President Tinubu calls for investment in Sports devp, lauds Gov Mbah on conducive environment

Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu has called for investment  in Sports development starting from the primary school level, noting that  athletes  deserve the best training environments to compete at the highest levels and to bring glory to the nation .Just as the federal.government is working tirelessly  towards enacting anti- doping law to curb issues of doping among sports men and women In the country.

Tinubu  made the call on Wednesday, May 22, in his address at the 1st National Council on Sports Conference held in Enugu.

The president  noted that Sports play a crucial role in the development of any nation .” Sports is not just a source of entertainment and recreation. It is  a big business and a powerful tool for fostering  unity, promoting  health and driving economic growth.

Pix1: Gov Mbah

Pix 2-,Gov Mbah( middle) with Sports stakeholders.

He commended Enugu state Governor,Dr. Peter Mbah for providing a conducive environment for the meeting.

President Tinubu noted that in Nigeria, sports have historically been a unifying force, a strong platform for soft diplomacy, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and cultures and fostering a sense of national pride and  identity.

“As we gather here today, we are reminded of the tremendous potentials that sports hold for our youths. Sports can provide a pathway to personal development, offering our young people opportunities to build character, discipline and leadership skills. It is our responsibility to create an environment where these opportunities are accessible to all 

Pix: Gov Mbah welcoming President Tinubu ‘s representative, Rt. Hon. Jisalo

Represented by the minister of Special Duties, and Interr- Governmental Affairs, Rt. Hon. Zaphanian Jisalo ,  

President Tinubu urged Participants tp work together to create a brighter

future for sportsmen and women and for the entire nation.

He said  the Theme  of this year’s Council meeting,”Sports for National Unity and Socio-Economic Growth” ,was timely., noting that it   reflected  our collective resolve to address the challenges facing our sports sector and to harness the  inherent opportunities. ” 

He expressed the confident that the deliberations and resolutions from the meeting will significantly contribute to the advancement of sports in Nigeria.. President Tinubu urged Participants to  consider innovative approaches and to embrace best practices from around the world .”We must also ensure that our policies are inclusive, providing equal  opportunities for all Nigerians regardless of gender, age or physical ability”, he said..

The president noted that the development of Sports infrastructure is crucial, assuring that in line with the renewed hope agenda of his administration , they must invest in modern facilities and ensure their maintenance and accessibility.

“Pix- Minister of Sports , Senator Enoh( middle)

“Our athletic deserve the best training environments to compete at the highest levels and to bring glory to our nation We also need to invest in sports development  right from the primary school”, Tinubu said.

He called for collaboration with the private sector, Non- Governmental Organizations, and international partners noting that Government cannot do it alone.,” Together we can build a robust sports ecosystem that supports oir athletes and promote healthy living  among  our citizens”, he said.

He commended the Minister of Sports, Development,  Senator John Emo, the ministry of sports development, for their commitment  to sports development in Nigeria, which he said , is evident in the recent successes recorded in the African Games, the African Cup of  Nations and the World Relay Championship. “Just recently, Nigeria’s undisputed  Table  tennis champion ,Aruna Quadri, reclaimed the International Table Tenis Federation( ITTF) Africa Cup title.

 He also thanked the Governor of Enugu state Dr Peter Mbah  and the Deputy Governor, “for the  support, warm  hospitality , impeccable arrangements made for the event “and for providing conducive event for the successful hosting of the conference.

Pix-Gov Mbah'(L) Sen. Enoh( R)

In a keynote address, the Minister of Sports Development,Senator John Owan Enoh, said ,” the impact of Sports  extends far beyond the field or arena ” it is a powerful  driver of Socio- economic growth . By investing  in sports infrastructure, talent development and grassroots programmes, we not only nurture athletic  prowess but also stimulate local economies ,create jobs opportunities and promote healthier lifestyle among  our citizens”.

He urged Participants to focus on  the following key priorities, ” unity  through Sports by seeing sports as a platform to bridge divides and strengthen the bonds of unity among citizens. To see sports as initiatives to promote inter- cultural dialogue. and  collaborations, adding that , through sports  we would contribute immensely to our national integration efforts.

Other key areas he urged Participants to focus on are, Community engagement and grassroots development, infrastructure and facilities, Socio- economic impact, youth empowerment  and development, inclusivity and accessibility, international  partnership, and private-public partnerships. .

Pix: Gov Mbah(L) Lyold Ekweremadu Jnr,Commissioner for Youths and Sports

Highlighting some of his achievements since ten months ago he assumed office, the minister said they signed an agreement with a private sector company, Yanga Games Technologies(YCT) to help Nigerian Sports raise an expected 35 billion naira over the next 4 years to argument  contributions by the federal government.. They also signed MoU with Effa Management Ltd to help  create bespoke facility  clusters in the  six political  zones of Nigeria.

The ministry also signed an agreement with GTI to reintroduce and revamp the competition formerly known as the Challenge Cup, now to be known as “The President Federation Cup” and staged in all its glory as a moment of national  pride and unity  among others .

Senator Enoh said they were working towards setting out a day annually to  devote to the celebration of sportsmen and women  and all those who  promote the gains of a physically  and mentally alert people. He called for institution of a National Sports and Fitness Day, saying, it will help millions of Nigerians keep fit.

The minister thanked President Tinubu for approving  a sum of 12 billion naira for football intervention. He urged the participants to ” chart  course that harness the transformative potential of sports to build a more united ,prosperous and healthier nation.

He expressed the confidence that,” the deliberations of the Council will yield actionable strategies and partnerships that will propel the sports sector towards greater heights”

Earlier in his welcome address, the Chief host and Governor of Enugu state, Dr. Peter Mbah  urged the participants to come up with policies that will make sports more attractive.

He advised that we must  move away from seeing sports as leisure and entertainment and find a way to encourage sporting activities across the society and curb social ills. 

Governor Mbah, who thanked President Tinubu for his support , said the presence of the president( represented ) underscored the importance his administration placed in sports.

He noted that Enugu remained the home of sports legends, recalling also the exploits of Rangers International Football Club across the continent, and described the club as a poster image of the state’s illustrious sporting history. 

The governor urged stakeholders, both from public and private sectors, to consider investing in the untapped industry through the right partnerships.

“Sports are a veritable catalyst for social change and economic growth. Every weekend, during the English Premier League season, Nigerians flock to viewing centres to watch their favourite teams play. This was the kind of fervour we used to demonstrate towards our football teams in the past. We should all be challenged to re-enact that,” he further recommended. 

He said that the administration recognised the huge sporting talents in state which led to the partnerships with some private sector investors to construct a state-of-the-art sports park that would create a platform for talent-discovery among the youths and sports enthusiasts. 

Governor Mbah further underscored the facilities to be expected at the sports arena on completion, which included training facilities, housing for athletes, physical therapy and sports medicine centre. 

Pix- Gov Mbah

He  described the Theme of this year’s meeting as apt, noting that it will result in all Nigerians seeing themselves as  first, as Nigerians. The Governor also said the Theme speaks on other challenges which included the challenges of insecurity., hinting that ,”Global experiences had shown that Sports can form unity, curb social ills.”

In his  goodwill message, the Deputy Governor of Osun state, Prince Kola Adewusi, urged Participants to bring the deliberations to conclusion. He observed that Nigeria has many talents, noting that if the stakeholders collaborate and put their houses in order,Nigeria will be moved to greater heights .

Pix- NOC team

On his part, the president  of Nigeria Olympic Committee, Engr. Habu Gumel, who was represented by  the Secretary -Generals, Tunde Popoola, noted that one of the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement is to place  Sports at  the service of the harmonious development  of man and for  sports  to be practiced everywhere without restrictions  or  discrimination as to gender, ethnicity, religious or political leaning.

“There is no doubt that the National Sports Festival, as our own mini-Olympic Games ,is the basic testing ground for talent identification from the grassroots to  elite level. The grassroots remains the basic foundation of sports development in any nation “, he said. Gumel noted that . sustainable elite athletes could be drawn and nurtured. 

He announced that they had secured  a reasonable  number of  qualifications in both the individual and team sports to feature at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The sporting events secured are athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, Canoeing,Cycling, Football( Women), Judo, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Weightlifting and Wrestling. He said the accreditation portal opened ion 27th November 2023 and  closed on  27th March,2024.

The NOC president disclosed that they had signed an agreement with  a Texas – based American company  for providing of clothing for the opening , closing ceremonies and general wears for the Nigerian delegation . The company will also use NOC logo for product sales and promotion.

The Three -Days impactful meeting was well attended by all the sports federation in Nigeria. The 2nd edition of the National Council on Sports Conference will be held in 2025 in Calabar, Cross River state.

Author-Maureen Ikpeama

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