Locked NIS Building
Conspicuous at the entrance of the Nigeria Institute of Sports in Lagos is a bold inscription, “Producer of Coaches and Managers.” Has the institute lived up to its billing, 38 years after the establishment? KUNLE ADEWALE digs in
Purpose for its establishment…
The National Institute for Sports was conceptualised in 1972 based on the need to improve Nigeria’s performance in international competitions. It commenced operations two years later. Late Major General Henry Adefowope, the then Chairman of the National Sports Commission motivated the establishment of the NIS. Nigeria’s past records in the Olympic Games and the overwhelming performance of the then Eastern European countries in previous Olympic Games served as the needed stimulus for Nigeria’s sports administrators to adopt the defunct Eastern Germany’s model of sports development. Thus, the National Institute for Sports which is dedicated to the production of the much needed manpower in sports (coaches and sport administrators) was fashioned along the line of the defunct Eastern Germany Institute for Sports.
Its recently established Athlete Development Center in Abuja was premised on the need to expand the its vision and mission as emphasized in the 1989 sport policy of Nigeria and the mandate given by decree 31 of 1992, that the NIS Governing Council shall expand the training roles and functions of NIS as deemed fit for the overall progress of Nigeria’s manpower development. This invariably means the inclusion, identification and training of young athletes for continuity in athletes development and placements.
How far has the NIS gone…?
At inception, lecturers and other members of staff were from Germany until the late 1980s when Nigerians who were trained by the Germans took over the running of the institute. The present Director-General of the National Sports Commission Patrick Ekeji was among several Nigerian athletes who were sent to Germany for training in management. The school has since trained great coaches, sports administrators and sports marketers, who have contributed to the growth of sports in Nigeria.
In an interview with THISDAY, the Director of the institute Dr. Sunny Ikhioya said: “To some extent I would say the NIS has achieved the purpose for which it was established. Before you can assess an organization, you must take into consideration the holistic environment in which that organization works and that explain my saying ‘yes to some extent.’ We all know the standard required of educational institutions and we know the factors that are affecting educational establishments all over the country.
“One very good thing that the NIS has recently done was to give its programmes the needed accreditation. For the past 36 years, NIS was running unaccredited programmes and if a programme is not accredited by the Federal Ministry of Education, the programme is useless. So, under the present administration, we now have the needed accreditation from the Federal Ministry of Education. If for example a student has a first degree in physical education and enrolls with NIS for a 12-month programme , he or she moves from level eight to nine after the programme and that is a big plus. When I came on board, I addressed fundamental issues so that NIS products could get employment in the public services. Also, the status enhancement of NIS is being looked into by the office of the head of service of the federation and it has gotten to an advance stage.”
According to Ikhioya, the NIS has done fairly well since it was established in spite of all the problems and criticism confronting it. “Many of our products are thriving in various clubs in Nigeria either as head coaches or as assistants. Late coach Tella was a student here and later became a lecturer and was given the opportunity to coach the U-17 team to the World Cup and returned victorious. But at the end of the day little or no credit was given to NIS. Probably if Amodu had been given the same opportunity to take Nigeria to World Cup, he would have taken the Super Eagles very far in the competition. Today, the management can beat its chest to say NIS products are acceptable in any sporting organization. Despite all odds, the NIS has achieved a lot since its inception, though people enjoy celebrating our shortcomings and playing down our achievements.”
Former international and a graduate of NIS Yisa Shofoluwe in a chat with THISDAY said: “There is no team in the world that I cannot handle today from the training and skills that I had acquired at NIS.”
A former lecturer in the institute, George Ashiru says one of the challenges confronting the institute is its inability to define its vision -whether it should be a performance centre or an academic centre. “If you don’t know what it was establish for, you cannot really get it right and that has always been my concern ever since. Its designation must be defined and until that is done; it will continue to be at a crossroads.”
The director also pinpointed finance and the under utilization of NIS products as other challenges confronting the institute.
“There are cases where some of our products have not been well utilized. Look at a case of Amodu Shuaibu, who qualified the Super Eagles to the World Cup twice and was not allowed to take them to the Mundial. It only shows that there is something wrong with Nigeria’s football administrative system. We at the NIS are bothered because Amodu would have gone a long way to give some of our young products and students special motivation. But by denying him the opportunity to take the team to the World Cup, some of them would resort to believing they are in a hopeless situation because their morale was dampened. After working hard from the grassroots to the top at the end of the day, they will just go and bring somebody from abroad. We at NIS are much bothered because at the end of everything, the bulk of the blame is passed on to us. After our athletes performed woefully at the London Olympics, some people still pointed accusing fingers to NIS, when indeed we were not allowed to put in any input during the country’s preparations, whether in camping, selection nor delegation. So how can NIS prove its mettle?”
Down with a strike…
As at the time this report was conducted, the institute was on strike and it was a ghost of its usual self. However, a student who would not want his name in print told THISDAY that what he met at the institution was below his expectation and that he regretted ever venturing to attend the institute. “There are hardly enough chairs for students to sit down. The few ones that are available are in a terrible state and there is inadequate equipment for practical trainings,” he said.
Against the backdrop that the institute is ill-equipped, Ikhioya said: “We have more than enough chairs to go round the students. This year, we reduced the number of our intakes from about 250 to less than 100. So, we now have excess chairs.”
On what was responsible for the fall in enrollment this time around, he attributed it to increase in school fees and the attempt to regulate the numbers of intake and the insistence on the entry qualification, which is five credits.”
Ikhioya identified the major challenge facing the institute as finance and recognition.” If the effort we are putting in is recognized NIS will be well funded. Government should stop paying lip service to NIS and I believe the recent attempt by the Sports Minister Bolaji Abdulahi to send a high-powered visitation panel to the NIS is in the right direction if done in the right way and not to witch-hunt like the minister warned, but to place NIS where it rightly belongs like what Oceania Institute of Sports is doing.”
NIS he said should be allowed to have an academy where it trains upcoming athletes to the elite level. “Its good thing that the government has bought the idea which led to the establishment of the athletes development centre in Abuja and hostels that will house the young athletes will also be provided.”
Most research institute in the country according to him are not well fund and if Nigeria want to meet up with other nations of the world, “it must go scientific because the major difference between Nigerian and United States athletics is just the scientific aspect of it.”
The prospect of NIS is very high according to Ikhioya. “The present management has done a lot to improve the institute. We have built a new administrative block and there has been a lot of improvement in the gym and the council chamber. A lot of equipment had been brought to the research laboratory. The classrooms are now equipped with television sets and there has been some conspicuous development at the athletes development centre in Abuja. We are alright in terms of infrastructure considering that we did not own the structures in the stadium, but we can always apply for its use whenever the need arise.”
He also stated that the institute is into bilateral relationship with Australian Institute of Sports, the Wingate Institute in Israel and another with the South African Institute of Sports Science is in the offing. “And apart from bilateral relationships, we also have institutions within Nigeria that are working with us. For example the College of Physical Education in Delta State and the Ebonyin State University are also very eager to work with us and the Kwara State Football Academy is also working us. So, in the midst of criticism NIS is facing, we still have those who know and appreciate our worth,” he said.
Ikhioya is very optimistic that NIS will go places. “My own job now as the director of the institution is to ensure that the basic foundation that is needed for growth and development is put in place and that is one of the reason we have focused on accreditation, which is very basic. Then we focused on the uplifting our status and once that is done with the necessary funding, the future of NIS is very bright but we need the cooperation of the National Sports Commission and we also need the government to ensure that the bill establishing the NIS is passed so that we know our function and the extent of our jurisdiction so as to ensure positive relationship and harmony with NSC. This peace is needed before growth and development is achieved. We don’t want a situation whereby we clash into each others and more time is spent in trying to resolve clashes instead of concentrating on how to develop the athletes.”
The NIS helmsman is sad that the institute can no longer attract foreign coaches to train and interact with the local coaches as result of fund. “To attract foreign coaches we have to pay them in dollars and sometimes they request to sleep in five star hotels and you have to pay them allowances or honorarium, even when you invite them for refresher courses. And for an institute that is not well funded it’s just like a dream attracting foreign coaches in its fold.”
Revival of NIS…
The woeful performance of Team Nigeria at the London Olympics might be the catalyst the institute needs to be restructured as President Goodluck Jonathan has issued a directive for the re-organisation of the sector. The Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, has inaugurated an eight-man panel to reposition the NIS.
Inaugurating the panel, the NSC chairman charged members to evaluate the staff strength, work on the incorporation of the governing council and assess the Sports Science and Sports Medicine departments of the institute for better results.
The panel is to also carry out full and detailed audit of the academic and professional programmes of the institute, including admission procedures and the curriculum offered.
It is also expected to undertake a review of the organisational structure and management practices, including forensic audit of the financial management of the institute.
The panel also has mandate to evaluate the staff strength, qualifications and quality of the NIS academic programmes, including its suitability for upgrading it to agency status as well as to evaluate the level of adequacy or otherwise of NIS facilities and equipment. He also urged the panel to evaluate the level of competence and internal capacity of the NIS leadership in steering the institute to greater heights and assess the structure and composition of its governing council.
It is expected to also examine the enabling Act and the in-house capacity of the NIS as presently constituted to undertake additional functions outside its original mandate, such as the development of elite athletes.