Chief Solomon Ogba, AFN President
By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Nigeria’s junior athletes, who were scheduled to travel out of the country Monday night for the IAAF World Junior Championships starting Tuesday morning in Barcelona, Monday protested the shabby treatment they have been subjected to at the Spanish Embassy in Lagos.
Due to the non issuance of the entry visas, Nigeria is likely to miss out of this edition the country had prepared hard to make impact.
The 100m event that is one of the strong areas of the 24-man contingent is scheduled to begin at 11am Tuesday.
According to Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) board member, Dr Jide Josiah, applications for the visas had been submitted two weeks earlier on, but officials of the embassy kept dribbling the athletes and officials.
Officials of the embassy insisted that visas couldn’t be issued because the officers who were supposed to stamp the passports were not available. They asked the team to report on Tuesday (this) morning when the athletes are supposed to be running in the heats of the sprint events.
“We gave them our passports two weeks ago. We were supposed to travel on Saturday, but they assured us that visas will be issued on Monday. Because of this, we had to re book our tickets for Monday night so that we can arrive on time for the 100m heats.
“By 2.30pm yesterday it dawn on us that there wasn’t going to be any visa for us to travel. From the look of things, we may not be going to the championships, because it is late for us now,” said the AFN board member.
At this point, the athletes resort to protest the treatment from the embassy official by blocking the entrance of the embassy with their vehicles.
“What kind of injustice is this? After all our training we are been told we can’t travel?” fumed ex international, Maria Osifo who is one of the accompanying coaches.
According to a worker at the Spanish consulate who preferred to remain anonymous, the athletes should not have blocked the entrance as they have not been denied visa.
“The (athletes) requested for their passports which were not submitted at the embassy but to VFS at Lekki Phase One. They’re supposed to go back to the VFS centre and request for their documents not here. Then they would know the status of their applications, though the two weeks used in processing visa has not elapsed,” reasoned the embassy staff.
Frightened by the incident, the embassy had to call the diplomatic protection unit to come to their rescue to forestall the situation from deteriorating.
The athletics body has reported the matter to their international federation, IAAF and has also promised to take the matter to the National Sports Commission and the Presidency.