*90 elite athletes to enjoy N35million funding for Tokyo Olympics
By Collins Ajibola, Olayinka Elebute, Oluwole Francis
Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung openly on Thursday in Abuja disagreed with his Permanent Secretary, Ohaa, over who to support amongst the 10 icons of the Nigeria Olympic Fund.
While the Minister, Solomon Dalung, chose the 2016 Rio Olympic sensation and table tennis star, Aruna Quadri, his Permanent Secretary, Ohaa, chose Blessing Okagbare.
Solomon Dalung, Minister of Youths and Sports, endorsed the Nigeria Olympics Fund project to give the group led by former Zamalek SC of Egypt handball star, Olajide Fashikun, the right to source for private funds to develop sports in Nigeria.
Dalung, while endorsing the project at the Media Centre of the National Stadium in Abuja, said the only way to grow sports in Nigeria was through private sector involvement.
While speaking, the former El-Kanemi Warriors left winger said, “the Nigeria Olympics Fund project is an initiative targeted at over 16 million Nigerians contributing at least N100 to the fund. We are looking at exploiting the national lottery as well as signing up 10,000 celebrities. You will recall that Mrs Amina Oyiza Bello, wife of the Kogi state governor just signed up on the Sunday Bada brand just last week.”
Sports minister Solomon Dalung who like a professor doing his inaugural speech, spoke with excellent coordination and eloquence said the event was historic as it marks one of the steps to reposition the sports architecture of Nigeria.
“I want to ensure that I hand over a sports sector that is private sector-driven. Today, we are witnessing private sector mobilisation of funds for sports development. In Nigeria, sports is funded 99.99 per cent by the government and this is a burden too heavy for the government to carry in the face of the present economic recession. Having projects like this is the only way to go to make sports survive in Nigeria,” he said.
Earlier, the Executive Director of the Nigeria Olympics Fund project, Chief Mary Onyali, said the project would create, grow and nurture athletes for the 2020 Olympics. 90 athletes that will enjoy the special funding of N35million each have been shortlisted already. We shall unveil the list in January 2017 for final tweaking before the beneficiaries will start to enjoy and prepare for Tokyo 2020.”
Onyali, a five-time Olympian added that, “Nigeria has talents but they needed to be harnessed from the grassroots. That is where we were gotten and honed. We going back to the grassroots through 36 community project the first in Offa in Kwara State and six National development centres with the first three being in Ekiti, Taraba and Plateau early in the first quarter of 2017.
Onyali added that “sports is capital intensive and government alone cannot fund sports. That is why we decided to use the Nigeria Olympics Fund. The Nigeria Sports Development Fund Inc (NSDFI) in partnership with the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC), with the support of the ministry are providing the synergy to raise the funds.
“The funds raised will be used to help us get 90 targeted elite athletes for the 2020 Olympics so as to get at least 10 medals for Nigeria, not minding the colour. A National Athlete Welfare Fund will be created and get 10% of all monies raised, BOOST will get 40%, NSDFI 10%, NOC 10%, operational funds 10% and 20% goes to the NOC Solidarity Fund.
“We have decided to be the change agent for these athletes, stop the defection, find the talents, groom them, advise them and show them the right path,’’ she said.