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NORTHFEST : How winners emerged - Organizers

From L : Mr. Noel Ugbong, Secretary, Pageantry Sub Committee, Lifu Yorkyshor, Queen of NORTHFEST and the King, Adie Patrick during media parley with journalists in Calabar.

The Organizers of the 2018 Northern Cross River Festival (Northfest) pageantry show have opened up on how the winners emerged.

Secretary, Pageantry Sub Committee and Special Adviser to Governor Ben Ayade on administration, Mr. Noel Ugbong who spoke on behalf of the organizers denied allegation of compromise insisting that the process was free, fair and transparent.

Ugbong while speaking with news men in Calabar to clear the air on allegations trending on social media that they influenced the final selection of the winners, he maintained that the they were decided by the contestants themselves without the interference of anybody.

According to him "NORTHFEST is not just a pageantry show like people erroneously believe. It's a reality/pageantry show.

"Everything about the contest was smooth until when the judges evicted some contestants and left with just ten. Some supporters of one of the contestants, Jesustina Ogar disrupted the place and started causing problem when she was evicted. Because of this, the judges left without announcing final results.

"At this point, we asked all the contestants to return to their hotel.  When we got there, we addressed them and discussed the possibilities of deciding winners for both the male and female categories and we arrived at allowing the contestants themselves vote for the winners.

"The decision wasn't taken by me alone but with all the contestants. Some said they wanted only the top ten to vote while others said everybody should be allowed to participate and to avoid another rancour, we decided that everybody should be allowed to vote and that was how they themselves voted for the winners and runners up.

"So the allegation that I compromised is absolutely not true. In a contest there must be winner.

"I have a covenant with NORTHFEST that I can never compromise for any reason. In fact, even if Gov Ayade asks me today to influence it I'll resign and tell the world why".

Speaking on allegation of extorting money from the contestants through sales of tickets he added that, nobody was compelled to sell ticket.

"They were not compelled to sell ticket. I had a mandate to generate money and because the event would involve audience participation, that was why we asked the contestants to sell ticket to those they were bringing to vote for them. They collected tickets according to how many people they were expecting that's why you see that they were not given uniform ticket.

"From what we gathered, they used the ticket to source funds from their sponsors to buy and hire their costumes which is why even when we insisted that unsold tickets should be returned, they never did.

"Some people make return of N20,000, some N5000; we have people who didn't bring anything but nobody was victimized. 85 per cent of them couldn't account for unsold tickets and nobody victimized them.

"I want to emphasize that at no time did we mandate contestants to pay money. There was no target for ticket as I see people post on social media. I never coerced anybody to pay me money. I've a video evidence where during dairy session they said nobody compelled them to pay anything", he said.

On the criticism that he asked the contestants to pay proceeds from sell of ticket into his personal account, Ugbong averred that the intention was to ease accountability.

In his words "The state government operate a central account which makes it difficult to draw funds from. This is why when I was given mandate to generate funds for the show, we decided to create separate accounts for different things. We had account for camp fee, another one for consultants and I asked them to pay the proceed from ticket to my account because through account, it will be easy for audit.

"If there was intent to cheat like they alleged on social media, I would have simply collected the money by hand. But I decided that it should be paid into my account which will allow me to give proper account. All I need to do is to just print my statement of account which will reflect all donations made.

The state government didn't give me any mandate on where to keep the funds we generate but being that I wanted accountability, that was why we had multiple accounts so that we will know what we came in from all sub-heads and how the money was spent".

Lifu Yorkyshor from Ogoja was crowned the Queen while Adie Patrick from Obudu emerged the King.
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