As LOC Locks Offices of MOC Officials at Games Venue.
The presidency has intervened to save the ongoing 20th National Sports Festival, tagged Edo 2020, from coming into an abrupt and unceremonious end as a result of face-off between the host state, Edo, and the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports over lingering issue of funding.
Recall that Wednesday night, the Local Organising Committee, LOC of the games chaired by the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu had raised the red flag that the sports fiesta would be shut down 12 noon today (Thursday) because the federal ministry of sports had reneged on its promise to support the state financially to be able to successfully host the games which had suffered about three postponements due to COVID-19 concerns. The state government had invested humongous resources in preparation for the sports festival prompting it to request for financial assistance from the federal government if it must host it.
Musa Ebomhiana, project manager, media and communications, Edo 2020, confirmed the intervention of the presidency in an interview with TELL on Thursday. Before the intervention by the presidency, the ministry of youth and sports development had insisted that the games must go on, stating in a statement on Thursday that the fund for the games was being processed. The statement, signed by Ramon Balogun, assistant director, Press, ministry of youth and sports development, clarified that the 20th National Sports Festival, Edo 2020, was going on as planned with competitions going on as scheduled, stating that “The Ministry and the Main Organizing Committee (MOC) for the festival are unaware of any plans or threat by the Edo State Government to shut down the sports festival as there has been no official meeting or communication that relayed such information”.
According to Balogun, “The Honorable Minister, Permanent Secretary and Directors are on ground in Benin City where the Festival is holding, and it is expected that the Edo State Government would formally invite the Ministry for a meeting should any urgency exist around the National Sports Festival or communicate officially with the Main Organizing Committee (MOC) for the festival. The Ministry has no such communication.
“For the records, the Edo State government due to the cost implications of postponements occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, requested financial assistance from the Federal government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development. The Ministry has since been at work to secure the financial assistance which it believes is being processed. The MYSD and EDSG are determined to deliver a successful National Sports Festival”.
But when contacted for the LOC’s reaction to the insistence of the federal ministry of youths and sports development that the games were going on, a furious Ebomhiana wondered if it was the ministry that was hosting the games or Edo State. He was also unimpressed with the explanation by the ministry that the funds were being processed.
He insisted that the LOC’s resolve to shut down the games was not an empty threat. “It’s not a threat. If it’s a threat why didn’t they resume in their office today? Their office has been shut down here. We meant what we are saying. To tell them that we meant what we are saying, we shut down their office; they couldn’t even enter their office. By tomorrow 12 o’clock, the venue would be shut down. How can they say it’s a threat?
“They have been processing funds for months now. How long will it take to process the funds? Don’t mind them; we’ve taken action. We shut down the MOC. So, they are saying the games must go on. Are they the one hosting that they say the games must go on? When we shut the office against them, why didn’t they break the door and enter? We are the host state; we decide what happens here, Ebomhiana fumed.
Speaking further, he noted that “We have been on this fund matter for months. The issue has been lingering. How long will it take to process papers? All the money they are spending, they are all in hotels, eating and drinking on us. Is it free? Are we Father Christmas?”
Hinting on the intervention by the presidency, Ebomhiana said “Although in any case, there is breaking news now. The presidency has intervened. Just now, as I was writing it, your call came in. Presidency has intervened, with or without the ministry. So, the ministry has no hand in it. Presidency has intervened. Quote me on it. It became a sing-song; we are processing, we are processing. Half through the games, you say you are processing. It became a sing song; that’s why we took the action we took yesterday”.
But in an official statement Thursday evening on presidential intervention, Ebomhiana said “The Local Organising Committee, LOC, Edo2020 has just risen from another emergency meeting to review the Presidential intervention over financial crisis threatening the National Sports Festival.
“At the end of the meeting presided over by the Chairman/Deputy Governor, Edo State, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu, the LOC decided that the games have to continue. The LOC agreed that the Presidential intervention is a very strong and direct commitment which we must all respect, honour and take seriously. We strongly believe and respect commitments from the Presidency. We take them by their words. It’s a strong message to us that they are strongly committed to redeeming their pledge to support us for the losses suffered arising from the three postponements of the games”.
It appreciated the President, Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, the Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Agboola Gambari as well as the state governor, Godwin Obaseki “for his high level of commitment to work with the Federal Government for the success of the Festival, Edo2020”.
The LOC therefore wished the athletes and officials from across the 35 States and the FCT a memorable stay in Edo as the games last.
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