*Will the recalcitrant UK High Commission concede?
*Ibrahim Gusau to attend first IAAF Congress
By Olajide Fashikun
World’s athletics governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is looking into the circumstances leading to the delay by the British High Commission in Nigeria in issuing entry visas to athletes and officials of Team Nigeria scheduled to feature at the London 2017 Senior Athletics Championships.
The competition will run from Thursday, 4th to 13th August.
www.gongnews.net on Monday was aware that majority of the 17 athletes that were to make the trip by the late evening flight were yet to secure UK visas.
When contacted, the Secretary General of AFN, Mr. Akawo Amaechi said that the AFN is yet to officially receive any message from the British High Commission concerning issuance of visas to the contingent.
“Our earlier plan was to depart for London on 1st August to enable the athletes have time to relax before their competitions begin. But as we speak, I have not gotten any message from the British High Commission. That means you are ahead of us in the matter. If by what you’ve said, which I believe, I just hope they will issue the visas on time for us to go to London in good time. The delay is becoming worrisome to us. It might affect the performance of the athletes. We don’t want them to have jet lag,” Amaechi stated.
President of AFN board, Hon. Ibrahim Gusau left Nigeria Monday night for London to enable him attend the IAAF World Congress, which will hold before the commencement of the competition.
Gusau who was responsible for the cost of the National trials in Abuja is also responsible for the funding of the trip to the World championships. No money has been released yet by the Ministry of Youth and Sports development as at press time.
The IAAF normally pays for the tickets of the athletes, but the contingent must be in London to get the refund.
Only last week, Minister Solomon Dalung was lamenting the refusal of the UK and US to issue transit visas to Nigeria athletes for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Nassau, Bahamas.
Team Nigeria, having secured Bahamas visas, had applied to the United Kingdom for transit visas to enable the team to fly through London.
Only one athlete was issued visa out of the 26 applicants while 24 were denied and one was still pending until the game ended.
The same response was received when the ministry of youth and sports applied to the US embassy.
In reaction, Dalung has written a protest letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, calling for a review of the policy on issuance of visas to Nigerian sportsmen and women.
He bemoaned the inability of Team Nigeria to secure transit visas despite several attempts to get the foreign affairs to intervene.
“We were made to make express payment which we did and at the end of the day, majority of our young athletes were sadly denied visas,” Dalung wrote.
“I am in pains and I have been devastated because this has serious implications on the psychology of these young people who had offered to serve their country.
“I have deposited a protest with the Minister of Foreign Affairs against the two countries to explain to us why these young people who are sports men and women were denied mere transit visas.
“We were not asking for residence or long term visas. We just requested for airport direct airside transit visas which will only allow them remain at the airport and change aircraft for onward journey. We will need an explanation from these countries. It is unfortunate.”
The minister called for a review of such policies that hamper solidarity among nations.
“Ironically, we don’t have such harsh policies in Nigeria. Citizens of these countries walk into Nigeria like lords but Nigerians seeking just transit visas are treated like common criminals in these countries. This cannot continue. We must redefine our relationship. If it is not mutually inclusive and beneficial, then we should know where we belong.”