. As IOC Boosts NOCs with $103,000 Grant
.Dalung berates NFF over U23 team’s unauthorised US trip
Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports yesterday announced that it had applied to President Muhammadu Buhari to release N2 billion fund to enable Nigeria contingent participate at the Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
The quadrannial Games begin on August 5 with Nigeria intending to participate officially in seven sports.
Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, told reporters after a harmonisation meeting with.the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) that they have had cause to approach the Presidency for additional funds as the N500 million outlay for the Games was insufficient to cover the cost of participation.
The minister said that the delay in federal government’s release of funds for the games was due to administrative lapses but reassured the federation presidents and the NOC that President Buhari had promised that attention was being given to the issue.
” The memo we wrote to Mr President did not get his attention on time. You all will agree with me that no attention was given to preparations for the Olympics in the past three years. President Muhammadu Buhari has given us his word that Nigeria will be in Rio for the Olympics and has restated his commitment to our participation, ” Dalung said.
Dalung said no less than N2 billion was needed to cover the cost of sending athletes to Brazil, plus payments and other travelling costs.
He said they have tabled a request for more money to Buhari, who on July 19 will be officially handing over the Team Nigeria to the NOC at a Gala night at State House.
Dalung, who announced that 95 athletes had met the Olympic qualification benchmark, downplayed the spread of the Zika virus that has caused several high profile international athletes to boycott Rio 2016.
He said virus will not deter Nigeria to following same path by pulling out.
The minister said Nigeria would send an official delegation to Brazil as the World Health Organisation (WHO) that is responsible for international health safety had not raised a red flag on the health threat posed by the mosquito borne disease to athletes and officials.
The minister, who expressed satisfaction with the preparation of Nigerian teams for the games, despite financial hiccups, insisted Nigeria hopes to improve on the embarrassing outing in London of four years ago by aiming to win at least five medals in whatever guise.
“At worst, we want to come back with not less than five medal. However, our target is to win 12 medals but I am not a soothsayer and you can only ask a magician the specific number of medals we are going to win. No country can say scientifically the number of medals it can haul at the Olympics. It is not.possible,” Dalung said.
The President of National Olympic Committee (NOC) Habu Gumel similarly told reporters that the body had received $103,000 as grants from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to augment the cost of participation in the Games on Nigeria and support the training of athletes for the Games.
Gumel confirmed that the IOC cheque was received on Monday and would cover scholarship for one year for 11 athletes in addition to the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) grants for 14 athletes.
Meanwhile, Dalung has queried the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for defying its order by sending the national Under-23 team on a training tour of USA.
Dalung said the team left Nigeria towards the end of last month without official clearance,
He said that the Dream Team VI ignored entreaties from the ministry to shelve the training tour as government had made it clear it was not in a position to fund the trip because of financial constraints.
Dalung made the disclosure yesterday after reports from United States said that Dream Team coach Samson Siasia had sent an SOS to NFF following threat by hotel to eject the team as à result of its inability to pay hotel bills.
The team had run out of cash in the US after only 10 days in the state forcing the coach to declare a May Day.
The team planned to play a friendly match against US team and travel to Mexico for another match before NOC officially takes over before the start of the Games.
Dalung denied that the ministry was aware of the footballers’ plight of the Dream Team in the US, adding it refused to take responsibility for the reported crisis.
“We don’t know if they wanted to eject them from the hotel or not. We need to ask if they got a letter from the ministry approving the trip. We can’t take responsibility for their plight in America because we are not aware they travelled to the US,” Dalung said.