The Cross River State government has cried out to the federal government to assist it with intervention funds in order for it to host the National Sports Festival which has suffered several postponements.
The Deputy Governor of the state, Prof Ivara Esu made the plea when he visited the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung in his office in Abuja at the weekend.
Esu noted that the previous state government had set up a team of consultants to market the festival, which they did, but that so much money had been sunk into the renovation and building of new infrastructure which are between 60% to 85% complete.
“We have been preparing for this National Sports Festival since the last one in 2012. The government before us had set up a team of consultants to raise funds for the games. I am sure that when they hear about the Festival coming alive, they will come back for re-engagement.
“So much money has already been sunk into building of infrastructure and facilities for these games. Some of the facilities are 100% complete while some are between 65 to 85% ready. We have considered various ways in which we could cut our coat according to our cloth but these infrastructure need to be completed.
“I also know the kind of money we are looking for is not in the budget of 2017. We are not passing the entire budget to the federal government. We only need help to complete the facilities and we need help with 60% of the costing we have presented to complete the project. I know that Mr President and the Minister have contacts that we can leverage on to raise funds. We have made efforts to raise the funds but we have assessed that at no time will we be able to raise more than 40% of the funds needed. Certainly, we can’t get money even from our federal allocation. We are number 35 out of the 36 states so if we can’t get the remaining funds, we will not be able to host this games,” the Deputy governor said.
In his response, Dalung promised to discuss the issue with the President and thanked the Deputy governor for his visit which, he said, was a demonstration of the state government’s commitment to rescue the protracted hosting rights for the National Sports Festival.
“The National Sports Festival has been on the front burner and the concern of many Nigerians. At every given opportunity, there is a question about the fate of the National Sports Festival. That confirms how passionate the people are about the games. It is sad that for a long time we have not been able to host the games.
“I quite agree with the challenges especially economic challenges confronting the nation but let us not lose touch of the fact that sports is our national heritage and passion and a service oriented item. Therefore, we must do our best to mobilize funds and give our people those things they yearn for.”
The Minister recalled that the National Youth Games was held in Ilorin after a long time.
“We did that not because we had sufficient budgetary allocation. We had only N9m allocated for the games, but we had to think outside the box and engage the private sector and sponsors to raise enough funds for the games. So, I think Cross River state needs to put up a structure of consultants to market the games and I assure you that it will pay off.
‘’It is not a matter of setting up committees but getting the right people who will mobilize the right investment. If you insist on using a committee made up of just people from the state’s sporting architecture, you will achieve nothing. The state government may not have money but there are many Nigerians who are ready to give the state funds needed to host the festival if they are sure that the investment will be deployed judiciously.
“I know of states who are hosting international competitions so I know people will also want to invest in national competitions which have direct benefits on Nigerian youths.”
The Minister also promised to assist the state to seek the intervention needed to host the games.