The Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, on Monday received the first Nigerian male and female marathoners to reach the finish line at the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon which took place in Lagos at the weekend.
The Minister presented the sum of N500,000 each to Iliya Pam and Deborah Pam who emerged best Nigerian runners and an additional N100,000 each to the 8-year-old and 6-year-old sisters, Damilola and Bimpe Oluwaseyi, who both completed the 10km race.
Dalung, while presenting the monetary awards to the athletes, congratulated the runners for making Nigeria proud. He said the money was to encourage them to train and perform better in the next edition.
He said: “This gesture is in fulfillment of the commitment we made to reward athletes who excel in their different fields. It is not acceptable for foreign athletes to always come and cart away the prize money. We have the facilities and we urge you to train harder so that in the next two editions you will be one of the first three runners.
“As for the difficulties you went through as Nigerian participants at the marathon, I wish to encourage you because every good thing has a price but it is totally unacceptable to discriminate against Nigerian runners. Since it is a Bronze label Marathon recognized by the IAAF, the organizers must adopt international best practices.
“All athletes who competed in the marathon were all registered so the organizers should be able to comply with the regulations as is practiced the world over”.
President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Ibrahim Shehu Gusau thanked the Minister for setting the record as first sitting Minister to recognize the efforts of the marathoners.
“Minister, you’re putting on stage what we never witnessed in Athletics. You saw these athletes seated with their tags and after interviewing them, you found out that these two children completed the 10km race hence the invitation to your office today.
“Deborah and Iliya Pam have been running and doing their best over the years without recognition. Nigerian athletes were not taken care of at this event. These athletes slept at the barracks just to participate. I want to request that priority be given also to our Nigerian athletes in terms of welfare, in subsequent editions,”Gusau said.