Cross River: Leboku To Attract New Incentives In 2011 â€“ Imoke
San Francisco, August 19, (THEWILL) - A micro credit scheme is to be introduced into the 2011 edition of the Ugep New Yam Festival popularly known as the Leboku New Yam Festival by the Cross River State government, to give money and support to winners of the various categories of the annual celebration.
Governor Liyel Imoke disclosed this on Tuesday in an address at the Leboku 2010 tagged "a celebration of agricultural achievement and traditional values", at the Yakurr Peace Stadium Ugep, Yakurr Local Government Area, explaining that agriculture is a factor that could transform people rapidly when they posses the capability, endurance and productive ability which are the true essence of Cross River.
Imoke noted that apart from the usual presentation of prizes, recipients should understand and use them for their economic benefit as government intends to look beyond Leboku to get the people empowered because it wishes to use the 2011 edition to celebrate a micro loan for as many farmers that apply for it.
According to Imoke, "as the youths get more westernized and urbanized if the Leboku is not celebrated, the people will lose their culture and heritage and as such it must be maintained and sustained to keep its values", adding that government sees Leboku as a major flagship of cultural tourism brand that must be projected to the nation and international community to add to the rich cultural heritage which Cross River is famed for.
The Governor averred that this is consistent with the overall strategy to consolidate the "Destination Cross River" brand, which seeks to position the state as a destination synonymous with efficient service delivery in all sectors of the economy, saying that "Leboku presents an opportunity to increase our tourism offering and keep ourselves ahead of the competition. Other states can imitate our Carnival Calabar and other elements of our Calabar Festival, but there can only be one Leboku and it will always be a festival unique to the people of Cross River State".
He reasoned that beyond the celebration of the main produce which is yam, the state has identified Leboku as a chance to create attractions deliberately designed to reignite the interest of the young people in agriculture because it is clear that it is not perceived as a rewarding venture as it has, however, increased apathy in the most fundamental sector of economy can jeopardize food security as a state and a nation.
Imoke remarked that Leboku thus serves a dual purpose of boasting both the Tourism and Agricultural Industry of the State and to achieve it, government has motivated the farmers by actively rewarding participants with prizes to encourage people to go back to farm and continue to produce as well as improve their productivity ranging from farming implements to vehicles to help transport produce to their selling points, adding that the festival also features a Leboku market to display the produce of the farmers. He therefore implored visitors to visit the market and take something home.
He commended MTN Nigeria for its continued support for the event for three years consecutively, a partnership which it appreciates and is keen to sustain while describing Obol Ubi UJong Inah, the Obol Lopon of Ugep and Paramount Ruler of Yakaurr LGA as a great leader and a symbol in Cross River who must be celebrated while alive as governance intends to use the 2011 edition to celebrate him as well as display the union between public and traditional institutions.
He assured that next year, the Leboku would continue to be developed, branded, create more opportunities, receive more guests, award new prizes as well as grow bigger to encourage young men and women.
Mrs. Obioma Imoke, wife of Governor Liyel Imoke disclosed that the Miss Leboku during her reign is expected, in her pet project, to visit schools across the state and establish school farms in order to awaken and strengthen agricultural development.
Mrs. Elenda Osima-Dokubo, Acting Managing Director Cross River Tourism Bureau, in an address explained that Leboku is a tradition of the Yakurr people which is normally celebrated between July and August annually to express culture and philosophy of the people which the State Government has contributed in making into the first agro-tourism event in Nigeria with the vision of creating a Yam Pyramid in future.
She said the Miss and Mister Leboku will be attached to the office of Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke because they are expected to use their platforms to encourage schools to develop school farms in order to not only instill the practice of agriculture but also develop their economy as Tourism and Agriculture work together.
Mr. Dan Nwankwo, a representative of MTN Nigeria and sponsor of the Leboku, said as its social corporate responsibility they sponsored 2010 World Cup in South Africa and have associated with Leboku for three years and would continue to sponsor it and other cultural and traditional celebrations in Nigeria.
Nwankwo thanked the state government for giving it the opportunity to be identified with the celebration and the people for their patronage while calling on their customers to register their SIM cards free of charge.
His Royal Highness Obol Ubi Ujong Inah, the Obol Lopon of Ugep and Paramount Ruler of Yakurr LGA, in a welcome address, read by Barrister O. C. Iwara, called on those that have abandoned intensive farming to have a rethink, condemning election hostilities, armed robbery, kidnapping and restiveness.