The Minister for Youth and Sports Development Sunday Dare has assured that the welfare of athletes is not negotiable as they prepare for both the African Athletics Championships in Algeria and the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Dare disclosed this while addressing track and field athletes in Akure over the weekend at the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) All-Comers competition.
Speaking through his Special Adviser on Media, John Joshua-Akanji, Dare said he will create a safe environment for the athletes to train and compete.
“Government is determined to bring about rapid development of sports in Nigeria as it is not only a unifying factor but also generates employment. This is why welfare of athletes, especially their off-field welfare and interest, which had been taken for granted will be given priority attention, Dare asserted.
The Sports Minister said prompt payment of allowances and training are key to success in sports,even as athletes will no longer be owed allowances .
“I am sure you are all aware of the Adopt a Talent programme we have introduced. It is for all categories of athletes, whether foreign or home based. I am sure one or two people here have benefitted from it. I can assure you that we are expanding the net to capture more athletes.
Dare added that government all over the world partners with individuals and corporate bodies to develop sports.
“This is what we are doing. Gone are the days when athletes wait till competition venue to get training grants that ended up being counter productive.
“I am impressed with what I have seen here and I can assure you that we will encourage the Athletics Federation of Nigeria to provide more competitions to keep them busy, evaluate your performances and ensure the needed growth is achieved.
“The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development will also provide the necessary support to the AFN to ensure a smooth and efficient administration of the sport.
“We will not interfere in the day-to-day running of the administration of the AFN. We will only collaborate and provide the necessary intervention especially when the team is representing Nigeria at international competitions.”
The AFN All-Comers witnessed a huge turn out of athletes who expressed their appreciation to the Federation for giving them a quality event to assess their training as they prepare for two major events this year.
Enoch Adegoke, Emmanuel Arowolo, Favour-Ofili, Ifeanyi Ojeli, Joy Udo-Ganriel, Oyeniyi Abejoye and a host of other national athletes who represented Nigeria at the African Games in Rabat, Morocco last year gave glimpses of what Nigerians should expect this year.
Meanwhile the AFN has debunked rumours that the few athletes who attended the illegal competition in Ozoro in Delta state will be sanctioned.
“That is just a figment of imagination of people who are bent on distracting us but we are focussed,’said Olamide George, president of the AFN. “The very few athletes who were in Ozoro travelled over night to Akure to participate in our All-Comers competition after realizing they have been mislead into going to Ozoro.”