Home Sport Gross incompetence continues to define Nigeria’s sports administration

Gross incompetence continues to define Nigeria’s sports administration

Solomon Dalung, Minister of Sports

That Nigerian sports continue to plummet in recent time is an understatement as budding sports talents that were supposed to horn their skills at higher levels have been denied this rare opportunity. In the last six months, Nigerian youths have missed major international events that would have given them the chance to test their might with their foreign counterparts. OLALEKAN OKUSAN writes on how the show of shame at the just concluded Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas became the climax of sports’ dwindling fortune.
It is an understatement to conclude that the Ministry of Youth and Sports under Solomon Dalung has been fair to the sports development. Nigeria has missed youth competitions under this dispensation and everybody seems as if all is well with sports in Nigeria.
From missing the ITTF African Junior Championships in Tunisia early this year to absence from the IAAF World Youth Championships in Kenya, Nigeria’s future stars have been subjected to disappointments. The youngsters who have trained and worked their way into the national team were made to bear the brunt by those in charge of sports.
Despite the promises by the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung that attention would be given to grassroots sports development but from what has befallen the athletes, it is obvious that the future of sports is bleak.
Missing the ITTF African Junior Championships and IAAF World Youth Championships has indeed denied the youngsters the opportunity to rub shoulders with the world future stars.
However, the climax of this kill-joy for Nigeria’s young talents was the inability to feature at the just concluded Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas.
In April this year, the Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, along with the Director Grassroots Sports in the Ministry, Dr Ademola Aare and the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Tunde Popoola, inspected facilities for the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG) in Bahamas with the hope that Nigeria will feature in the competition with its budding sporting talents.
But to the chagrin of all, Nigeria again failed its restless youths, as only two of the 25 athletes made the trip to the Bahamas for the games.
Again, Nigeria’s future sports stars were denied the opportunity to test their might against their foreign counterparts at this year’s Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas following the shoddy handling of the trip by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Twenty five athletes were scheduled to represent Nigeria at the games with over N240m budgeted for the country’s participation in the championships. For more than seven weeks, the athletes were camped in Abuja and Lagos in preparation for the games under rigorous training without the necessary equipment provided. But few days to the team’s departure, the travelling logistics for the contingent was again mishandled by the sports ministry as most of the athletes failed to secure visas to either US or UK.
Having trained without the necessary equipment coupled with all other organisational hiccups that trailed the camping, the athletes’ joy was short-lived when only two was able to make the trip to the Bahamas for the games. A tennis athlete – Adetayo Adetunji and a cyclist, Jacinta Okorie were the only athletes that represented Nigeria at the games.
A frustrated coach, who pleaded anonymity and who was supposed to be part of the trip to the Bahamas, told NationSport that the handling of the trip coupled with how the budgeted fund was spent should be probed.
“Personally, I think those in charge of our sports are not interested in the athletes as what they are after is what they are going to make from the sports. I cannot imagine that those in the Ministry of Youth and Sports could not secure the visa for the Nigerian team despite having enough time to perfect the visa process. We were in camp for more than seven weeks and no equipment was given to any team to even prepare. Also, the allowance which was promised was cut while I was also surprised that for weeks we have been in camp, nobody bothered to think of starting visa processing for the team. It was only 10 days to the games, that they started the visa processing.
“The handling of the visa was appalling as some unprofessional people were invited to the camp to assist the athletes and coaches to fill the visa form and this caused the rejection of the team by the US and UK embassies. It was only the cyclist – Jacinta that was able to get the visa from US embassy while only the tennis coach that was also given visa by the UK embassy. Others were turned down. This was because the forms were not well filled by those engaged by the Sports Ministry,” he lamented.
“Can you imagine that the athletes were only given $100 to return to their various bases after they could not secure visas. But my concern now is whether those guys in the Ministry are really interested in developing our sports. These are the athletes that are expected to replace the ageing ones in future. I think this should be probed to ascertain why we failed to present a contingent for the game. I am indeed saddened that our sports have gone down in the last two years under this dispensation,” he said.
Prior to the games, the assigned Nigeria’s leader of delegation and Head of Grassroots Development in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ademola Are, had said on Sunday, July 9, that all travelling arrangements for the athletes have been well taken care of. “All athletes have been cleared of visa issues, as we are able to meet all requirements. We actually have two options, to go through the US or UK; either of the two, no athlete would be dropped, “Are concluded.
Nigeria was expected to take part in athletics, cycling, swimming, judo, beach volleyball, tennis, and boxing but the two-man team featured in cycling and tennis, while the games started on July 18 and ended yesterday July 23.
Even as a source within the Sports Ministry admitted that the shoddy handling of the trip caused the team’s inability to make the trip.
Rather than investigating why the team failed to make the trip, the Sports Minister blamed the British and American embassies for not issuing visas to the team.
The minister made these claims in a protest letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama over the refusal of the United Kingdom and the United States of America to issue transit visas to Team Nigeria to the Commonwealth Youth Games in Nassau, Bahamas.
The minister explained that the team was also made to pay for priority service in addition to the regular visa fees to expedite the process. All necessary travel documents to support their applications were included but only one person was issued visa out of the 26 while 24 were denied and 1 still pending. The same response was received when the Ministry of Youth and Sports took their applications to the U.S Embassy.
To put a human face to the disappointment of the athletes, the sports minister thanked the parents of the young athletes who were denied participation at the Youth Commonwealth Games for allowing their children to be in camp for over five weeks.
With this development, it is clear that Nigerian sports will continue to struggle if meaningful efforts are not made to right the wrong bedevilling the sector.

Courtesy, The Nation 

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