N2.8bn Abandoned In Cross River
• As Sports Facilities Lie Uncompleted
CROSS River State Government was scheduled to host the All Nigeria/Cross River Athletics Championship and the 2014 National Sports Festival.
To facilitate this, the state government had budgeted the sum of N2.831bn for the renovation and upgrading of the U.J. Esuene Stadium and other facilities. The championship was held in June. The festival tagged, ‘Centenary Games, Calabar 2014’, was fixed for November 2014. The event, however, did not hold for reason that may not be unconnected to paucity of funds.
Mr. Patrick Ugbe, the Cross River State Commissioner for Youths and Sports Development, at the time, disclosed that the ultra-modern indoor sports hall cost N2.2bn; tartan track, N124 million; re-grassing of six football pitches, N74 million; while the swimming and training pools cost N433 million.
The re-grassing alongside proper drainage, and the tartan track in the 12,000 capacity stadium are ready and were used during the athletics championship. The three world-class lawn tennis courts at Calabar Sports Club are also ready. The Olympic-sized swimming pool, which has a depth of two metres, is, however, not ready, and work has since been abandoned.
All the projects were suspended in the dying days of the Imoke-led administration. And with Ben Ayade on the saddle, nothing has been done. Besides, he is said to be grappling with paying the salary arrears of the Pelican Stars female football team and others in the Sports Council.
Reacting, however, the Director, Sports Commission, Mr. Jude Amadi, said: “On the issue of the National Sports Festival, people say we couldn’t but I don’t think so. The festival is the property of the Federal Government and is being supported by the host state and the rest of the 36 states of the federation. Every part has its role to play. As host state, ours is facilities. Most of the facilities earmarked for the festival are between 70 and 80 per cent complete.
“But we know what happened…may be the timing of the festival, the political situation and others. Those factors affected the festival. We are now thinking of a joint stakeholders’ meeting to come out with a position. I am not predicting what will come out of the meeting; they will either say, ‘we give you, the host state, a little time to meet up or let us take it to another state or host it in Abuja’. That has happened often in the history of the festival. The last meeting the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and National Organising Committee (NOC) held with the Deputy Governor was inconclusive. So, we are looking forward to other interactions.”
Amadi who declined to comment on issues of finance said: “If everything is tidied up, in three to six months we can get everything ready. The swimming pool is 80 per cent completed. What remains is accessories. The tartan track is 99.9 per cent completed. What is left are the few other facilities. So, when the LOC and NOC, the owners of the festival, tidy up and want to commence, I want to tell you that in less than three to five months every facility will be ready. But you know the economic situation today…problems of salaries owed here and there. So, no reasonable government will come and say, ‘let me address the issue of facilities.’ It is just wisdom. I believe everything will be okay.”
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