The Cross River Commissioner for Sports, Asu Okang, says the activities of fraudulent contractors made the state lose the hosting right of the 19th National Sports Festival (NSF). Okang told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Calabar that the contractors’ activities made the state government to lose about N8 billion in the process.
Cross River was stripped of the hosting right in February by the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development, after a National Council of Sports Meeting in Kaduna. The state, since getting the hosting right in 2012, failed to put in place necessary facilities for the festival earlier billed for 2014 and which got shifted several times until 2018.
“I am aware that the previous administration in the state paid about N8 billion for projects that were never executed. “I can say without any equivocation that for the stadium, the U.J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar, someone got a contract worth N48 million.
“The same person got the contract for the pool worth N454 million and N1.5 billion for the facilities in Cross River State University of Technology (CRUTECH). But he absconded. “The moment Gov. Ben Ayade came into power, he said `let them go, we will look for money and continue’. This is because he didn’t want to dwell in the past.
“So, they have gone with N8 billion and we have lost the hosting right. But we want to persevere and move on,’’ Okang said. The festival will now hold in Abuja in December, with the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development hosting it.
The commissioner said however that while the state may have lost the NSF hosting right due to the contractors’ failure, the state government was not deterred. He urged the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development to ensure a return of national team football to Calabar.
“This will help to ensure constant victories for the teams,’’ Okang told NAN.
He pointed at last Sunday’s 1-0 win by the Flying Eagles against their Guinea Bissau counterparts in the Under-20 African Cup of Nations qualifiers to buttress his argument. The Flying Eagles won 1-0 at the U.J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar for a 3-2 aggregate to advance to the final round of the qualifiers.
“Calabar should be reconsidered as a venue for the national teams. The name U. J. Esuene is synonymous to good luck and as far as he was concerned, if the national teams want to keep on winning, they should return to Calabar,’’ the commissioner said. He disclosed that the state government was going to build a car park in the stadium to ease congestion whenever there was an event there.
“We will also fix the scoreboard. These (the car park and scoreboard) are two important structures lacking in the stadium,’’ Okang said.
He assured that power was not a problem at the stadium as there were three stand-by power generators which could generate electricity non-stop for a week in the stadium.
The commissioner also said the stadiums in Ikom and Ogoja were under construction. “This is because it is the desire of the state’s present administration to have a stadium in each of the three senatorial zones,’’ he said.