Osun-Osogbo festival: Monarch seeks more sponsors

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…As Nigerians decry circulation of mutilated naira notes***

The Ataoja of Osogboland, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, has called for more sponsors to sustain  the dwindling fortunes of  the Osun-Osogbo festival.

Olanipekun,  who made the call at a press conference in Lagos on Friday, said the festival was being sustained with the support rendered by some prominent sponsors.

” We need more sponsors to ensure sustainability of the festival because without corporate sponsors, the festival will not be successful,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that this year’s  edition of the festival  will hold on Aug. 18.

The monarch commended  the Chief Consultant on the festival, Ayo Olumoko,  for his selflessness and support in ensuring that the yearly festival holds.

Olanipekun, however, solicited  the support of  states and the Federal Government as the  Osun groove had  been listed by  UNESCO as a world  heritage site.

Mr Kufre Ekanem, the Corporate Affairs Adviser of  Nigerian Breweries Plc, said  the company had  been partnering with the organisers of  the Osun- Osogbo festival.

He added that the festival was worth identifying with as it had continued to put Nigeria on the world tourism map.

“We believe this corporate partnership will not only enhance commercial activities in the town but will increase trade transactions and  impacting positively on  the economy,” he said.

Mr Bayo Onafuwa, Regional Manager, MTN, Nigeria, said that the company was committed to supporting  the core traits of the Nigerian people through their  arts and rich culture.

“We are proud to be supporting the Osun-Osogbo festival  as it is a key celebration, especially in Yoruba land.

“Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists and Osun devotees gather in the town every year. We are happy to be part of  the success story of the festival,” he said.

Mr Bojuwade Adebowale, Brand Manager, Seaman Plc, said  visitors would be entertained with indigenous games and the winner would be awesomely rewarded by the company during this year’s edition of the  festival.

“We have lots of activities for visitors and tourists that will be coming for this year’s  festival.

“ We pledge to continually support the festival and ensure its continuity.

“We have been  partnering with organisers of the festival in the last 29 years and we are still counting,” he said.

Earlier, Olumoko had expressed delight at the support of  the co-sponsors of the festival inspite of  the current   economic challenges.

He urged other corporate sponsors to partner with the organisers on the  yearly festival to preserve the state’s  rich cultural heritage.

In the meantime, some Nigerians have decried the widespread circulation of mutilated naira notes in the country and called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to reverse the trend and ensure better management of the nation’s currencies.

In interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Lagos, they noted that several cases of misunderstandings had occurred among citizens while carrying out business transactions with the tattered and dirty notes.

They also decried the use of the polymer banknotes, which are easily defaced, and suggested a return to the paper currency for all denominations.

NAN reports that the CBN on Feb. 28, 2007 announced the introduction of polymer versions of N5, N10, N20 and N50 notes.

However, 11 years after, many Nigerians now reject the polymer notes citing its poor quality and short life span that make it difficult to carry out transactions with them.

Mr Tunde Okeowo, a financial expert, said the CBN should consider bringing back the coins, and that its absence had resulted in the negative impact on transactions, which had a multiplier effect on the economy.

Okeowo identified inflation as part of the negative effects of the absence of coins, especially as people were no longer bothered about collecting balance after paying for products.

“On this recurring issue of scarcity of clean notes, especially N100, I advise the CBN to look into issuing some new naira notes in densely populated states like Lagos in order to make it more acceptable for use.

He also called for continuous enlightenment to educate traders on reasons and ways of preserving the notes.

Mrs Tolu Ajibade, a civil servant, said the prevalence of dirty and mutilated naira notes was appalling, and that the N200 note was gradually becoming unfit like the N100 notes.

She said many Nigerians have resigned themselves to the reality of possessing and transacting business with dirty naira notes.

“I tell you, they are appalling. As a nursing mother, I am always scared of touching those notes because it is very glaring that those naira notes, particularly the N100 are contaminated,” said Ajibade.

She said while the CBN had been sensitising Nigerians on the handling of the naira notes, there should be effective enforcement of relevant laws to curtail mishandling of the naira.

A bus driver, who preferred anonymity, said the rejection of the defaced polymer notes and the dirty N100 notes by passengers greatly affected his business.

According to him, a day hardly passes by without verbal exchange which sometimes degenerated into fights because of dirty naira notes and faded polymer notes.

“I think I prefer the paper naira notes to the polymer ones because it does not fade easily like the polymer. The only disadvantage of the paper note is that it gets torn easily,” he said.

Besides, Dr Foluwakemi Ekiogiawe, a medical practitioner, raised concerns over the implications of regular contact with mutilated notes.

Ekiogiawe said apart from the economic implications of poor currency handling, it could lead to a myriad of adverse medical problems.

She explained that regular contact could result in the transfer of germs from one person to another, and that it could result to gastrointestinal infections, which often leads to frequent purging, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever among others.

“This is seen mostly in children who put things indiscriminately into their mouths. They could serve as allergies to people with immune hypersensitivity like asthma triggering an immunologic attack.

“This happens when the individual comes in contact with the allergen in the form of or attached to the notes. These attacks could range from mild to fatal,” she said.

NAN also reports that the CBN in February began the disbursement of smaller naira notes to traders in order to improve circulation of N5, N10, N20, and N50 in the markets.

The campaign was targeted at the informal sector, especially traders in markets with the aim of increasing the circulation of the smaller units of the naira to make doing business easier.

The bank had already taken the new measure to Kano, Kaduna and Abuja and also intended to bring it to the south.

Reacting to the development, Mr Isaac Okorafor, Acting Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN said the bank had so far disbursed N1.09 billion of various lower denomination banknotes in some states since it embarked on the new measure.

Okorafor said the disbursement of the funds was to over 20 different merchants, supermarkets, toll gates, eateries and other cash users.

He said efforts were being made to also penetrate the various markets in Lagos.

Okorafor said, “in this regard, we are currently engaging the market associations through their central leadership.

“Disbursement will commence in the markets the moment we conclude the logistics with the market leadership.”

He said beneficiaries of the new banknotes would include abattoirs, pharmacy, merchant’s tollgates, eateries, tollgates and car parks at the International Airport.

According to him, the lifespan of the paper banknotes is about 12 to 18 months while the polymer banknotes last for 24 to 36 months in circulation depending on handling.