By Duro Ikhazuagbe
A bill for the establishment of a Federal University of Sports in Afuze, Edo State has been tabled before the Federal House of Representatives.
The Member Representing Owan Federal Constituency, Prof. Julius O. Ihonvbere presented the bill before the lower chamber of the National Assembly recently.
A copy of the bill obtained by THISDAY gave graphic details of why the town famous for its role in the prominence of old Bendel State in Nigeria’s sports should become a university town.
“As I speak today, there are about 70 units of two-bedroom flats in Afuze “Low Cost Houses” though some are in a deplorable state with perimeter fence built by Brig. Gen. S.O. Ogbemudia (retd.) in 1972 that were given to the National Sports Commission in 1986, but were not put to use.
He recalled how then Military Governor of the Old Bendel (now Edo and Delta states), used the Afuze camp to create a crop of sports men and women that were amongst the very best in the world at the time.
However, due to lack of attention to the facility by successive government, the facility has been left to rot while the fortunes of the country in sports have waned, resulting in fruitless journeys to the Olympic Games and other global sports spectacles.
“The National Council of Sports, the highest policy making body for sports in Nigeria in its February 18th, 2019 meeting held in Kaduna articulated a draft policy document for the Federal Government, and advocated for the establishment of Sports Centres for the training and development of Sports personnel with record of high performance in the six (6) Geo-Political Zones of Nigeria. This has never been implemented.
“The Sports College at Afuze is the oldest sports institution in the country saddled with the responsibility of training and developing Coaches, Sports Managers and Athletes for the State and the nation at large.
However, it lacks facilities, technology and quality programmes to produce athletes, sports managers and professionals that can compete in the contemporary world,” observed Hon. Ihonvbere.
While stressing on the economic importance of upgrading the facility to a federal university, Hon. Ihonvbere said: “Mr. Speaker, Honourable Colleagues, for instance, in Europe, erstwhile studies show that the Sport sector accounts for 1.76% (€175 billion) of the European Gross Value Added (GVA = Gross Domestic Product + subsidies – (direct, sales) taxes), that means that it contributes more to the economy than agriculture, forestry and fisheries combined.
“If you also add all the sectors that are influenced by sport, the share of sports of the European GVA is 2.98 % or almost 300 billion Euro.
“In addition, sport related employment represents 2.12 % of the total employment in Europe, which is about 4.5 million. Germany has the highest number of sport jobs at 1.15 million, UK over 610,000 and France with more than 400,000. The European Commission also states that the sport sector has proved to be especially resilient during economic crisis, which makes it even more important for the European economy and attractive to job seekers. I strongly believe that when passed into law, the university would be a landmark in repositioning sports as a major revenue earner and employment provider in the country. It is no wonder that sports business is becoming a core contributor the economics of most nations.”
He listed the gross earnings of some accomplished sports men and women across the various sporting events globally to be by far larger than the annual budget of some states in Nigeria, as well as some African states.
“For example, the Nigerian born British pugilist, Anthony Joshua is worth a hefty $60,000,000, equivalent of N21, 600, 000,000:00, Don King who is just a boxing promoter is worth $150,000,000:00 equivalent of N 54,000,000,000: The list is endless as the huge amounts of money earned by sports men is mind blowing,” he concluded.
In 1972 the then Military Governor of Bendel State, Brigadier General S. O. Ogbemudia established a College of Physical Education in Afuze. It was commissioned same year by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, thus laying a solid foundation for sports development in Nigeria.
In 1981, the Governor of Bendel State, Prof. Ambrose Ali, upgraded the College to an A-Level grade certificate awarding institution (Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE)) in Physical and Health Education.
Following the outstanding performances of Nigerian sports men and women at various Olympics competitions, the then Military President, General Ibrahim B. Babangida approved the siting of Nigerian Olympic Games Village at Afuze.
The Afuze community gave a large parcel of land to the National Sports Commission measuring 148 hectares i.e. 10 kilometres by 4 kilometres for the Olympic Games Village with Certificate of Occupancy (No. EDSR 7908 in 1986).
Up till date, no structure has been erected on the land with most of what is left of the Low Cost Housing estate now home to reptiles and miscreants.