Only FG Can Fix Dates for National Sports Festival, Says Okowa

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*Clarifies pronouncements on Edo 2020

The Chairman of Edo 2020 National Sports Festival Committee, Tonobok Okowa, has cleared the air concerning reports in a section of the local media that the multi-sports festival had been scheduled for October this year.

He insisted that only the Federal Government can fix the new dates given the state of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

Okowa, who is the chairman of Delta Sports Commission, said that the dates being circulated by a section of the media was a recommendation that came up after the committee reviewed the situation on ground with the Edo State government.

“In the first place, we as a committee cannot fix a date for the National Sports Festival. It is the sole responsibility of Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports to fix the date after getting clearance from the relevant agencies handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What Edo State government did was to suggest tentative dates, which the sports ministry will have to look into. It is wrong for some people to go to town saying that we have fixed a date for Edo 2020 National Sports festival,’ Okowa said on Channels Television at the weekend.

The festival had suffered an initial postponement in March this year due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic worldwide.

The presidential committee was set up by the federal government to see to the hosting of the biennial event which is aimed at discovering and nurturing of local talents to represent Nigeria in regional and international sporting events.

The Minister of Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare had inaugurated the 11-man committee to inspect all health facilities for the festival in Edo State so as to ascertain the readiness of the state in hosting the games.

The committee, made up of members of the Covid-19 Task Force, Ministry of Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and six states’ Commissioners of Sports each representing the six geo-political zones of the country as well as representatives of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development began a three-day tour of sports facilities in Edo State on June 10.

Meanwhile, Tony Okowa has said that the committee was satisfied with the level of preparation by Edo State, adding that everything needed to fight COVID-19 were on ground in the state before going ahead.

“We have seen the facilities on ground in the state. We have been to the state specialist hospitals, the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, the testing centres, the screening centres and the isolation centres. We have been briefed on the ones to be improved upon and the steps the state is taking. We are impressed and convinced that Edo State is ready to host the National Sports Festival this year 2020.

“The October 22nd date announced by Edo State government for the opening of the Games Village and October 25 for commencement of the sports festival as well as the November 4 for the closing ceremony are just recommendations. The final dates can only come from the Federal Government,” Okowa concluded.