Nigerian athletes plan strike over unpaid allowances
Nigeria may get into the news for the wrong reasons at the on-going Rio 2016 Olympic Games unless leaders of the country’s contingent to the competition live up to their responsibilities to the athletes.
Nothing much has been heard of the country, which is among the few yet to win any medal at the Games. The only inspiring stories coming out of Team Nigeria are the performances of the country’s football team and the lone boxer, Efe Ajagba. But that will change if the athletes carry out their threat to demonstrate openly at the Games Village over an alleged decision by the officials to renege on the promises made to them before the games began.
On Sunday at the Games Village located at the Barra area of Rio, the athletes held a meeting where they threatened to boycott their remaining events if their allowances, including training grants were not settled before Thursday.
One of the athletes, who pleaded anonymity, said that she was made to leave her work three months to the Games to concentrate on training with the agreement that she would be paid her salaries in full.
She said: “Since we arrived here, the officials of the Ministry of Sports have not deemed it fit to tell us what has happened to the allowances promised us before the Games began.
“I quit my job to concentrate on training for the Games. Even the hotel bills I incurred while in Nigeria to join the team has not been refunded to me.
“They told us to purchase our tickets from over stations overseas to Nigeria so that everybody will travel together to Rio. The arrangement was that they will return the ticket fares on arrival in Nigeria, but now they are beginning to sing a new song.”
The Guardian learnt that it took the intervention of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) President, Solomon Ogba, to dissuade the peeved athletes from causing a major storm at the Games Village.
If the athletes made good their threat to down tools and demonstrate at the Games Village, it would be the first time such would be happening at the Games in-competition. The Super Eagles went on strike on the eve of their second round game against France at the Brazil 2014 World Cup until they were settled on the orders of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Officials of the sports ministry could not be reached for their reaction to the issues raised by the athletes, but team doctor, Abdulkadir Muazu, said the athletes’ claims were strange, as they have been paid all their camp allowances.
“I am aware that they have been paid their camp allowances in full and it is not the business of the sports ministry to pay training grants to the athletes.
“Training grants are the responsibilities of the federations, who grade the athletes according to their ratings. That way somebody like Okagbare will get higher than some of the other sprinters because she is a grade A athlete.”