A former Minister of Sports, Bala Ka’Oje, has expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of sports development in the country after 60 years of independence, due to poor funding.
Ka’Oje made his feelings known on Thursday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
He regretted that Nigeria “which prides itself as the giant of Africa’’ was still in the habit of preparing for international competitions late, due to a lack of funds.
The Kebbi-born sports administrator noted that sports can only thrive in the country if adequate funding was provided to run the sector and athletes given necessary support and training to excel.
“When I was in office, I came up with a number of programmes on sports development and one of the major areas I wanted to transform was the issue of talent hunt, which would have matured within 10 years.
“If what I wanted to achieved had been done by now we would have had good funding for sports and functional sports development offices in the six geo-political zones.
“The programme would have attracted young talented sports men and women as well as boys and girls, who would be trained from the zones while still pursuing their educational careers.
“The plan was that from the zones they would come to Abuja where they would be continuously trained by the Federal Government and then, strive to become champions at national and international competitions but that did not happen.’’
Ka’Oje said that the merging of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development was the worst thing that could happen to sports as it had hindered the Federal Government from providing necessary funding to the sports sector.
“We are just paying lip-service to the issue of talent hunt, not even in football. Athletes and other sports are also not better off.
“I want to say that most of us who are lovers of sports are not happy with the merging of sports with the Ministry of Youth. It appears to be setting Nigeria’s sports sector backwards.
“This has been debated in the past right from the military era and we thought we were moving forward but under this administration we moved another step backwards by merging sports ministry with that of youths.
“This is already hampering sports development in the country. If the Federal Government can go back to the National Sports Commission format we had in the past, we will move forward,” Ka’Oje added.