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Travel/Tourism How Ekiti State Repositioned with NAFEST 2021

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The year 2021 edition of National Festival of Arts & Culture (NAFEST 2021) may have come and gone, yet the memory of the one-week event will forever linger in the annals of National Cultural Festivals and amongst competitors and participants from the 36 states of the federation.

When Ekiti state signified intention to host this event two years ago after the Jos, Plateau state hosting, not quite a few people in the arts and culture community thought the hosting right request by Ekiti state was a tall order and a pipe dream.

First, many people had considered the ambition of the 25 year old agrarian state a mere ego trip in view of the state’s ranking on the Federal Government’s monthly revenue allocation and resources distribution index.

To cynics, Ekiti state lacked the basic and requisite facilities and resources that are pivotal to hosting such a major national event. But the just concluded festival which started 13th November and ended 20th of November this year put paid to all doubts and negative permutations.

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To crown the elaborate plan earlier put in place for a hitch-free, brilliant and successful 34th edition of NAFEST, Ekiti State emerged over-all best winner in most of the competitive and non-competitive games, thereby making it a new dawn of glory and admiration for the administration of Governor John Kayode Fayemi who has not hidden his vision of turning Ekiti state to a destination of first choice to tourists and investors.

Indeed, the state has in large measure and greater abundance exciting tourist centers with numerous natural resources. Ekiti state is potentially rich in mineral deposits. Some of these tourists centers with significance and national importance are the famous Ikogosi Warm Spring, the Orole and Olosunta Hills, Arinta Water Fall, Fajuyi Parks. Others are: Esa Cave, Ogun Onire Groove, Agbonna Hill, Oke Abanijorin, Sacred Fishes River, Oroke Ewo War Centre

As marketing authorities would concede, “destination branding is about identifying the destination’s strongest and most competitively appealing assets in the eyes of its prospective visitors, building a story from these that make the destination stand out above its competitors, and running this narrative consistently through all marketing communications.

Specifically, Tom Buncle, Former Chief Executive of Visit Scotland and Current Managing Director of an International Tourism Consultancy explained that “a destination brand cannot be created. It is up to tourist boards and destination marketing organisations to identify their destination best assets in order to invoke certain feelings, values cultures and the overall mindset that people experience when visiting a place”

Similarly, Buncle pointed out that it also means people in the destination play a part in contributing to the tourism brand values, experience, reputation, and mindset. All of these were in sufficient measure and supply at the Ekiti Nafest 2021 even to the utter dismay of delegates from oil rich states in Nigeria.

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Aside the famous tourists centers and places of attractions, and other facilities that were on ground, to make the festival run with effortless ease, Visitors and delegates to state were attracted and highly impressed by the newly commissioned Ekiti State Civic Center. The Civic Center, one of the many legacy projects of the current JKF administration is an architectural masterpiece and a multi-purpose edifice of unimaginable splendor and candour.

For Ekiti people, who received contingents from 36 states of the federation and some international observers, it was the biggest crowd they have witnessed in recent history. Beyond the opportunity it provided for networking, the festival gave the locals opportunity to display their wares and make good money within the period. From the players in the hospitality business, farmers, artisans and other actors in the state’s SME, it was a boom period for businesses.

Perhaps the story can better be told by visitors from across the country who were marveled by the level of preparation put in place by the state government. Aside from the basic facilities that were on ground to make the festival run with ease, the visitors were impressed by the organized manner the event was planned and executed.

In particular, delegates from the states believed to be richer than Ekiti were jealous of the state of the art infrastructure in the state. At the Civic Center, where all the major activities were held, delegates were seen discussing in admiration facilities at the civic center which include museum, cinemas and supermart. Above all, the elegance and ambience of the civic center added colour to the event.

Of course the peak of the event was the different performances that featured at the event opening can only be compared to what obtains at Cannes Festival and the Notting Hill Carnival. The carnival which showcased colour, glamour and panache also gave participants the opportunity to experience superlative cultural diversity in Nigeria. It aptly lived up to the theme for the festival; “Celebrating, National Unity in Diversity,” as over 30 states of the federation featured during the event.

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Though an entertainment platform, Ekiti State sure took it a notch higher this time around through the infusion of modern marketing that provided an advertising platform for sponsors. It thus became a unique platform to showcase goods and services thereby creating more bonding between the consumers and brand owners. At the end, it turned out to be a commerce and cultural festival.

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In a way, the carnival confirmed the earlier position of Dr. John Kayode Fayemi that Ekiti had put necessary machinery in place to make the state the nation’s entertainment and tourism hub in the country. This was also the position of the Mayor of Tianjin Province, Xiao Song, who stated last year during a courtesy visit to Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi in Ado Ekiti that the Civic Centre which was then under construction would be a long-term legacy project for the Ekiti State Government when completed.

The Mayor who was then represented by his Deputy, Hu Xiaoynang, added that the Civic Centre would upon completion showcase quality and expertise in construction work. The just concluded carnival gave credence to this opinion.

With the success of the carnival, it was obvious that unlike its counterparts, the state government had set out early to prepare for the hosting of the national festival. Since the close of last year’s edition of NAFEST in which it emerged the most- culturally creative and innovative state, beating 29 other states and carting home various prizes and laurels, it has not rested on its oars.

Delivering his keynote address during the official opening of the event, the Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture, and President, World Crafts Council (African Region), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe had noted that the festival is necessary to promote patriotism in the face of separatist agitations in different parts of Nigeria.

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“NAFEST does not only provide a platform for Nigerians from different ethnic backgrounds to showcase their unique cultural manifestations, it also brings to the fore, the role of culture in national peace and harmony as well as the vast opportunity in the culture sector for job creation and economic empowerment,” he remarked.

In his welcome address, Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism, Professor Rasaki Ojo Bakare had observed that “hosting of NAFEST by Ekiti State is a milestone because for the first time, such a huge event would be coming to Ekiti land whose resources are very low if compared to other states in the South West of the country.

However, he said “the opportunity to host the event was made possible because of the tremendous support enjoyed from the administration of Dr. John Kayode Fayemi (CON) and his amiable wife, Erelu Bisi Fayemi (Mama NAFEST) who he said relentlessly supervise and co-ordinate the activities of the sector from time to time”.

While declaring the festival open, the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi had observed that the critical state of the nation requires harnessing the diverse culture as tools for social and political change.

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“It is imperative to build our unique cultural economy to attract global attention,” he said. He added that culture is one of the main pillars of development. For him, apart from sports, NAFEST is an opportunity for all the 36 states to meet and celebrate national unity.

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Since 1970 when NAFEST was instituted, it had served as a platform for talent hunt, skills development and marketing Nigeria’s cultural content. With entrepreneurial workshop as well as free medical testing and counselling, the festival proved to a holistic experience.

Back to back, as the hosting state, Ekiti State, the land of honour, again emerged overall winner of the 34th edition of NAFEST. This was announced during the closing ceremony at the Ekiti Parapo Pavilion Ado-Ekiti. The state was followed by Rivers State, then Bayelsa and Benue States as joint third position, Delta and Nasarawa States came fourth, while Ogun and Lagos States got the fifth position.

Indeed the outcome of the yearly event favourably justified the views of destination branding experts. This was further corroborated by the earlier disclosures by Governor Kayode Fayemi when he said during the welcome address at Fountain Summit 2021 that Ekiti State is open for business.

Welcoming guests at the Fountain Summit, an economic forum earlier held in the state, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi had disclosed that; “in Ekiti State, we are in a hurry to develop. We are very intentional about development planning, and at the core of our efforts and strategy is a partnership approach that places a premium on creating the right condition that would attract investors and development partners, to support our aspirations”.

Besides, he told his audience that his administration “has put in place requisite laws and policies to ensure investor confidence and made massive investments in critical infrastructure and security-all geared towards making Destination Ekiti attractive and Competitive”.

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As a buildup to what happened during the festival, Ekiti, had in 2019 organized Ekiti State Festival of Arts and Culture (EKIFEST) the festival, with the theme, Arts and Culture, Tool for Restoration of Values and Socio-economic Empowerment, was held ostensibly as a dress rehearsal for the hosting of the National Festival of Arts and Culture. Interestingly, while other states were still undecided on when to formally bid for the festival, Ekiti State had submitted a bid letter to National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) in February 2020.

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Travel

Delta diverts Lagos flight to Lome after thunderstorm, passenger’s death

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A yet-to-be identified passenger onboard Delta Air Lines’ Atlanta-Lagos flights reportedly died midair on Monday.

Theheute learnt that she died due to a health emergency that occurred midair, approximately three hours before the flight’s scheduled arrival in Lagos.

Although a decision was made by the crew to proceed to Lagos, it was learnt that heavy thunderstorm in the area forced the pilots to divert the plane to Lome, Togo.

The flight took an additional delay in Lome due to refueling and the weather, according to some persons close to the development said. The Delta Air Lines’ A330-200 aircraft had 215 customers onboard.

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However, the flight later landed safely in Lagos, approximately eight and a half hour after the scheduled time. The flight was initially scheduled to arrive by 10am on Monday. It was learnt that the passengers received compensation.

Delta Air in a statement apologised for the inconveniences, adding that the airline regretted any difficulty or delays caused to its customers’ travel arrangements during the flight.

The statement read, “Delta flight 54 ATL-LOS has landed safely in LOS after an onboard customer medical situation and subsequent diversion to LFW due to weather. We sincerely apologise to our customers for the inconvenience and delay in their travel plans.”

Meanwhile, some passengers and Nigerians made comments on social media about the flight.

@samson_Goddy posted a tweet on X stating that his flight was delayed and that two medical emergencies occurred, including the death of a woman in midair.

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He noted that the passengers were forced to make an emergency landing in a different country after the aircraft ran out of fuel.

He wrote, “My Delta flight from Atlanta to Lagos was scheduled to land at 10am, but arrived at 6pm or later.

“So we had two health emergencies: a lady died on the flight midair, we ran out of fuel and were forced to do an emergency landing in another country, and we were grounded for 5+ hours.

Responding to questions on X about the incident he added, “Yes, oh, one woman died like that three hours after we left. I think it was a heart attack, because there was a doctor onboard. But I overheard something similar.”

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FG promises seamless passport for Nigerians

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The Minister of Interior, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has reiterated the commitment of the Nigerian government towards delivering a seamless and efficient passport for Nigerians, both within the country and in the Diaspora.

Speaking at the inaugural Diaspora Webinar Lecture Series of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) entitled: “New Passport Policy/Processes for Nigerians in the Diaspora,” Tunji-Ojo said that was the directive from President Bola Tinubu to him and other cabinet members towards attainment of the Renewed Hope Agenda.

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The minisiter, who emphasised the importance of providing top-notch services befitting Nigeria’s stature as the giant of Africa, stated that: “Effective from March 8, 2024 Nigerians will benefit from a contactless passport application process, reducing the time required to complete the entire process to a maximum of seven to 10 minutes.

“This monumental reform is part of the overarching efforts to modernise the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and enhance service delivery to citizens,” he added.

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Highlighting the achievements and reforms within the ministry and its parastatals, particularly the NIS, the minister underscored the clearance of over 200,000 passport backlogs within three weeks of his assumption of office and the deployment of E-Gates at international airports to streamline entry and exit processes.

He also outlined plans for the installation of a modern control centre across international airports in Abuja and Lagos, aimed at enhancing immigration officers’ capacity and providing Nigerians with a seamless travel experience.

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Tunji-Ojo stressed on the importance of leveraging on technology to simplify passport acquisition, stating that Nigerians would only need their National Identification Number (NIN) for passport applications and bio metrics.

“Through an automated system, data will be pulled from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) database to fill application forms, reducing the risk of identity fraud and ensuring a single point of contact for citizens,” he said.

The minister added that plans are underway to automate the passport enrollment process, enabling online application, biometric capture, and home delivery of passports, thus eliminating the need for physical visits to passport offices.

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Whole addressing concerns raised by participants from various continents regarding current challenges in passport application and delivery processes, he assured of the government’s commitment to resolving these issues as soon as possible.

The former lawmaker urged Nigerians to take pride in acquiring their passports, as the new process heralds a new era of hope and progress for the nation and its diaspora community, adding that the ministry woule partner with NIDCOM.

Earlier, the NIDCOM Chairman/CEO, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, commended the minister’s efforts, highlighting the significance of the Diaspora Lecture Series in keeping Nigerians abroad informed about programmes and reforms of President Tinubu’s administration.

In her presentation, the Comptroller General, NIS, Caroline Wura-Ola Adepoju, emphasised that the new process would significantly reduce human interaction, thereby eliminating inconveniences associated with passport applications and saving time for both applicants and immigration personnel.

Adepoju said the service had produced 1,033,506 million passports in 2021; another 1,597,729 million in 2022; while a record of over 2,141,300 million were produced amidst various challenge in 2023.

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She, however, said that many Nigerians did not come forward to pick up their passports at various centres she visited recently both within and outside Nigeria, promising that from March, there will be positive improvement in passport production without going through any stress or interventions.

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NGO Warns Nigerians Planning To Japa, Says People Dying Sleeping On Streets, Housing Too Expensive

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A Nigerian, Vivian Etuka, residing in Canada, has cautioned individuals considering migration to Canada to avoid the Ontario province.

She said many Nigerians who lacked proper research and information ended up on the streets upon their arrival in Canada.

Etuka, who is the Founder and CEO of Bethel Outreach Community Services spoke in Abuja on Thursday, January 18, when she met with the Chairman and CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM).

She explained that lots of Nigerians end up in refugee camps as a result of not following the proper channels.
She advised those considering migration to Canada to steer clear of the Ontario province, citing its overpopulation and high cost of living.

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Emphasizing that settling down is easier for those with direct job opportunities, she also highlighted the scarcity of housing in Ontario, with many Nigerians reportedly sleeping outdoors in the cold.

Etuka, who is involved in caring for refugees in Canada, stressed the importance of being certain about arrangements before making the move.

She said: “I’m not putting fear on anybody. I’m saying there are right and wrong ways to move to any country. When you’re coming to any country, please make sure you do your research. And make sure you go to like if you’re coming to Canada I speak on Canada because that’s my home. Go to other provinces that are less populated. I’ll tell you again to stay away from Ontario.

Adnair “Housing is extremely expensive. I have four days ago, two immigrants that are sleeping outside passed away.
“With extreme -25 degrees, it is not good for anyone to be sleeping outside.

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“So if you’re coming to Canada and do it the right way, there are right ways to do things online how to migrate to Canada with a job you can look for a job that types LMIA jobs that can employ you before you get to Canada.

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“Don’t come to Canada and let agents deceive you that as soon as you get off the plane there are jobs. If there are jobs ready, what about Canadians out on the street?

“Don’t you think they want to work? So that should let you know what’s wrong.
“Nobody’s going to hand you a job from the airport. You’re going to have to work out to look for the jobs, and housing, you’re sharing the room with somebody paying $1,200 a month and some landlords are requesting for a whole year before you can move in.

“We have young men and women that are Nigerian sleeping on the street. I have 23 of them in a church downtown that has no washroom and they are dependent on people like me for food, clothing, and looking for jobs.

“We are helping them advocate with the government. And I implore you please do come to Canada, it is a beautiful place but come the right way. So we are not burdened trying to help you settle you and everything. It’s difficult. Immigration is expensive, is very difficult. So do it the right way and enjoy the same Canada that I enjoy.”

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