Imo athletes still waiting for Uzodimma’s ‘handshake’ six months after games
Six months after the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival held in Benin, athletes, who represented Imo State at the event, are still waiting for Governor Hope Uzodimma to redeem the promise he made to the medalists and other participants.
Imo State finished 10th on the log with 10 gold, 13 silver and 26 bronze medals.
Speaking with The Guardian, one of the athletes, who pleaded anonymity, said: “Actually sir, we returned from the National Sports Festival in April and before we went, our governor promised us some money.
“He sent a representative to address all the athletes and promised to reward each gold medalist with N1 million, silver medalist to get N750, 000 and a bronze medalist will get N500, 000.
“And now sir, we have been waiting for months for them to come and receive us… they talked about sewing some uniforms for us; later they still said they want to lodge us in a hotel before paying us our money, and we begin to wonder, what’s the big deal? Why should they be sewing uniforms and renting five-star hotels for us when all we want is our money?
“So now, we have been waiting for them since April and it seems they want to loot that money because the governor had already approved the money to be given to us.”
She disclosed that the athletes have met with the state’s director of sports several times, and, “he keeps telling us to be patient.
“We are tired of waiting for them… many of these officials will be retiring in a few weeks time and if we don’t mount pressure on them, they will retire and go with our money.”
Speaking with The Guardian, the state’s Commissioner for Sports, Dan Chike Ogu, said the governor has approved to host the athletes. “What is delaying the reception now is the date.
“The governor has approved the reception and what they are entitled to. When he comes back, everything will be put in place.”
On the uniforms being arranged for the athletes, Ogu said: “I am not in the committee set up for the uniform; they have a committee for entertainment and other committees.
“I am only the commissioner, overseeing everything. Are they saying sowing uniforms for them is bad? I am not a party to the plan to put them in a hotel, and I can tell you that this is just a proposal, which the governor is yet to approve.
“Even putting them in the hotel and sewing uniforms for them is a waste of money. Where are they currently sleeping? Will they return to an unbefitting accommodation after sleeping in a five-star hotel? In any case, the final decision will be made when the governor returns.”
He also refuted the claim that the athletes were not paid during the festival, adding: “If an athlete tells you they did not pay him for going to Edo, it is a lie. Their allowance was N4, 000 daily and it was transferred directly to their accounts. I made sure everyone was paid directly.
“Ask Lovelyn Obiji, who represented Nigeria in Tokyo. For the past 10 years, athletes have never had it as good as this. When I was in Edo State, if you win a gold, I give you N50, 000 cash to encourage you. And our governor is a very sports-loving governor.”
But, another athlete countered the commissioner, saying the commissioner did not pay athletes N4, 000 daily in Benin.
“It’s a lie, the state only paid us N4, 000 once and that was before the competition. We were camped for three days before the competition and the government gave us N4000 each. He also did not give any gold medalist N50, 000,” he added.