The Special Adviser on Sports to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, Mr Effiom Effiwatt, opened up to Extra Time duo of ANDREW EKEJIUBA and EDEM EDEM on various issues concerning sports development in the state. He speaks on the renovation work at UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar and hosting of grassroots sports competitions in the state. Excerpts:
There is insinuation outside there that Governor Ben Ayade is not interested in sports development in Cross River, is he really interested in sports?
Of course Governor Ben Ayade is truly interested in Sports and is a youth friendly governor and we all know that Sports is one of the ways we can bring the youths together and engage them profitably; so for any person to insinuate that our governor is not interested in Sports is a huge fallacy because the governor has displayed beyond reasonable doubt his interest in everything that has to do with young people, be it sports, be it agriculture or education or any aspect of youth empowerment, Prof Ayade is fully in support of that.
Only recently, the Chairman of Cross River State Sports Commission spoke to us about efforts being made by the state to get some sponsors in certain sports in schools, such as table tennis and taekwondo, are you really sure that such assurance will really yield the desire dividend for sports development from the grassroots in the state?
Yes, you know that Cross River State has sports policies that focus on grassroots sports development, facilities development and elite athletes’ development. The sports commission thought it wise, I am sure, nobody is in doubt in Nigeria, the economic reality that we currently faced. The sports commission thought it wise to look outward because sports is capital intensive in very many instances, you need sponsors to organize competitions, you need to bring in sponsors to source for equipment and coaches and all that, so the sports commission thought it very wise that in fulfilling their capacity, they must not and they shouldn’t really on funds coming in from government’s purse. So they have reached out to sponsors and the results are positive.
Actually, contact has been made to get sponsors for taekwondo, table tennis and few other sports that will be bankrolled out in the first quarter of the year.
Taekwondo competition commences next week and in the first week of February, table tennis competition will commence after that. All funded and supported by the private sectors in Cross River State.
2017 is here, what future holds for sports in Cross River State?
Well, the projects as regards sports development are big and huge in the state, if you have been to our stadium you will see for yourself the kind of work that is going on there and unfortunately, at the advent of this administration, Nigeria as a whole experienced a downturn in her accruing revenue, that affected not just Cross River State but all the 36 states in the country.
So, Cross River State has to prioritize its expenditures. We need in excess of N600 million to complete the facilities at the stadium. In the last 12 months, you will agree with me that in view of payment of salaries, running of government and doing all the other project has been a difficult task, government has huge amount to source. We need about N600 million just for completion of facilities at the stadium, then we will now talk about equipping some of them and also doing all the financial framework required for hosting competition such as the National Sports Festival, so the government decided to take it in bit. If you go to the stadium, you will also notice that the swimming pool area was privatized and general stadium sanitation and outlook and the rest were shifted into 2017 appropriation bill which has just been signed into law, so in no time we expect that the contractors will return to sites and Cross River State will deliver on all her policies concerning sports in the state.
You are the heart and eyes of Governor Ayade on sports, would you tell us how the governor sees sports in the state generally?
The governor has a very positive feeling and attitude towards sports. His Excellency, Prof Ben Ayade is a sports-loving governor, his is a youth-loving governor, and he prioritized everything that puts the youths of Cross River State in focus. You know that sports is huge employer of youths and the governor says that in his administration, no family, no young man, no young woman, no old man, no old woman will go to sleep without food on his table, so he cannot neglect sports because that will be putting a lot of people out, so I can tell you without fear of contradiction that our governor is a sports-loving governor.
Our governor is a youth-friendly governor and to match word with action, you need resources and resources has been a challenge, not just in Cross River but entire country, at least in the last 12 months it has not been easy.
Looking at the stadium, there are so many abandoned property, particularly those imported from abroad for renovation work, they are deteriorating, what’s your take on this?
No, No, No, they are not abandoned; there are a lot of containers housing sensitive materials meant for stadium renovation work and they are kept in good condition, but only less sensitive ones are the ones you see. I can tell you that all the materials needed for the renovation work are properly stored and there is no deterioration whatsoever.
QUOTE: “Well, the projects as regards sports development are big and huge in the state, if you have been to our stadium you will see for yourself the kind of work that is going on there and unfortunately, at the advent of this administration, Nigeria as a whole experienced a downturn in her accruing revenue, that affected not just Cross River State but all the 36 states in the country.”