By Amaechi Agbo
The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Edo State Government for the hosting rights of 20th edition of the National Sports Festival.
The two parties to the pact were led by their leaders with the Ministry of Youth and Sports led by the Minister, Solomon Dalung while the Edo State government delegation was led by the governor, Godwin Obaseki.
In signing the MoU at the Media Centre of the National Stadium, Abuja, the minister reiterated the preparedness of the federal government through the ministry to ensure that the National Sports Festival did not suffer another hiatus and expressed confidence on the ability of the Edo State to reclaim its fading glory and pace setters in sports development in the country.
“It is with absolute gratitude to God and a sense of fulfilment that I speak to you today on this auspicious occasion of the signing of the Host State Agreement for the 20th National Sports Festival (NSF) scheduled to take place in March, 2020 in Edo State.
“It bears restating that Edo State were not just offered the hosting rights for the 20th edition of the Games but competed with Cross River and Delta states. It was indeed a rigorously contested process and I thank the Governors and good people of Cross River and Delta States for making the process really competitive and accepting the decision of the Ministry on the award.
“I am elated that at the Closing Ceremony of the 19th NSF, we were able to secure a Host State for the 20th edition of the Games. This ceremony is therefore very significant as it not only confirms but also reassures Nigerians that the Host for the next National Sports Festival is ready and willing to undertake the responsibilities associated with hosting a festival of this magnitude. I am further encouraged with the venues and facilities I saw in Edo State during my recent visit to the State.
“As I stated during the brief interaction I had with members of the Press immediately after the inspection, Edo State has enough facilities to host the Festival with what is currently on ground,” the Minister said.
Explaining the advantages the state will gain in hosting the festival, the minister said “the benefits of hosting the Festival include, but are not limited to: increasing the profile of the Edo State as a major sports destination with its attendant micro and macro-economic benefits; long-term investment which comes from preparing for a major event. Edo State’s legacy of improved sporting venues, infrastructures and sports culture will be enhanced; jobs will be created as the various infrastructural projects would ultimately generate job opportunities for residents of the State and its environs and tourism will be boosted with the natural upsurge in the number of visitors to the State.”
On his part, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki thanked the ministry for given the state the hosting right. While stating that the state was ready for the festival, the governor further appealed the ministry on the need to hold Nations Commission on Sports meeting in order to harness need documents and plans ahead of the festival expected to hold in 13 months’ time.
“I want to first of all express my profound gratitude of all Edo citizens for the confidence the federal government and the ministry of youth and sports reposed in us to host the National Sports Festival. We clearly understand the implications and the enormous responsibility that come with the hosting rights.
“Edo State, then Bendel State, was part of the states that that put up the suggestion for and national sports festival after the civil war to build unity, patriotism and development of sporting talents for the country. NSF also serves as the recruitment base at the grassroots level.
“We have commenced rehabilitation and renovation work at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in readiness for the games. As a state, we are ready to host the games.
“We thank the honourable minister for reviving the sports festival. On our part, we are prepared to set new a standard and I can assure you that with the support of every stakeholder, we will establish standards upon which future NSF standards will be measured.
“I want to appeal to the minister that the National Commission on Sports, NCF be held on February 21 this year so we can begin work and harmonise our documents. It is obvious that based on the projected time of the festival holding in March next year that right now we do not have time.
“We have started working and that is why my deputy has been designated the chairman of the Local Organising Committee, LOC. Apart from that, we have also made budgetary allocation in the 2019 appropriation for the festival. Let me reassure you and the good people of Nigeria that the 20th edition of the National Sports Festival 2020 will be a landmark event in the history of sports in Nigeria,” the governor concluded.
Following the award of the hosting rights to Edo State in December 2018 at the end of the 19th edition of the festival held in Federal Capital Territory, it is required of the state and the Ministry to sign an agreement which will spell out the duties and obligations of both parties and advise on the composition of the Main and Local Organizing Committees.