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‘No plan to move sports festival to Abuja’

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Athletes set for the 200m men’s race at the Eko 2012 National Sports Festival. The Federal Government says it has no intention of postponing the Edo 2020 edition billed to hold… this month. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI.


Officials of the Main Organising Committee (MOC) and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the 20th National Sports Festival, Edo 2020, have described as untrue insinuations in some quarters that the fiesta might be moved to the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.

The festival had suffered a series of postponements since it was moved from its initial date of March 2020, due to the outbreak of COVID-19. It was shifted to December 2020, and later, the sports ministry picked January 3, 2021, before settling for a new date of February 14 to 28.

But what appears a dark cloud now surrounds the February 14 flag-off date, after Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, declared last week the state had no money to host the festival. Obaseki was said to have requested the federal government to provide some billions of naira for Edo State to stage the fiesta.

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As the wait for the Presidency to provide the cash for the Games continues, insinuations emerged yesterday that the sports ministry had concluded plans to move the festival to Abuja, the same way it did in 2018, after Cross River failed to host the festival for six years.

But an official of the sports ministry described the speculation as untrue, yesterday, saying: “I doubt if the sports minister is thinking of such plan. We were able to achieve it in 2018 because the schools were on holiday, and we had to use their hostels for camping the athletes. Now, the schools have resumed, and it will be difficult for the sports ministry to accommodate all the athletes, their coaches and other officials in hotels. Beside, the logistics of setting up COVID-19 test centres for such large contingent is huge. We don’t even have the facilities on ground now. I will find out the true position,” the official said.

On his part, a member of the LOC, Ebomhina Musa, who is the spokesman of the Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, said: “I don’t see the possibility of the Sports Ministry moving the sports festival to Abuja now. It means telling all the states to start all over again. What will happen to all the tracksuits already purchased by the various states bearing the logo of Edo 2020 Sports Festival? Even, if our governor is asking for financial assistance to host the sports festival, it is expected of the Federal Government to say we will give you so and so amount of money. For now, we have not heard anything from the sports ministry.

“Maybe, the sports ministry might shift the date by one or two weeks to enable it get the money to assist Edo State. We are ready to host the festival because we have all the facilities on ground,” Musa stated.

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