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Rescind that order on basketball competitions

A few weeks after the painful exit of the nation’s football team, the Super Eagles, from this year’s World Cup due to hold in Qatar,…

A few weeks after the painful exit of the nation’s football team, the Super Eagles, from this year’s World Cup due to hold in Qatar, the country’s sports scene was dealt another blow with the announcement by the federal government of the immediate withdrawal of Nigeria from all international basketball competitions.  

In a statement issued on May 12, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare, said this followed the “Unending crises that have plagued and nearly crippled basketball development in the country’’.  

The minister, who said he got approval from President Muhammadu Buhari for the latest action, added that the withdrawal was to provide the government with the opportunity to revamp the sport from the grassroots as well as revive the domestic leagues which have become moribund.  

He said it would also allow for the setting up of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to oversee the management and development of the domestic basketball leagues in Nigeria and to further address other related issues around the advancement of the game in the country.  

“Government intends to utilise this period of break to address all contentious issues among stakeholders. The Terms of Reference (TOR) and membership of the Interim Management Committee will be announced in due course,” he said.  

It is sad that the government decided on this path instead of addressing the real issue confronting the game in Nigeria over the last six years.  

The crisis within the game is solely the result of the lingering leadership crisis within the Nigeria Basketball Federation, which reared its head in 2017, when the contest of the leadership of the federation between  Tijjani Umar, then sitting president  and  Engineer Musa Kida led to factionalisation of the federation. The issue was made worse following accusations that the then minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, had taken sides with one of the factions.  

Hope that the coming of Mr Sunday Dare as the new minister would solve the problem was dashed as the federation continued on the same path with separate elections taking place in Abuja and Benin producing two executives.  

To many basketball fans and sports watchers in the country, this was a devastating blow which sadly, this time around, was from the government not an external body as it happened in the past.  Many are expressing concern over why government is taking a decision at a time the country is losing out in international sports and basketball appears to be the only major sport that the country is shining on the international scene.  

Both the male team, D’Tigers, and the female counterparts D’Tigress, are soaring on the international scene. D’Tigers are currently rated 22 in the world while D’Tigress are due to play in the FIBA World Cup later in the year. The male team is also expected to start campaign for next year’s World Cup in July with high hopes of making it to the finals.  

Concerned with this action, the players of the female team said they did not agree with the ban as it would be “taking away all our future competitions, accomplishments and goals to elevate, inspire, and make Nigeria proud!’’  

“We want Nigerian basketball to continue to grow and succeed on every level – from the local leagues, grassroots and even on the international stage! We believe that all levels of Nigerian basketball can excel with the proper attention, togetherness and organization,’’ the team said on its Twitter handle.  

The world basketball governing body in a letter to its Nigerian counterpart said the decision by the government would further trigger potential sanctions against the country.  

In a letter signed by Jaime Lamboy, Head of its legal affairs, the governing body said Nigeria’s withdrawal from its two competitions would affect the country’s participation in the qualifiers for Paris 2024 Olympics qualification process as well as the FIBA Afrobasket 2025.  

We believe that this stance of the government is going to subject Nigeria to ridicule as a country that cannot resolve a simple affair of organising credible elections in a sports association.  

Hence, it is important that government rescinds this decision and takes appropriate measures to ensure that proper and credible elections are organised for the federation.  

It is sad that at this time that sports is becoming a veritable tool in international politics, Nigeria is inflicting a devastating injury on itself by casting itself out of the arena. More importantly, this decision is going to affect teeming youths who are making a success from the game and would now be left wandering helplessly.  

We, therefore, urge the government to rescind the decision in the interest of the country and its teeming youths.  We believe that there are other ways of addressing the issues and government must explore them.