Cross River Government on Sunday appealed to the Federal Government to assist it funds to enable it to host the National Sports Festival.
A statement by Nneka Ikem-Anibeze, Special Assistant on Media to the Minister of Youths and Sports, said the Deputy Governor of the state, Prof Ivara Esu, made the plea when he visited the Minister, Solomon Dalung, in Abuja.
It quoted Esu as acknowledging that the hosting right for the festival was given to the state about five years ago but that for some exigencies, the games had not held.
He said that the previous administration in the state constituted up a team of consultants to market the festival to raise funds.
He said that much money had been sunk into the renovation and building of new infrastructure as part of preparations for the festival, adding that some of the projects had been completed.
“We have been preparing for this National Sports Festival since 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 the games. Some of the facilities are 100 per cent completed. Others are between 65 to 85 per cent ready.
“We have considered various ways in which we can cut cost. I also know that the kind of money we are looking for is not in the budget of 2017.
“We are not passing the entire budget for the festival to the Federal Government. We need help of 60 per cent of the cost of the facilities, which we have presented to the ministry.
“I know that President Muhammadu Buhari and the minister have contacts that we can leverage on to raise funds,” he said.
Esu stated that the state government had made efforts to raise funds “but we have assessed that at no time will we be able to raise more than 40 per cent 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”.
In his response, Dalung promised to discuss the issue with the president and thanked the deputy governor for the visit, saying it demonstrated the state government’s commitment to “rescue” the festival, which had been in limbo.
“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 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,” he said.
Dalung 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 N9 million allocated for the games, but we had to think outside the box and engaged 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 and 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,” he said.
The Minister also promised to assist the state to seek the intervention needed to host the games. (NAN)