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NSC: Using mini-sports centres to engender grassroots sports development

It is an open secret that as a country, Nigeria can not boost of a good maintenance culture and so even in few cases where…

It is an open secret that as a country, Nigeria can not boost of a good maintenance culture and so even in few cases where efforts were made to build facilities for the purpose of talent hunt and sports development, such edifices were allowed to rot way.

It was against this background that many Nigerians rose in total condemnation of the Federal Government when the administration of former President, Olusegun Obasanjo expended billions of naira on construction of sports facilities at the Abuja national stadium preparatory to the 8th All Africa Games.

Although they never had any problems with the provision of the facilities, those who condemned government argued that after the games, the magnificent Abuja National Stadium and the other facilities would be allowed to decay. As predicted, apart from the main bowl of the Abuja National Stadium which has continued to host international football matches, other facilities have been lying fallow as if the games they were built for are no longer practised in the country.

The truth remains that sports facilities have been in short supply and the talented youths are not given the opportunities to discover their innate talents at the early stage for the necessary development. To arrest the drift which has pauperized the nation’s sports, there is the urgent need to go back to the grassroots where the future of the nation’s sports lies.

Successive ministers of sports have made a show of catch them young which the present minister of sports and Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Engineer Sani Ndanusa has since tagged a cliché that has become an irritant and must be discountenanced. According to the minister who recently addressed a press conference on the activities of his ministry, sports development at the grassroots should be taken beyond rhetorics to practical steps that would return sports development to the grassroots.

Thus, to ensure that practical grassroots sports development sees the light of the day, the minister saw to the early completion of the restructuring of the national sports commission which brought about the decentralization of sports administration with the creation of 12 zonal offices in States of the Federation just as six professional departments were created in line with the approval of Head of Service of the Federation. Consequently, the department of sports development was phased out since the entire mandate of the National Sports Commission, NSC, is sports development.

It is pertinent to note that the decentralization initiative is aimed at bringing sports development to the grassroots. Thus, it is a welcome development that the present leadership of the ministry has deemed it necessary to construct 18 mini sports centres across the six geo-political zones in the first phase.

It is gratifying to know that construction of mini-sports centres is on going at Yenagoa in Bayelsa, Kumo in Gombe State, Wudil at Kano State, Gwaram at Jigawa State, Ogbomosho in Oyo State, Rijau in Niger State, Nguru in Imo State, Nafada in Gombe State, Nsulu in Abia State, Ogbia in Bayelsa State, Bida in Nigeria State, Sagbama in Bayelsa, Katsina in Katsina State, Isala Mbano in Imo, Efon Alaye in Ekiti State and Abuja the Federal Capital Territory.

If eventually completed, the mini sports centres will drastically address the issue of dearth of sporting facilities across the country. The facilities will certainly engender active participation in sports at the grassroots. This is obviously in line with the mandate of the NSC which includes using sports to impact on youths development.

Furthermore, the minister declared at the ministerial press briefing that in addition to the mini sports centres, the National Economic Council had in principle accepted the Commission’s concept of Community Sports Centres. The initial scope is to provide at least one community sports centre in each senatorial zone and subsequently, one in each local government across Nigeria. The sports commission intends to adopt the private-public-partnership initiative to ensure it is executed as a joint project between the Federal Government, States Governments and Local Governments.

The aforementioned are laudable initiatives but it must be mentioned here that construction of such sports facilities is one thing and ensuring that they are made functional at all times is another. It is an open secret that similar efforts in the past led to the construction of training centres at Afuze in Edo State, Rayfield at Jos, Plateau State, Gembu-Mambilla at Taraba State and Nsulu in Abia State but in the end it was beautiful nonsense because the country still expends billions of naira on foreign training tours each time Nigeria is to participate in any international sporting event. It simply shows that the facilities provided are either being underutilized or allowed to waste away.

Thus, the efforts being  made in the area of sports development at the grassroots by provision of mini-sports centres is a welcome development but it will amount to nothing if the National Sports Commission, NSC, fails in its duty to provide and maintain such facilities especially when and where it is its responsibility to do so.

Ndanusa’s leadership is focused on taking sports down to the grassroots in the most practical fashion but such good intentions must be matched by the necessary will to ensure a better maintenance of such sports facilities for enhanced performance of the nation’s athletes.

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