Federal government and Enugu State government have expressed desire to enter into partnership on sports development, saying it will create jobs and grow the economy while helping to address insecurity.
The Minister of Sports, Senator John Uwan Enoh, and the Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah made this known during a courtesy visit by the minister at the Government House, Enugu, Sunday.
Pix: SSG, Prof Onyia in handshake with minister Enoh, while Ekweremadu Jnr, others looked on.
Senator Enoh commended Governor Mbah for his commitment to promote the sports sector in the state through his innovative and comprehensive upgrade and rebranding of sporting infrastructural facilities in the state, saying the federal government was intrested in collaborating with the state to make sports a profitable business.
“Sports is a $5 trillion industry. Sports has the power to inspire and change the world. It has the power to give hope when there is despair. Sports speaks to the youths in the language they understand. Sports has more power than government to break barriers and boundaries of racial discrimination and injustices”, the minister stated.
He said these informed President Bola Tinubu’s decision to create a separate Ministry of Sports Development, adding that sports was expected to contribute in so many ways more especially in job creation and security in the country.
“We have a challenge of unemployment, and there is no sector that can help in tackling this if not sports and even for our economic growth”, he said.
Senator Enoh commended the contributions of Enugu to sports development, saying it has a rich history with an international brand like the Rangers football club.
“Sports is no longer for leisure and recreation; it is a critical business sector. We need to start thinking of how we can translate the passion and energies in our youths for sports business, which will boost Enugu’s economy and the country’s economy.
“The national sports policy is talking about infrastructure, incentives, and investment because the business man who wants to invest in sports needs to be assured of his return on investment. Sports is doing much more than it is appreciated because it has the potential to contribute between 4 to 7% to our GDP”, he said.
Also speaking, the Enugu State Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Lloyd Ekweremadu said the sport sector is vital for economic development in the state, while commending the federal government for sharing the same vision with Governor Mbah’s administration and seeking collaboration with it to boost the economy, reduce youth unemployment and improve the security of the state.
Prof Onyia (L) Enoh (R)
Responding, Governor Mbah, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Chidiebere Onyia said the state would play a significant leadership role in catalyzing the change that the nation seeks to achieve in sports and youth development.
“It is reassuring because that is in line with the vision of this administration, which is also in our manifesto, on how youths are going to be integrated into the economic development trajectory, because Enugu State has a growth trajectory of $4.4b to $30b in the next eight years. And we are very mindful of the role sports will play to achieve this target,” he stated
He noted that the National Bureau of Statistics’ designation of sports as a mere leisure and recreation was discouraging. He therefore called for a change in the designation from leisure and recreation to business, saying this would change the mindset of people towards the sports sector.
The governor called for more collaboration between government and the private sector to expand the horizon of sports and youth development for economic benefits and to ensure sustainability.
“We are building back Enugu Rangers and re-enacting it back to what it used to be. We have the branding of the Rangers jersey by Afrinvest, and we have other private sector investors who are also showing interest in investing in the club.
“We will not be left behind; we will fight toe to toe with you the federal government and make sure we change how sports is perceived in the country and Enugu will be a model for that”, he said.