Sports stakeholders are worried that Nigeria has not started serious preparations for the Commonwealth Games scheduled to hold in Glasgow, Scotland from July 23 to Aug.3.
They say that unless government releases funds for the preparation, the country may witness another dismal performance, similar to the London Olympics, in which the country won no medal.
Just recently, Solomon Ogba, the 2nd Vice President, Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), said that the country may call for another sports summit after the 2014 Commonwealth Games, as a result of the shoddy preparation.
Nigeria is competing in athletics, table tennis, wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, shooting and para-sports.
According to Ogba, the National Sports Commission (NSC) has not released any money to the various sports federations to prepare athletes for the Commonwealth Games.
“We have two months to the Commonwealth Games and funds are yet to be released; at this stage, it is only President Jonathan that can rescue the situation.
“If not, we are going to come back for another retreat to ask what happened and why we didn’t do well.
“We have all it takes to do well if the right things are done; the budget was not approved early and that is an issue.
“Even if the budget was not approved early, we know that some level of expenditure can also be done once the budget has gone to the National Assembly.
“There is an approval, but the money is not getting there and I don’t think Mr President knows; so except he intervenes at this stage and the NSC gets money to prepare for the games, there is nothing anybody can do and it will be the same old story,’’ Ogba said.
President Jonathan had early this year promised to make available about N4 billion to the NSC for the country’s preparation and participation in international competitions this year.
The Director General of the NSC, Gbenga Elegbeleye told newsmen in Abuja recently that the grant would carter for the Commonwealth Games, Africa Youth Games, Youth Olympics and the ECOWAS Games.
“We have a special fund approved by Mr President for us to prosecute all these games; it’s about N4 billion.
“The money does not cover preparation and participation of the Super Eagles for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil,’’ Elegbeleye said.
Unfortunately, about four months after the promise, not even a dime has been released for the preparation.
Mr John Peters, an umpire with the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), said that the federation was preparing athletes for the games without any support from government.
According to Peters, NTTF President, Waheed Oshodi, who is also the Commissioner for Sports in Lagos is leaving no stone unturned to ensure training of the athletes, adding that the “NTTF boss never waits for the NSC to prepare his team for the games.’’
He pointed out that the numerous competitions embarked upon by the federation, including the just concluded World Team Table Tennis Championship in Japan, was geared towards preparing a formidable team for the games.
Daniel Igali, President of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation (NWF), has decried the way Nigerian athletes were preparing for the games.
He said it was abnormal for athletes to prepare on their own for competitions such as the Commonwealth Games.
“It is in the best interest of Nigeria that we adequately prepare our athletes because other countries are not sleeping.
“I cannot give assurance of winning medals because we are not ready, you don’t go to the Commonwealth Games of about 70 nations competing without being prepared.
“We are not adequately prepared; anyone who tells you that we are, is playing politics and I don’t want to play politics with anybody,’’ Igali said.
Tony Ubani, the Public Relations Officer of the NOC has cautioned some federations on the danger of using their money to prepare their athletes for the games.
He pointed out that questions might be asked if Team Nigeria athletes perform below expectation at the games and urged the government to ensure it get its priorities right.
According to Ubani, another summit might not be unavoidable after the games, which he said was basis for assessment of the Nigeria’s preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil.
“If you remember, immediately after the London 2012 fiasco when Nigeria went medal-less, there were so much calls for reorganisation. The President himself rose and of course a sports summit was organised that was to prevent a reoccurrence.
“We are talking about the youths and something that gives us the image; this is the time when government should pay more attention to sports”, he said. NAN