriousness and the message it conveys.
His words: “We are pushing the Calabar carnival to be a major foreign exchange earner for the country. We have here today 26 beauty queens from 26 African countries, who are contesting for the 2017 Miss Africa Pageant.
“That is a big statement because each of these young ladies are going to spend two weeks here and will go back to their countries as our own Ambassadors.
“They will tell the story of what they have seen and the hospitality of Cross River, and that is a big plus for the state and the country.
“What is happening here today is reverberating throughout the world because this dry run is unique in the sense that it gives the organisers and participants the opportunity to perfect their act. I also want to take this opportunity to appeal to the world to see this street party beyond dancing and beyond the costumes’’.
Mohammed said the festival had become a platform for youths to vent their creativity and a platform to turn Nigeria’s creative industry into a veritable creative economy.
“I am delighted to know that everything being used in the carnival is manufactured locally by Nigerians. Calabar carnival does not only create an economy, but also unites the whole of Nigeria because it had enlightened the people of Nigeria and the world about Climate Change and Migration’’, the minister added.
The minister, who was earlier taken through the monorail ride from the Calabar International Convention Centre (CICC) to the Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort, described the project as a major booster to the tourism sector in the state.
Mohammed said, “I am happy to know that the second phase will also link the airport. This shows that Cross River is taking a major step in building infrastructure that will help in pushing the state as a conference hub.
“We will not hesitate in helping the state government to sustain this kind of project. We are ready as a government to provide the enabling environment for states like Cross River to thrive.
“Even in the Federal Council of Tourism, Cross River is a member because we recognise the giant stride the state is making in tourism”.
Earlier, deputy governor of the state, Prof Ivara Esu, said the annual festival had become an international brand.
Esu noted that the state is happy to have the minister in person to perform the flag off, adding that all preparations had been made for the grand finale of the carnival billed for December 28.