Pioneer chairman of the League Management Company and one-time chairman of the Federal House of Representatives Committee on Communications, Hon Nduka Irabor, has called for urgent action for the revival of Nigeria sports, pointing out that the sports sector has been on a steady downward slide and there is no visible effort and deliberate pattern towards working it out of the woods.
Speaking on the topic “Nigeria Sports: Strategies for Revival and Growth”, at a seminar organised by the Lagos chapter of the Sports Writers Association Lagos Nigeria (SWAN) as part of activities to mark their Merrybet-Lagos SWAN Week, Irabor outline a number of measures that should be taken to stem the ugly tide and build capacity to enable the realisation of the full capacity of the sports sector.
He also decried the prevailing situation where the Nigeria business community have developed a penchant for association and sponsorship of foreign sports bodies to the negligence of such bodies in the country. He pointed out that while all the football leagues in Nigeria received only $10m in sponsorship in one year, the Nigeria corporate community paid out about N150b to foreign football leagues and clubs, an attitude which he stressed seriously injures and negates efforts at nation building.
Principal among the solutions proffered by Hon Irabor are that the government should properly re-articulate its policy for sports, taking into consideration the fact that sports has become a serious global economic and business factor, while the government should also, as a matter of imperative, develop new creative ways for the funding of sports, such as would involve businesses, communities, the public and individuals to contribute in tackling the critical inadequacy of access to sports by a huge mass of the population as a result the debilitating deficit in sports facilities, equipment and trainers across communities and schools nationwide.
Pointing out that the sports trust and lottery system has been developed and applied for the funding of both grassroots and elite sports in countries like the United Kingdom and Australia, he regretted that the Nigeria version of the same set up has remained only so in name with Nigerians not knowing how much is raked in and where and how the income is applied.
Irabor also advised that the nations sports governing establishment should be re-invented to give way for competent professionals in various sports administration, management and technical disciplines to be engaged in the implementation of planned programmes as against the present civil service driven system which is further worsened by the leadership of constantly changed political appointees who act at their whims and idionsyncracies with check from any quarter.
He advised that no investment is too much in sports considering its social, economic and health benefits, noting that it behooves the government and people to realise their faults and seek to make amends in policies, institutions and practices if they are truly desirous of achieving global competitiveness in the sector.
The two discussants at the seminar, Dr Kweku Tandoh, former Director of Sport at the Lagos State Sports Council and current Chairman of the Nigeria Sports Award Panel, and Mr Mitchel Obi, President of AIPS Africa, strengthened Irabor’s pisition with Obi crying out that Nigeria sports has hit a “crisis situation’ while Tandoh called out for the “political will” for action.
The seminar held on Wednesday, August 16, at the Lagos SWAN Secretariat, National Stadium, Lagos was chaired by the Secretary General of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, Mr Tunde Popoola, with the Lagos Liaison Officer of the Federal Ministry of Sports, Dr Segun Akinlotan, and Nigeria’s first and only individual Olympic gold medalist, Chioma Ajunwa, Chairman of the Nigeria Women Football League, Aisha Falode, Director of Sports Development at the Lagos State Sports Commission, Mr Moses Kolawole, and representatives of Merrybet, sponsors of the Lagos SWAN Week, in attendance.