From Kemi Yesufu and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
A can of worms was opened at the House of Representatives on Tuesday by different presidents of the sporting federations, who took turns to blame what they described as the incompetence and corruption in the Federal Ministry of Sports and Youth Development for Nigeria’s poor outing at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Speaking at the public hearing by the Goni Lawal led House Committee on Sports, president of the Nigerian Basketball Federation(NBBF) Tijani Umar said the half-hazard 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 who couldn’t hide his frustrations with officials of the Sports ministry said they intentionally refused to support basketball technically and financially, adding that this has led his being indebted to hotels and airlines to the tune of N11 million and an American coach for the men’s national team being owed his three months $45,000 salary threatening the NBBF.
Olympic gold medalist and president of the Nigerian Wrestling Federation Daniel Igali who lamented that there “was too much greed” in the Sports ministry, recounted that the shabby treatment of athletes since his active days was what pushed him to dump Nigeria for Canada, with many more like him being pushed to take the plunge.
Igali who told the committee that he was yet to be refunded the N3.5 million he used to buy a mat for wrestlers to train, warned that Nigerian athletes are treated like servants of the ministry even as presidents of federations are expected to beg for what is due them.
“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,” he stated.
Another aggrieved administrator, the president of the Handball Federation, Yusuf Dauda called for far reaching interventions from the National Assembly and the Federal government, saying there has been too much talk and no action.
“I cannot thank you members of this committee for today’s meeting because we spoke about these issues being raised here during the defence for the 2016 budget. The Permanent-Secretary of the ministry 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 is better and professionally prepared to run sports,” Dauda said.