By Ovat Abeng
The traditional ruler of Onitsha Kingdom, HRM Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, Obi of Onitsha, has called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu led federal government to suggest another alternative ways of ameliorating the hardship Nigerians are currently passing through across the country as a result of the fuel subsidy removal.
He noted that the removal of the subsidy has deepened the hardship in Nigeria.
The monarch made the call via his address at the ongoing 2023 Onitsha Ofala festival at his Ime-Obi Palace Onitsha, on Saturday.
According to him, “the last twelve months have been most eventful for our dear country, dominated largely by the politics of the national elections that took place in February this year. The outcome of the Presidential election which has been upheld by the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal (PEPT), has been further challenged at the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Furthermore, the Civil Society Organizations have announced an extended civil disobedience agenda to occupy Nigeria in protest against the non transperency of the PEPT, in which would have been averted if INEC had convincingly conducted transperent elections with the massive resources at its disposal.
“The uncertainty has been further complicated by the continuing security concerns in most parts of the country.
“Following eight years of the previous administration, the early economic measures by the new administration, including the unilateral removal of the fuel price subsidy without a backup strategy, are seriously deepening the hardship in the country, particularly at the lower rungs of the society. In effect, the country is at a dangerous crossroads politically, economically, socially and security-wise.
“In South East, we have the aftermath of the last general elections; the complex and protracted security situation involving kidnappers, political thugs, state and non-state actors, etc, all masquerading as unknown gunmen, as well as the crippling economic strangulation of the southeast arising from the insecurity and ill-advised sit-at-home protest that has cost Ndi-Igbo incalculable losses in finance, and tragically properties and lives.
“Our community (Onitsha), is not immune to the above challenges. Our people are also hurting badly. Therefore, despite the fact that the Ofala remains a celebration, we have made a conscious decision to prune down the scope of the festival for this year to more restrained levels in line with the prevailing mood in the country.
“We hope that the situation will improve significantly to enable us to resume the festival at the normal levels in the future.”
Igwe Achebe, also noted that the festival has put the town in international limelight and earned revenue for the the town and the country.
The governor of the state, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, who witnessed the celebration, commended Igwe Achebe for his community and youths development through educational and skill empowerment.
He said that Onitsha drives other development within other communities around the city.
“The touts will go in Onitsha, we shall continue to pursue hoodlums and miscreants out of Onitsha. We shall make sure that Onitsha city is being sanitized as commercial hub centre of Anambra and Nigeria at large,” Soludo said.
In an interviews with the press shortly after the event, the Marketing Manager of International Breweries PLC (Hero), the major sponsor of the festival, Mr. Dobem Orji, while calling for more patronage from the south east zone, assure that the company will continue to promote cultural festivals across Nigeria.