By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Nigeria’s preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is been hampered by the inability to account for the N2.9billion released by the Federal Government to the defunct National Sports Commission (NSC) last year.
Speaking in Lagos last weekend, Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, said that the money meant for the 2015 All Africa Games as well as the preparations for the Rio2016, could not be properly accounted for which explains why the Federal Government was reluctant in releasing further funds.
Now, Dalung has promised to take the matter of Nigeria’s preparations for the summer games to the Presidency to avoid a repeat of the failure at London 2012 in Brazil.
“The money was meant for the 2015 African Games, as well as preparation and participation in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, but as I am talking to you now, I don’t have money to call our athletes to camp, and we have not been able to go back to the Presidency for more money because we have not retired the one they gave to us,” declared the minister who was in Lagos to inaugurate the 20 boats donated to the Rowing and Sailing federation.
Dalung further revealed that the said money was released to the former director general of the defunct NSC, Mallam Al Hassan Yakmut and the Presidency insisted that it must be accounted for before more money can be given to sports for the Olympic preparations and participation.
“A few days ago, I got the explanation of how the money was spent, but I believe we can do better than that. We have to be tidy in everything we do so that people will look at us with respect. We will go back to the Presidency to bail us out in respect of the Olympic Games in Brazil,” stressed Dalung.
While also speaking on the country’s sports facilities most of which were in sorry states, Dalung said that the former Games Village in Afuze in Edo State was worse than the shrine in his town in Plateau State.
“The Games Village in Afuze, is worse than the local shrine in my village. We have however set up a committee to go round and give us an update report on the state of these facilities
They will be brought back to life. All the abandoned sports projects scattered all over the country will be completed and put to use for the benefit of our youths,” stressed the sports minister.
“I am not going to build new facilities when the ones we have are not being utilised effectively. So, what I will do is to update all the facilities to make them useful to our athletes.
“We have secured a sponsor, a developer backed by banks to refurbish the National Stadium, Lagos. He will also build a five-star hotel within the facility.
“The Abuja Stadium will also be redeveloped by a concessionaire, who will build an artificial lake within the facility. That lake will take care of most water sports when completed,” he promised.
Dalung also explained that he had no hand in the scrapping of the NSC, stressing that it was done within the purview of the civil service.
“The Federal Government was in the process of merging some of the departments and ministries when I assumed office in November. I was not a member of the body charged with that responsibility, but I knew about the proceedings through the permanent secretary, who briefed me on what was going on.
“Unfortunately, the former NSC Director General, (Yakmut), had a good argument on why the NSC should be retained, but he never brought that argument to me. I would have been able to convince the committee on the need to retain the NSC. And so when he came to me after the committee had concluded its assignment, there was nothing I could do about it. I could not call them back to begin the process afresh,” revealed Dalung.