From Otasowie Osagiede, Benin City
The confusion surrounding the continuation of the ongoing sports fiesta in Edo state following the debated over lack of funds degenerated into a controversy on Thursday when the government of the hosting state, Edo ordered closure of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and Main Organising Committee (MOC) in Benin City.
According to the Deputy Governor, Phillip Shuabu who ordered the closure of the offices of the local and central committees, the state cannot sustain the hosting of the fiesta alone after tomorrow, Friday, unless the Federal Government fulfilled its promise on funding.
Things took dramatic turn on Wednesday evening when the Local Organising Committee, Edo2020, issued a statement expressing regrets to announce that the 3-day old games would be brought to a sudden end on Thursday, April 8, 2021 for lack of funds. The Federal Government, it was revealed was yet to release its counterpart funding for the national event.
Mr Ebomhiana Musa, Project Manager, Media & Communications, Edo 2020, said in the statement,
“rising from an emergency meeting this evening, the LOC says it has to take this hard decision due to lack of funds having expended its reserves to kick start the games. Regrettably, the FG is yet to redeem its pledge to support us as the host state financially for the cost of postponements. So, we are left with no option than to end the games at noon tomorrow.”
Tomorrow, Thursday, April 8, came and the Federal Government through the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development, issued a statement to say, “the 20th National Sports Festival, Edo 2020, is going on as planned with competitions going on as scheduled.”
“The Ministry and the Main Organizing Committee (MOC) 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.” Said Mr Ramon Balogun, Assistant Director Press.
By noon on Thursday, indications emerged that things had not changed when the state Deputy Governor, Phillip Shuaibu breezed into the venue of the games and directed that the LOC and MOC offices of the NSF in Benin be shut down, following yesterday’s report that the state has no more funds to prosecute the festival.
Addressing journalists inside the media centre at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Shuaibu said the decision to shut down the LOC and MOC offices was because the state can no longer foot the bill of the NSF without the financial of the Federal government. He said that the state have no choice than to stop the festival abruptly.
He said, “Gentlemen of the press. We have ordered that the MOC office be shut down and if nothing positive from the Federal Government in terms of funds is heard before 12 noon tomorrow (Friday) we will discontinue the sports festival.”
The sports festival had suffered two postponements over funding and the lingering Corona Virus pandemic. Edo government, it was learnt had become suspicious of the Federal Government’s support when at the last minute Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was supposed to declare the event open on Tuesday, abruptly called off the trip to Benin- City and the supervising Ministry of Sports had no concrete thing to offer in terms of funds.