Smoke-choked Sydney ushered in the New Year with a huge fireworks display, kicking off celebrations for billions around the world and ringing in the new decade.
Australia’s largest city usually puts on a dazzling display of pyrotechnics over the glittering harbour, but this year’s celebrations were overshadowed by calls to cancel the fireworks as devastating bushfires rage across the country.
Toxic smoke haze has shrouded Sydney for weeks and a petition to cancel the event out of respect for fire victims attracted more than 280,000 signatures.
Fireworks displays were scrapped in Australia’s capital, Canberra, and Sydney’s western suburbs due to elevated fire danger and extreme weather conditions.
Critics wanted Sydney to use the Aus$6.5 million ($4.5 million) spent on the display to fight bushfires ringing the city, but officials say the event is worth Aus$130 million to the economy and cancelling it would not help those impacted by the fires.
Security agencies in Plateau State have assured its citizens of a peaceful and hitch free Eid-el-Kabir celebrations in spite of rumours of impending attack on the state.
The Commander of the Special Taskforce “Operation Safe Haven”, Major General Rogers Nicholas, gave the assurance after a town hall meeting with officials of road transport workers, community leaderships and market operators.
Subsequent to the meeting, Major General Nicholas led the Joint Taskforce on a security patrol of major streets of Jos and Bukuru metropolis in North-central Nigeria.
The Taskforce comprises officials of the military, police, immigration, Department of State Security, Federal Road Safety Corps, National Security and Civil Defence Corps as well as National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and Nigerian Prisons Service.
Addressing the joint patrol after the exercise, the Commander said the exercise was part of security measures to assure citizens of its readiness to combat any criminal activity during and after the Sallah celebrations.
He urged the officers to exhibit professionalism in discharging their duties and called for synergy among security agencies for the sustenance of peace in Plateau State.
The Major General also warned those who may want to cause trouble during the celebrations that security agencies were ever ready to clamp down on perpetrators.
On his part, the newly appointed Commissioner of Police, Mr Babatunde Ogunyanwo, said the police is also ready to secure lives and property during the Sallah period.
He appealed to the citizens to also cooperate with the security agencies to provide useful information and adhere to instructions on security arrangements, to forestall breakdown of law and order.
Ahmed Sule the Arewa Consultative Forum General Secretary (ACF) says the serene atmosphere witnessed on the festive morning is not unexpected as most Nigerians decided to stay indoors for the fear of bomb explosions and secondly the harsh economy of the country too was contributory.