The Sports Ministry says the National Sports Festival in Edo State will continue as planned dismissing the threat of the Local Organising Committee to end the games today if the Federal Government fails to release funds.
The ministry in a statement on Thursday signed by Assistant Director Press Ramon Balogun said they are unaware of any “threats” by the LOC “to shut down the competition”.
Addressing the LOC’s claims of a lack of Federal Government funding, the statement said “the Ministry has since been at work to secure the financial assistance which it believes is being processed”.
“The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development has clarified that the 20th National Sports Festival, Edo 2020, is going on as planned with competitions going on as scheduled,” the statement read.
“The Ministry and the Main Organizing Committee for the festival are unaware of any plans or threat by the Edo State Government to shut down the sports festival as there has been no official meeting or communication that relayed such information.
“The Honourable Minister, Permanent Secretary and Directors are on ground in Benin City where the Festival is holding, and it is expected that the Edo State Government would formally invite the Ministry for a meeting should any urgency exist around the National Sports Festival or communicate officially with the Main Organizing Committee for the festival. The Ministry has no such communication.
“For the records, the Edo State government due to the cost implications of postponements occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic requested financial assistance from the Federal government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
“The Ministry has since been at work to secure the financial assistance which it believes is being processed. The MYSD and EDSG are determined to deliver a successful National Sports Festival.”
On Wednesday, the Coordinator of Media and Publicity, Edo 2020, Ebomhiana Musa released a statement declaring the LOC had decided to abruptly end the games over a “lack of funds” after an emergency meeting headed by LOC chairman and Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu.
The Ministry’s assertion is no close to providing any clarity to the more than 8,000 athletes participating in the festival, a majority of whom remain confused as to the true state of affairs.
The 20th National Festival has been plagued by several hiccups after the coronavirus pandemic forced a postponement of the competition from its initial 2020 date.
Disputes between the LOC and the Federal Ministry of Sports over funding appeared to put paid to any hopes of the competition holding but a compromise was eventually reached and the multi-game event commenced last Sunday.
However, twenty-four hours to the commencement of the festival, Edo State complained about the Federal Government’s failure to follow through on its promise to provide funds.