The Nigerian sports sector could soon be flush with unprecedented levels of development funding which would completely transform the country’s sporting landscape if plans by the Sports Ministry to access a larger chunk of National Lottery Funds are approved by the Federal Government Sports Minister Sunday Dare has said.
The Minister, who was reviewing his achievements in office and restating his roadmap for the rest of the year on NTA’s Sports Parliament on Thursday, also outlined plans to institutionalise doping control measures, complete four FIFA standard football pitches, acquire hosting rights for the 2020 CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations as well as honour members of the historic Green Eagles on the 40th anniversary of Nigeria’s first-ever AFCON triumph.
With funding constraints having long handicapped meaningful progress in revamping Nigeria’s sports sector, Dare said he aims to substantially increase public funding for sports development by ensuring a greater percentage of funds accruing from the National Lottery is ceded to the ministry for the express purpose of sports development.
According to Dare, the ministry currently receives between one and two per cent of National Lottery funds for sports development, a paltry outlay he says must be increased to at least 25 per cent to unlock the level of funding needed to truly position Nigeria on the path to global sporting excellence with excellent infrastructure and a world class sports eco-system.
The development would bring Nigeria close to the 32 per cent reserved for sports in the United Kingdom and 40 per cent allocated to sports development in Jamaica from National Lottery funds Dare said.
The sports minister revealed that his proposal has been met with enthusiasm by President Muhammadu Buhari who has mandated him to present a memo at the next Federal Executive Council outlining the benefits to sports development a 25 per cent share of National Lottery funds would accrue.
On doping among Nigerian athletes and the country’s lax anti-doping climate, Dare revealed his intention to take a firm approach to the menace declaring that he “remained committed to domesticating anti-doping measures” in the country.
The minister who placed “75 to 80 per cent” blame for athletes’ doping at the feet of coaches, revealed that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved in December, the domestication of the anti-doping code endorsed by Nigeria and 187 other countries at the Paris Convention Against Doping last year.
The new anti-doping code which is currently in the process of being passed by the National Assembly would give a significant boost to the fight to maintain the sanctity of domestic professional sports and would see Nigeria screen upwards of 75 per cent of all athletes’ test samples in competition Dare disclosed.
Outlining the achievements of the ministry in the four and a half months of his stewardship, Dare pointed to the setting up of the Athletes Sustenance Fund and Nigeria Sports Development Fund as two initiatives with the potential to address two critical areas of Nigerian sports.
The ministry’s initiative to get private individuals of means to support athletes’ preparations for the Olympics and help out with refurbishing national football stadiums Dare said was particularly successful with the country on track to have four FIFA standard football pitches – in Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and Abeokuta – inside the first quarter of 2020.
Revealing that noted industrialist Aliko Dangote has committed to revamp and maintain the pitch at the National Stadium Abuja for two years, Dare said the stadiums will boost Nigeria’s plans to host the 2020 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations later in the year.
Dare revealed that 328 budding athletes have so far been discovered through last year’s National Youth Games in Ilorin and the ministry’s Talent Hunt Programme with 22 of them securing full scholarships from the Turkish International School in Abuja with more in the process of being adopted by other interested parties.
The minister also pledged to commemorate the 40th-anniversary of Nigeria’s first-ever Africa Cup of Nations title on 22 March by organising a reception in honour of members of the Green Eagles, as the national team was then known, who achieved the feat in front of home fans in 1980.
The anchor of the Sports Parliament, Segun Odegbami, was top scorer in the tournament and bagged a brace in the 3-0 final defeat of Algeria in Lagos.