By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, to ensure that the Nigerian Super Eagles make an impact in the 2018 World Cup holding in Russia.
The minister who spoke to State House Correspondents after a meeting With the President behind closed doors at the weekend said “the President encouraged me to in 2018 sustained the tempo of the Successes recorded so far in2017 especially with the World Cup in Russia.
He challenged me to ensure that Nigeria does not go to Russia a mere spectator. Of course I also informed him that part of the measures we have taken to address some of the challenges is to ensure that by March all the Players are paid their match training and camp allowances upfront but for the bonuses is in terms of progression according to performance at the World Cup.”
The minister also expressed great worry at the level of deterioration of the nation’s sports facilities across the country hinting that the maintenance budget over the years would be investigated and those found culpable would be sanctioned.
On what he discussed with the President, he said “I met with the president to brief him on the level of progress made so far in sports in 2017.
“2017 was a very good year in sports for Nigeria, we had the best outing. We had Democratic elections into the federations and that has helped us tremendously because the federations are up and doing and their hauling in medals in almost all the competitions.
“I briefed him about our plans for 2018 because is a sports year rightfrom February to August, there is no dull moment. Right from CAF African Nations Championship (CHAN) to African Youth Champion in wrestling taking place in Port Harcourt, to Commonwealth Games scheduled for Gold Cost, Queensland. Australia, between 4 and 15 April 2018, to Basketball, the World Cup in June and the African Championship of the Athletics Federation In Asaba. We need the support of the president as usual and funding as it is required to enable our teams succeed.”
On Nigeria’s readiness for the competition’s, he said “For the commonwealth games we have had all the budgetary allocations released and we are on course. The athletes are in camp, they are training. We have athletes in Port Harcourt while others are in Abuja.
The challenge basically has been lack of training facilities. As we all know training facilities has to do with infrastructural deficit in sports because of long time neglect.
The visit I made to Lagos the athletes are in high Spirit and are maximizing the available facilities on ground to do their best but we will cap it up possibly with our budget support with foreign camping. After reviewing what is available to us If we can Guaranteed it then we can export some of our areas of comparative advantage we will send some of our athletes to foreign countries.”
On why the Sports infrastructures are not maintained, he said “Well, I think the take off point is lack of patriotism and then the absence of maintenance culture. When we are talking patriotism we have to begin from the foundation, that is the award of the contract. For instance, the National Stadium in Abuja, the contractors retained maintenance. And the cost of maintenance in two, three years is close to the entire contract sum.
The contract is faulty because it maintains maintenance within the contractual agreement to where it did not foresee circumstances or economic realities will not be there to support it.
Secondly, lack of patriotism in terms of our maintenance culture. For instance the national stadium lagos, does it mean that 2003 the stadium was shut down and no maintenance at all? Because that is the only reason to explain its present deplorable state. Thirdly, every year, there is a budget for the maintenance of that particular infrastructure, the question is what has become of this budgetary allocations?
Even if issues were picked one after the other, we should have had over 16 to 18 year’s impact but certainly not this dilapidated state it is. So certainly, so the absence of patriotism and maintenance culture is behind this infrastructural decay that we have.”
Asked whether they would sanctioned, Dalung said “Definitely there will be investigations because the best way to stop a problem is to try to discover what happened and then put on records for the benefits of future generation so that it serves as a good guide.
So investigations are imperative but sanctions will be determined by the legal system and not the bureaucratic system where you appear before a committee and explain. It has to go beyond that because huge budgetary Allocations were made and if they are no real impact to justify how they were spend, people should be made to account.”
On Nigeria’s preparation for the World Cup, he said “For the World Cup, apart from the friendlies we have now I think we have lined up so many friendlies to play with countries participating in the World Cup, top ranking countries that did not make the World Cup, so as to strengthen our preparation.”
On the World Cup budget, he said “The budget has been approved but has not been released. The difference we have in the budgetary allocations this time is that the budget is funded by both the government, private sector and the federation. Because o insisted that the era where government alone will fund such competition a lot is no more acceptable.
There are grants released by organizers to complement efforts of government, this must be declared and included in the budget. And then the monies realized from sponsorships and marketing will also have to be declared to constituted the budget that will be declared for the World Cup.
So we have a round figure that has been budgeted which is N3 billion but the Nigeria football federation will raise about N1.5 billion from what we are getting from FIFA and corporate Nigeria, the private sector. Government is expected to turn in N2 or N1.5 billion for the competition.”