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ECOWAS: Buhari affirms commitment to sports development

*ECOWAS Commission pledges support

By Olajide Fashikun

President Muhammadu Buhari has re-affirmed the Federal Government’s unalloyed commitment to sports development in the west African ECOWAS sub-region which is the Region 2 of the African Union.

Mr Adeshola Olushade, Mrs Sintiki Ugbe, Senator Obinna Ogba, Surveyor Suleiman Zarma, Barrister Dalung and Hon Goni Lawan
Mr Adeshola Olushade, Mrs Sintiki Ugbe, Senator Obinna Ogba, Surveyor Suleiman Zarma, Barrister Dalung and Hon Goni Lawan

The President made the remark while declaring open the 1st session of the African Union Sports Council (Region 2) Minister’s meeting Wednesday, at the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.

The President who was a special guest was represented by Surveyor Suleiman Hassan Zarma, the Minister (State) for Power, Works and Housing. He said that the purpose of the meeting affirmed the seriousness that African nations and other stakeholders attached to sports on the continent.

“I congratulate the African Union Commission for going the extra mile by giving adequate attention to sports development on our continent as evidenced by the recent restructuring within the African Sports Movement that gave birth to the African Union Sports Council.

“My country, Nigeria, attaches great importance to sports, hence our acceptance to host this important meeting to provide the needed platform for our sub-region to hit the ground running through the formulation and implementation of ground breaking and insightful sports policies.

Lekan Sowande of the Voice of Nigeria interviewing Africa Union's Machacha Shepande
Lekan Sowande of the Voice of Nigeria interviewing Africa Union’s Machacha Shepande

“In line with the overall objectives of the African Union, I urge you to broaden your deliberations to align sports with peace, security, education, health promotion, social mobilisation, employment creation, socio-economic development, regional integration, conflict prevention and resolution. Our sub region tends to benefit a lot from such alignments.”

President Buhari promised to give the necessary support through the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports to enable the Council to accomplish the task of the newly created African Union Sports Council [AUSC] (Region 2) for overall success.

He also approved the engagement of few pioneer secretariat staff to facilitate the take-off of AUSC Region 2 and pay them in line with Personnel Scheme of Service of the African Union Commission while diplomatic status will be accorded the Headquarters and secretariat staff of the AUSC Region 2

The Togolese delegation
The Togolese delegation

Earlier in his welcome address, the Minister of Youth and Sports Barrister Solomon Dalung said that the West African Ministers of Sports meeting will redefine the much desired peace, regional integration, socio-cultural, political and economic development in the sub region through the instrumentality of sports.

“The ratification of all the legal instruments will make for rapid development of sports in the sub- region. Our strong desire is that the immediate impact of this new initiative will be felt during the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the 2019 All Africa Games, the Francophone Games and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics where athletes from the 15 West African countries will make the region proud by winning gold medals.”

The maiden session of the African Sports Ministers will ratify the legal instruments, setup strategic plans for the implementation of the region as well as the legal framework of the leadership that will man the secretariat. The document, when ratified, will also kick start the full operation of the secretariat.

Dr Sintiki Ugbe of the ECOWAS Commission thanked the Nigerian government’s commitment to this sports initiative pledging that the Commission will make available her experiences in organising the ECOWAS Games some years back. We look forward to a new generation of super sports stars to come out of the sub region as a result of this wonderful initiative.

Also in attendance was the Senate President who was represented by the Chairman Senate Committee on Sports, Senator Obinna Ogba, the Speaker House of Representatives was represented by the Chairman House Committee on Sports, Hon. Goni Bukar Lawan, the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) and other sports stakeholders were present.

The AUSC Region 2 comprises the 15 West African countries. Caleb Gidado of Nigeria has been appointed General Manager of the new organisation.

The permanent Secretariat Headquarters was granted to Nigeria in December, 2015.

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