By Emman Ovuakporie & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
THE alleged incompetence in the management of the nation’s sports sector was brought to the fore yesterday when stakeholders in the sector took the authorities at the ministry to the cleaners, alleging that they were killing sports development.
Specifically, different presidents of the sporting federations, lamented that there was high level of corruption in the Federal Ministry of Sports and Youth Development which affected Nigeria’s poor outing in the London and Rio Olympics.
Speaking at the Goni Lawal-led House Committee on Sports at a public hearing in Abuja, the president of the Nigerian Basketball Federation, NBBF, Tijani Umar said the poor handling of the country’s preparations for major sporting competitions culminated in Nigerian athletes being the, “the most ill treated contingent to the Rio Olympics in terms of welfare.”
Umar said that the sports ministry intentionally refused to support basketball technically and financially, lamenting that the sorry situation led to the situation where the federation owed hotels and airlines about N11 million and the inability to pay the American coach for the Men’s national team his three months salary of $45,000.
He further revealed that the federation has despite recent successes with the men’s team basketball qualifying for the London and Rio games, resorted to borrowing equipment such as the playing floor that was used by the national teams for training that was borrowed from the University of Port-Harcourt.
Umar who said sporting federations can be run transparently but hardly get funding from the ministry further expressed regret that rather than get commendation for working with the private sectors, his staff are asked for bribes.
He said, “DStv has been supporting basket leagues for eight years and it is because we have been transparent. We haven’t misspent a single kobo from their money. But sometimes people from the ministry call us and say, ‘you people are choping alone.”
But not comfortable with the plethora of allegations against the Sports ministry by the NBBF president, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Chinyeaka Ohaa made efforts to interject but the Committee’s Chairman prevented him from cutting short Umar’s presentation.
Another stakeholder and Olympic gold medallist and president of the Nigerian Wrestling Federation Daniel Igali in his presentation lamented that there “was too much greed” in the Sports ministry.
Igali told the Committee that it was the shabby treatment of athletes in his active days that pushed him to dump Nigeria for Canada, adding that he was not the only person that suffered such treatment.
He said he was yet to be refunded N3.5 million he used to buy a mat for wrestlers to train, and that Nigerian athletes were treated like servants of the ministry, and that as president of wrestling federation, the ministry expects him to beg for what is due them.
He said, “The last thing I read about the money is that my file is missing in the ministry. There is a lot of greed, too much greed in the system. If we don’t rectify a lot of things in our sports infrastructure and system, then we are doomed.”
Another aggrieved administrator, the president of the Handball Federation Yusuf Dauda called for definite action from the National Assembly and the Federal government, saying there has been too much talk and no action.
He said, “I cannot thank you members of this committee because we spoke about these issues being raised here during the defence for the 2016 budget. The Permanent-Secretary here is now called ‘No money’.
“If all the ministry can keep telling federations is ‘no money’, then let’s scrap the ministry and bring back the National Sports Commission which seems better professionally prepared to run Sports.”
When asked by the committee if the ministry had released funds to any of the federations from the 2016 budget, none of of the federation presidents answered , with someone who wasn’t stopped, shouting, “no”.