The Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, said on Thursday that the National Sports Festival (NSF) would henceforth be open to every Nigerian athlete, irrespective of his or her base.
Abdullahi said this at the inauguration of a 24-man Main Organising Committee (MOC) for the 19th National Sports Festival (NSF) to be hosted by Cross River.
He said both elite and non-elite athletes can now participate in the event which is for athletes from all states of the federation and the FCT.
“At the closing ceremony of the 18th edition of the festival in Lagos last December, I stated that the NSF was no longer fulfilling the basic objectives which necessitated its establishment in 1973.
“This development made it imperative for us to review the Objectives, Rules and Organisation of the festival.
“The outcome of the review gave rise to the establishment of the National Youth Games (NYG) and the opening up of the NSF to enable elite athletes participate in the games,’’ Abdullahi said.
He said the success of the 2014 NSF depended largely on the dedication, commitment and effectiveness of its Local Organising Committee (LOC) under the guidance of the MOC.
“The inclusion of the Chairman of the LOC, and both the Commissioner of Sports and the Director of Sports of the host state in the MOC is to enhance the relationship between both committees.
“It is also to ensure that the LOC is part of the decisions of the MOC and their implementation,’’ Abdullahi said.
Gbenga Elegbeleye, the Director-General of the National Sports Commission (NSC) who is also the MOC Chairman, assured that the committee would strive to surpass the achievements of the 18th edition.
He further assured that the quality of the festival would be commensurate with the standard of the elite athletes who are expected to join from now onwards.
Elegbeleye said the 2014 NSF would be unique as it would also mark the 100 years of the amalgamation of Nigeria.
“The MOC will work closely with the LOC of the festival to make sure it is an important segment of the country’s centenary celebrations.
“I have no doubt that Calabar is one of the best host cities in the country today, looking at what the government of Cross River has been doing to Nigerian sports.
“This is particularly in the hosting of the national under-17 male football team prior to their departure to Morocco for the African Youth Championship (AYC) and now to the UAE for the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“Also, the Super Eagles have not lost a match since they started playing in Calabar.
“So, going to Calabar for the NSF shows that the choice of the city is perhaps the best that can happen to Nigerian sports,’’ Elegbeleye said.
Efiok Cobham, the Deputy Governor of Cross River who is the Vice-Chairman of the MOC, said hosting the NSF was an honour for the state.
“It is a coincidence as it is happening in the 100th year of our existence as a united Nigeria. So, it carries with it a lot of responsibility,’’ he said.
Cobham, however, solicited for the co-operation of all sports stakeholders to make the festival tagged “the Paradise Games’’ a success.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that members of the MOC include Sani Ndanusa, the President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, and Monday Emoghavwe, his paralympic committee counterpart.
Others are Bolaji Ojo-Oba, NSC’s Director of Elite Athletes Development, and Alhassan Yakmut, the Director of Grassroots Sports Development at the NSC.
Also, Dr Emmanuel Igbinosa of the NSC is the Secretary of the committee.