The Director in charge of planning and Secretary of the Main Organising Committee, MOC, for the 2018 National Sports Festival, Hauwa Kulu Akinyemi has debunked claims that the Federal Capital Territory single handedly 'rescued' the games from extinction. In this interview, the director said the FCT only joined hands with patriotic stakeholders in sports to ensure that the sports festival is held this year. She also explained the choice of Abuja as the host city for the games.
There are concerns that that the National Sports Festival to be staged in Abuja may not hold as scheduled. What is the true position of things?
I already gave you the timeline that was drawn up for the festival. You can see this from the inauguration on 29th March 2018. From 13th -20th November, we will have all the states to come and authenticate what have just been given to you. The platform was shut down at midnight, and we have 11,638 athletes. This is what we call the long list. What do I mean by the long list? Even when we go for the international multi sports competition, what happens is that they give you a window to enter all the athletes, what can happen to this list is that they can only be less people on it, they can't be more. We do this so we can know how many people to accommodate. This summarizes everything concerning preparation.
What are the efforts being made to ensure that there is no gap in states hosting the Festival after Abuja 2018?
Our letters to the states for expressions of this trend is going this week, and normally that's the process. We send the letters out to the states and at the end of the day we get up to 4 or 5 states to say they will be interested in hosting. Then we set up a bidding committee to go to those states to look at the sports facilities and come back with their reports. We have commenced the process and hopefully before the closing ceremony, we will get a host.
What is your committee doing to see that the Abuja Stadium which appears to be abandoned is put in order for the sports festival?
Hopefully by another two weeks that wouldn't be a problem anymore. Saying it is unkempt isn't talking particularly about the facilities. If it is unkempt all they need do is call people to clear it and mind you in this same stadium, we hosted 2003 and 2004 Festivals. In 2003, he had the All Africans Games and 2004 was the National Sports Festival.
The GreenField Assets Ltd who are the sponsors of the Festival are allegedly not doing anything tangible (cut short)
That wouldn't be a good thing to say about them. They are looking for sponsors in various areas, you cannot say they haven't inputted anything, if you have been following our flag for movement of torch of unity. They provided the track suits, and they are doing so many things in the back line that you cannot see and mind you the most important thing is during the Games and we see the athletes during the Games. We get accommodation for them in the Games Villages and all of that. It is too early to say they haven't done anything. You can't even say that. There are some billboards even in Lagos telling the whole world what we are planning for Abuja.
Can you enumerate the partnership details with them?
We agree to them to partner with us to drive these games, we plan for festival for 2 years and they came in few months back, and I think it's a trial thing for them to just shield the environment, economy. Like I said, it's too early to make a final word on their efforts.
It was said that FCT came to rescue in hosting and can you give us more details on the logistics put in place by the committee?
I want to correct a statement, you said "FCT came to rescue us", that isn't the correct story. The main story is that we held a national council of sports meeting and it was the council that decided that this festival should hold this year, it wasn't any government, and because they said the Federal Government should host and the FG is in Abuja it became obvious that the FCT will be the host. They didn't come to rescue. We all came together, the stakeholders in sports sector in Nigeria to rescue the National Sports Festival from extinction. At this point in time I want to give kudos to the management, the honourable minister and the permanent secretary of the federal ministry of youth and sports development. We have committees for logistics, we have the game villages committee and they are doing their duties going round to get places where the athletes will stay, we also have transportation committee. We did all these with money. Normally when you have a festival you draw up your program. We have some halls in the army barracks and we might also use Area 10, we are putting it in the bulletin. The timings and the locations will all be put in the bulletin. We have a security committee and they are on point with the schedule.