Ministry considering Abuja to replace Edo as festival host

‘Tana Aiyejina

As part of its determination to ensure the National Sports Festival holds, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development has swung into action to use Abuja as an alternative venue for the 20th edition of the National Sports Festival, should the need arise, The PUNCH has exclusively learnt.
The festival, which has suffered several postponements due to COVID-19 and paucity of funds, is scheduled to hold in Benin City, the Edo State capital, from April 2 to 14.
Edo State had complained of lack of funds in hosting the festival, with the sports ministry writing the Federal Government to assist with funds to host the event.

However, a top official of the sports ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that not willing to be caught napping, the ministry was considering Abuja as alternative venue for the 20th edition of the sports fiesta, following alleged dithering by the current hosts Edo State.

Checks by our correspondent on Monday confirmed that the ministry had started sourcing for camping venues to host athletes from participating states, while the sports festival will hold at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.

Athletes were originally billed to arrive camp in Benin City, Edo State on April 2, while the opening ceremony was scheduled for April 6.

According to the ministry official, the Edo State Government indicated its desire to back out of hosting the Games at the last moment unless the Federal Government provided the financial support to offset the cost of previous postponements of the sports fiesta.
“All necessary boxes have been ticked and what remains now is the assurance (from the FG),” our source said.

When our correspondent asked the media aide to the sports minister, John Joshua-Akanji, for clarification, he declined comments on the issue.
However, the Chief Press Secretary to the Edo State Deputy Governor, Musa Ebhomian, said the state was willing to host the event, and was expectant of funds from the FG.

“We are hopeful of hosting the festival but we haven’t received the funds promised us to host the festival, from the FG.
“But we trust the President, we trust the sports minister, they are honourable men and we take them by their words.”

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