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SEGUN ODEGBAMI: Sports ministry versus sports federations – war after the Olympics?

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The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development obviously tugged at the tail of a tiger last week when the minister announced the dissolution of 31 National Sports Federation boards. It followed up almost immediately with the inauguration of caretaker committees to take care of the administration of the federations until after the Olympic Games coming up from July 23 to August 8, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. The Minister’s actions took everyone by surprise, particularly the board members across all the sports that must have been preparing for what had become a 4-yearly ‘jamborèe’ to the Olympics. It did not matter that many of them had no athletes in their sport that qualify to participate, or not. The minister’s intervention halted their vacation. Many affected stakeholders started thinking that the world was going to end and started to prepare for the war of all wars in sports. They asked: how dared the minister dissolve independent boards two months to the Olympics? It now appears to be all smoke and no fire. The minister played a very deft hand with his cards. He pulled the ‘Joker’ in the pack and checkmated all possible opposition. How? Most of the key Presidents of the dissolved federations (except Athletics that is fighting to the ‘death’ with the sports ministry) were offered places in the Caretaker Committees established to temporarily replace their boards until new elections are held after the Olympics. The presidents, therefore, lose nothing. Indeed, as individuals, they actually gained a great deal – the guaranteed opportunity to go to the Olympics, plus being a part of preparing the grounds for their own possible re-election. In appointing them into the committees the minister may have provided a soothing balm to quench what could have been a raging fire by those that would have fought against the timing and justification for the dissolution. Indeed, a handful of those left out of this new arrangement, those that were not recalled to be a part of the caretaker committees, started to put up some fight that never gained any momentum. Writing under the umbrella of a non-existing Committee of Concerned Stakeholders, they signed and sent a petition to the Minister of Sports threatening fire and brimstone, requesting that the minister rescinded his action within 48 hours or be prepared to face their wrath through protests that will disrupt woŕk in the ministry, or necessitate a legal ‘battle’ in the civil courts. They insisted that the boards’ 4-year tenures still had some months to go, and that the dissolution by the Minister was a clear case of ‘government interference’ in the internal affairs of their ‘private’ organisations. Does government ever go back on its vomit? What kind of unregistered private organisation can make government do the unthinkable? The federation’s statutes are not even domesticated and drafted into Nigerian laws, so where would they even start their fight from? Who funds most of the federations’ programmes, anyway? Can they actually claim independence and non-interference from their biggest benefactor? Their fire was quenched even before it started. To even make a mockery of the entire exercise, shortly after their protest-communique was released, some of those listed as signatories to the petition publicly disclaimed it and were wearing broad grins of satisfaction on their faces at the inauguration of the caretaker committees. That step by Mr. Sunday Dare, the Minister of Sports, deflated the already flighted balloon of the frustrated board members and their supporters. It was a masterstroke, a political movè that effectively checkmated the main opposition. The wind was cut off their floundering sail. The Minister has survived the initial threat and danger. He will now go to the Olympics in relative peace.

He, however, leaves behind, a festering sore, a handful of aggrieved persons that would require careful handling. He would need to apply wisdom and diplomacy to successfully wade through the waters that his decisions have surely churned. He would now have to navigate unclear terrain that lie in his path? What would be his roadmap into the future after Tokyo 2021? That is the inevitable war that will come and that he will have to fight. He has plenty to chew on his plate, plenty of unfinished business.

There are a few things he should be thinking about: to quickly establish a new structure that will clear the air on the relationships that should exist between his ministry, sports federations and the Nigeria Olympic Committee; the structure shall define the different roles and responsibilities within those relationships and hopefully put to rest the matter of ‘interference’ that always comes up when roles are in conflict. Already some aggrieved members have surreptitiously sent a petition to their international federations with that charge. Fortunately, even though the charge should not be dismissed, off-hand, by the minister, it will not have any effect on Nigeria’s participation at the Olympics this summer.

Federations play only supportive roles to the ministry and the NOC enroute the Olympics. They play no official part in the registration of participants, and the responsibility for the training and welfare of the athletes is also entirely that of the government through the sports ministry. So, any claim of interference has no locus and can’t stop anything. Fundamentally, the Olympic Movement and International Sports Federations are two different bodies that only cooperate during the Olympics to the extènt the Olympic Committee chooses to involve the international sports federations. Their relationship has also been frosty, limited and guarded, the areas of collaboration being often at the discretion of the IOC. They do not interfere in each other’s business but are always exploring areas of subtle cooperation. This is particularly true with the two biggest sports bodies in the world, FIFA and the IOC. The claim by some stakeholders that Nigerian athletes’ performance will be hurt by the dissolution of boards holds no substance. The athletes are as distant from the goings-on in the boardroom as Mars is from Jupiter. Incidentally, two thirds of them do not even have any athletes going at the games.

The minister’s next challenge, post the Olympics, would be to ensure he is not caught in the web of ‘illegality’ when he finds that he has to extend the official tenures of the boards that he ‘sacked’ because the caretakers cannot meet the timelines in the statutes used for the last elections. The minister might find himself doing exactly some of what he sacked the board for – indirectly legitimising elongation of tenure. Nothing was also said of the role of the caretaker committees in preparing the grounds for conducting fresh elections, even with incumbents serving in the committees. So, how will there not be the accusation of the vexed issues of an extension and of favouritism? Meanwhile, the ministry cannot conduct the elections itself, cannot also design thè statutes for the federations. To do either would tantamount to glaring and brazen interference. After the Olympics some of the international federations will start to react to the claims referred to them by aggrieved members, and the peace that the minister sought in dissolving the boards may become elusive. In short, I don’t see how tenure elongation will not happen with the present arrangement. I don’t also see how those members that are retained in the committees will not be considered as being favoured since the committees may superintend over the process of fresh elections.

Will there be level ground for fair elections? All the boards have now seemingly accepted the Minister’s prescription. The athletes are now rightfully in the care of the Ministry with a rather laid back NOC whose role is to register the athletes presented by the Ministry and to lead the delegation to Tokyo. Otherwise, the NOC are absolutely powerless in the present situation. Their obligations to the Games fulfilled, they become bystanders, waiting for the Sports Ministry to take the lead on all other issues clearly not in the charter of the Olympic Movement to which they belong. For decades, conducting acceptable elections into sports federations have been the bane of peace and progress in sports. Abuse and manipulation of the process, acting with impunity and misùsing the privileges of incumbency have made every election a theatre of crisis and even litigation. In some cases the government has actively participated in precipitating the chaos. But in a situation where the government is deeply rooted in the activities of federations by providing a secretariat, logistical support in staff and facilities, funds for most of their events and programmes, it is hard to separate the thin lines between power and responsibility. Most federations are unable to secure any level of independence that they are entitled to by their constitutions. It has truly become a matter of the piper dictating the music. This is a knotty issue that is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is common and recurring in several once-communist countries as well as most Third World countries where nothing works without governments.

For decades, this has afflicted Nigerian sports development – the conflicts in who does what, who funds what, the mechanisms of control and supervision, and the limits of government’s interventions. The turnover of sports administrators through the decades also created its own problems for the sector that is now full of personnel with limited experiences and understanding of the complexities of the sports environment.

This has diluted the quality of end-product (the athletes) and sustained a crisis in the sector. Too frequent changes and a cyclè of leadership drawn from sectors outside sports, have also added their toll by diminishing the richness of a passed-on-knowledge-base that would have sustained consistent policies and growth. That’s why a country with so much acknowledged potential in human capital and resources, that should be a world superpower in sports by now had it followed its foundational trajectory after Independence in the 1960s up to the early 1990s when the ship started to rock and roll, can no longer find its bearing for almost 3 decades. Successive ministers, unfamiliar with the terrain, have been forced to grope from one concept to the other, going around in circles, always courting crises and never finding an answer until they leave office and things worse off than when they met them. This trend must stop. It can, of course, start with the current minister who has demonstrated a commitment and courage to reset the button of sports development. He has the perfect opportunity to do so now. He must start to think and plan for sports beyond the Tokyo Olympics. He cannot and must not base the future on what happens in Tokyo. Thats dangerous yet thats what he appears to have done by setting the achievements of Atlanta ’96 as his Tokyo 2021 benchmark.

I pray he is lucky and his dreams come ro pass. My humble take is that Tokyo 2021 is already a settled matter. Nigeria can only do as well as the preparations that the country inputed into the athletes. I do not, therefore, expect a medals haul. The period after the Olympics matters more now. Genuine and lasting change can start with the presence of right leaderships in the ministry of sports itself, in sports federations, and in the NOC. These can all be influenced by the Sports Minister, carefully and diplomatically deploying the tools he has as the supervisor over all of sports in the country. I urge the Miniater not to discard or treat with levity the idea of the return of the National Sports Commission.

Time was when the technical arm of the National Sports Commission, with all their world class coaches and other personnel, handled all the preparations of all athletes to the Olympics, funded the entire preparations, participation and logistics, and worked very closely with the NOC. At that time, Federations borrowed coaches and their other essential personnel from the NSC to use for their national team assignments. That was the structure that did not put the burden of developing sports on the shoulders of independent federations.

That basic operating formular did not fail and can be restored as most experts have proposed for decades now. Once again, the national federations will have their full authority only over their own domestic affiliates, sports programmes and sports properties – the clubs, the domestic leagues and championships, regional and continental Club competitions, and academicals. On a final note, I reiterate that the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, and the All African Games are all under a dispensation that the federations cannot control or fund. These are the end product of the sports ministry’s primary purpose – sports development. They are all international competitions and testing ground for athletes across all sports. They are the measure of the sports ministry’s woŕk and success.

The federations must cooperate with the sports ministry, or stay clear and face its own primary objectives. They cannot eat their cake and still have it. They cannot get funding for the programs that belong to the ministry and insist there shall be no accountability or interference. They have hard choices to make. Until they do so they will have no peace and will always be objects for the Sports Ministry’s interference. Mr. Sunday Dare has a huge challenge on his hands from August. It could also present a perfect opportunity to conceive a new dawn for Nigerian sports. As he prepares for the ‘war’ after Tokyo 2021, my prayer is that this period of his greatest challenge becomes the period of his greatest triumph! Quote: ‘ There are a few things he should be thinking about: to quickly establish a new structure that will clear the air on the relationships that should exist between his ministry, sports federations and the Nigeria Olympic Committee’

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East-West road, 43 others to be completed without delay – Fashola

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All 44 road projects in the approved phase two of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme including the East-West road will be completed without any delay or break.

The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), stated this, stressing that sustainability of funding for the critical infrastructure in Nigeria would be guaranteed.

Fashola, who spoke in Abuja, noted that unlike in the past, when there was inadequate funding of infrastructure, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had secured alternative sources of funding that could guarantee sustainability from the beginning of the projects to their completion.

He said the tax credit scheme remained a new model that encourages partnership with private companies where taxes are paid in advance to enable the government invest in notable projects that would be beneficial to its citizens.

The minister said the Federal Government had focused on nine major axes of Nigeria, adding that the A1 – A4 axis covered the Northern part of the country, while the A5-A9 axis covered the East and West of the country.

He said the successful completion of all the roads would lead to sustainable mobility for Nigerians.

“The roads like Akure – Ado –Ekiti and East-West which people have been complaining about would be adequately catered for with the approval of the second phase of the NNPC Tax Credit Scheme,” he said.

On payment of compensation, Fashola noted that it would not be paid to anyone occupying the government’s Right of Way (RoW) and appealed to members of the communities occupying the areas to vacate.

Permanent Secretary of the ministry, represented by the Director overseeing the Office of the Permanent Secretary, Folorunsho Esan, said in line with the Executive Order 7 (2019), phase one was approved on October 27, 2021.

He stated that with the completion of phase one, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has also approved phase II of the scheme to fund 44 critical road infrastructure to the tune of N1.96 trillion naira.

Esan said that as it was done with phase one, phase two would be governed by a set of guidelines to be issued to each contractor, adding that there would be a funding intervention agreement to be implemented in addition to the standard condition of the contract governing the execution of the projects.

He said that the availability of this new funding window will ensure steady cash flow and a timely completion of projects.

He also stated that the NNPC intervention which began in October 2021 with phase one has now occupied the top of the log with a portfolio well in excess of N2.6 trillion.

On the part of NNPC, the Group Chief Executive Officer, Mallam Mele Kyari, who was represented by the Chief Financial Officer, Umar Aliya, said that funding would not be an issue anymore as the company is committed to fully funding the next phase.
“We are committed to setting aside funds for phase II. Funding would not be a problem. What is important to us is that our consultant will need to validate the value for money and the quality of work. We will not compromise the quality and timely completion of work,“ he said.
“There is no need for excuses. As for us, on our part, we are committed and we implore the contractors to do quality work and do it on time so that the road projects can be open for use to Nigerians,” he added.
The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) Mohammed Nami, explained that most of the roads captured by Executive Order 7 to be executed by the NNPC were mostly road projects inherited by the administration of Muhammadu Buhari.
“So, we are appealing to Nigerians to trust Executive order 007 so that government will continue to provide the physical infrastructure that our people need,“he said.

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Nigeria ranks 150 out of 180 countries in 2022 Transparency International Corruption Index

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Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani

The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, has announced that Nigeria ranked 150 out of 180 countries in the 2022 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

This according to Rafsanjani is four places lower than the 154th position in the country’s 2021 CPI results.

Rafsanjani made the announcement on Tuesday at a press briefing held at CISLAC meeting hall, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

He however added that in terms of points, the country has retrained 24 points it had in 2021.

He also noted that the data index used for the CPI is not collected by CISLAC/TI- Nigeria but by Independent and reputable organisations with sound research methodologies.

“While Nigeria moved four places up on the country ranking, it has maintained it’s previous score of 24 which is it’s lowest score on the CPI since 2012, which suggests a slowdown in the steady decline observed in the previous three CPI’s, he said.”

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The CISLAC boss lamented the rate of corruption in the country and reserved some blames for the Judiciary.

“Nigeria as a country has reached a point where citizens should come out in their millions to protest against corruption, thus, with the expectations that this regime could address the issue of corruption, yet the world continues to face corruption with the help of high profile officials,” he lamented.

Among other recommendations, CISCLAC called on the executive arm of government to stop granting pardon to corrupt politicians recklessly.

As a means to curb and tackle the incessant corruption in Nigeria, CISLAC also recommended as follows:

1. The presidency, INEC, political parties, security actors and other relevant bodies should ensure that the 2023 general election are free, fair and credible.
2. The relevant anti-graft agencies should ensure that high profile corruption cases are pursued to their logical conclusion for the benefit of Nigeria and her citizens.
3. Agencies given the mandate to recover assets under the proceeds of Crime (and Management) Act 2022 should ensures that they establish a database where information about assets in their custody is easily accessed by citizens in line with the Act and the proactive provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
4. The Federal government should address the lingering issue of oil theft in the country.
5. The relevant agencies should investigate those behind the important of toxic fuel to Nigeria in 2022.
6. The National assembly should ensure transparency in the implementation of the constituency projects. The relevant agencies should ensure that those found guilty are brought to book.
7. With the election fast approaching, the judiciary should ensure more than ever to deliver justice.

The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) developed by theTransparency International (TI) in 1995 is an annual ranking of countries on the prevalence of corruption within each country, based upon surveys by experts and business executives. It’s aims is to serve as a basis for critical reflection on tangible ways to strengthen the fight against corruption.

PRNigeria

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No single government can solve Nigeria’s problems – Buhari

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Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said that no single government can solve Nigeria’s problems.

Buhari, at a state- of- nation dialogue on security, economy and administration of justice in Abuja, stated that efforts of successive governments were required to see the country through its challenges

The President hoped that the event, which was organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), would contribute to Nigeria’s development.   Buhari, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, reminded lawyers that they owed the nation some responsibilities.

His words: “This is the direction to go. I want to thank you for restoring the hope of Nigerians. I want to believe the bar would provide the necessary leadership. I hope in the course of the discussion, we would be able to bring out a playbook that would provide the guided processes for the incoming regime.

“I would say no one government in this country would be able to solve the problems of Nigeria. But as we build on the precedent set by successive governments, not discarding completely what has been put in place, we would in the course of our desire to build a Nigeria of our dreams, be able to pick one or two things, on which we can concentrate and move.

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“As a government, the outcome of this dialogue can be transmitted to us so that whatever resolutions are reached, that would become part of the documents would prepare us as we transit and hand over to an incoming government.”

Kebbi State Governo, Atiku Bagudu, who also attended the event, said one of the ways to tackle insecurity was to give priority to primary education in the country.

He said most of the causes of insecurity were a result of the breakdown of the social contract towards the people.

Bagudu, therefore, advocated more investment in primary education to turn the situation in the country around.

The governor pointed out that in developed countries, as much as $27,000 is spent on a child, while in Nigeria, a rich state like Lagos, spends far less.

He said: “They (children) have not been provided education.  The challenges of inclusion are the most current. We need to include more people and so we have to mobilise more resources.”

Bagudu praised the NBA for the theme of the dialogue, which according to him, is holding ahead of the general election.

Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Amina Mohammed, condemned the attacks on facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

She also frowned at attacks on some candidates for the general election, as well as fake news and hate speeches focusing on religious and ethnic identities.

The UN chief said: “INEC has been making great strides in improving the transparency, accountability and credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process. The increase in the number of registered voters from 84m to 93m is encouraging and suggests Nigerians are enthusiastic about the electoral process.

“However, we continue to witness attacks against the institution. Fake news, hate speech, based on religious and ethnic identities, violence against candidates as well as INEC facilities and staff since the political campaigns began.”

Mohammed hoped that the elections would provide an opportunity for Nigerians to unite and shape the future of the nation.

She said as Africa’s largest economy with a youthful population, Nigeria cannot afford to fail.

The UN chief said Nigeria must be steeped in economic, social and environmental principles and must be guided by Agenda 2030 and its 17 goals.

“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an urgent to-do list, a blueprint for global and local action. We needed it to develop peace and prosperity and a thriving natural environment for current and future generations.”

NBA President Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) said there was a need to continuously engage government at all levels on issues affecting the country and the citizenry.

He urged members of the Bench and Bar to always ensure that justice was served without fear of favour.

The New Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Solomon Arase, encouraged the deployment of technology to secure the country.

Arase, who added that government cannot solve security problems alone, said the establishment of reform panels over insecurity was a waste of time.

The Nation

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