By Ben Alozie
The Minister for Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, says welfare of athletes will not be negotiable as they prepare for both the African Athletics Championships in Algeria and the Olympic Games in Tokyo,Japan.
Dare said this while addressing track and field athletes in Akure at the weekend at the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) All-Comers competition.
Speaking through his Special Adviser on Media, John Joshua-Akanji, Dare said he will create a safe environment for the athletes to train and compete.
‘Government is determined there is rapid development of sports in Nigeria as it is not only a unifying factor but also generates employment. This is why welfare of athletes, especially their off-field environmental which has been taken for granted will be given priority attention,’said Dare.
The Sports Minister says prompt payment of allowances and training are key to success in sports and that athletes will no longer be owed allowances either in part or in full again.
‘ I am sure you are all aware of the adopt a talent programme we have introduced. It is for all categories of athletes,whether foreign or home based. I am sure one or two people here have benefitted from it. I can assure you we are expanding the net to capture more athletes, ‘Dare promised, adding that government all over the world partners with individuals and corporate bodies to develop sports.
”This is what we are doing. Gone are the days when athletes wait till competition venue to get training grants that ended up to be counterproductive.’.
‘I am impressed with what I have seen here and I can assure you that we will encourage the Athletics Federation of Nigeria to provide more competitions for you to keep them busy, evaluate your performances and ensure the needed growth is achieved. The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development will also provide the necessary support to the AFN to ensure a smooth and efficient administration of the sport. We will not interfere in the day-to-day running of the administration of the AFN. We will only collaborate and provide the necessary intervention especially when the team is going for international competitions where they will be representing Nigeria.’
The AFN All-Comers witnessed a huge turnout of athletes who expressed their appreciation to the federation for giving them a quality event to assess how far they have gone in their training as they prepare for two major events this year.
Enoch Adegoke, Emmanuel Arowolo,Favour-Ofili,Ifeanyi Ojeli,Joy Udo-Ganriel,Oyeniyi Abejoye and a host of other national athletes who represented Nigeria at the African Games in Rabat,Morocco last year gave glimpses of what Nigerians should expect this year. Meanwhile, the AFN has debunked rumours that the few athletes who attended the illegal competition in Ozoro in Delta state will be sanctioned.
‘That is just a figment of imagination of people who are bent on distracting us but we are focused, ‘said Olamide George, president of the AFN.
‘The very few athletes who were in Ozoro travelled over night to Akure to participate in our All-Comers competition after realising they have been mislead into going to Ozoro.’