Abdullahi Bows Out With Giant Strides In Nigerian Sports

Although, the outgoing Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi was asked to leave office prematurely, the wonderful developmental works he began would remain a legacy that his administration would be remembered for, for many years to come.

Below are the giant strides achieved by Abdullahi during his reign as Chairman of the National Sports Commission, NSC;

1. After a hiatus of 19 years, Nigeria won the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in South Africa in February 2013. The last time the country won the tournament was in Tunisia in 1994. Nigeria’s senior national team, the Super Eagles also qualified for the World Cup in Brazil 2014.
In the final play-off, the Super Eagles beat the Wayla Antelopes of Ethiopia home and away, and will fly Nigeria’s flag for the fifth time at the World Cup.

2. Similarly, Nigeria’s U-17 side, the Golden Eaglets won the FIFA Under 17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirate. It was the fifth time Nigeria would win the tournament.

3. Under Abdullahi’s leadership, there has been a repositioning of the domestic football league in line with global best practices. The new League Management Company (LMC) has restored credibility and transparency to the management of the Nigerian Premier League.
For the first time in three years, the LMC has been able to secure a title sponsor for the premier league, and attracted broadcast sponsorship to the tune of $34million (for a 4-year deal).
Clubs, for the first time in recent years, were also paid for participating in the league. The reforms to ensure that Nigeria has one of the best leagues in the world is on going.

4. While funding for the league is currently good, that was not the case a few years ago. It was then so bad that clubs were required to pay the indemnities of referees and other officials, as the league lacked sponsorship.

5. In athletics, just like in football and weightlifting, Nigeria has become the number one nation in Africa. Never in the history of African athletics has one nation been winner of the Senior, Junior and Youth Championships at the same.
But, Nigeria has won the whole three in the last two years under the leadership of the outgoing minister. First Nigeria won the Senior Athletics Championship in Port Novo (June 27–July1, 2012), followed by the inaugural Youth Championship in Warri, Delta State (March 2013) and lastly, we won the Junior Championship in Mauritius (August- September 2013).

6. After a 14 years’ absence on the medals table of the IAAF World Championships, Blessing Okagbare won two medals for Nigeria in the last IAAF World Championship, which took place in Russia in August 2013.
She won a silver medal in long jump and a bronze medal in the 200meter race. The last time Nigeria won any medal was at the Seville’99 IAAF World Championship in Seville, Spain, where Gloria Alozie and Francis Obikwelu won a silver medal in the 100m hurdles and a bronze medal in the 200m respectively.

7. To ensure early identification and discovery of athletes, the first ever National Youth Games, for athletes between the ages of 13 and 17, took place in December 2013 with over 300 special talents discovered. The Games will be held yearly.

8. Developing Grassroots Sports; The National Sports Commission (NSC) under Abdullahi has revitalised the National Academic Sports Committee (NASCOM), which is tasked with developing grassroots sports.
Mr President launched NASCOM’s flagship programme for grassroots sports development, Rhythm and Play in June 2013. NASCOM’s mandate through the RnP approach is to get 2 million additional children to participate in sports. NASCOM is already registering schools, game masters and children to achieve this goal.
Also, as part of its RnP programme, NASCOMhas started distributing sports equipment to schools. For the North central Zone, the distribution of sports equipment to the schools was done in Lafia, Nassarawa state in November 2013.

9. High Performance System; Nigeria are in the process of establishing the first High Performance System in the whole of West Africa. The HPS is a science–based support system for elite athletes.
The National High Performance Director has been appointed and would see to development of the HPS in selected sports. Also the first High Performance Centre in West Africa is being built in Abuja and will be completed in February 2014. Already, the NSC has procured all the equipment required for it.

10. The NSC has also completed a world-class athletes’ hostel in Abuja. The hostel was built to serve elite athletes development programmes, especially athletes to be enrolled for the High Performance System.

11. Another giant stride made by the Abdullahi administration, is the process to concession the National Stadium, Lagos which has begun. The two committees will be constituted to draw out the modalities for the concession.
They are the Project Steering Committee and the Project Delivery Committee, which will liaise with the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC to draw up modalities for the concessioning.

The Process (Policy decisions and actions, which led to the achievements)

1.The Peace Deal;
When Abdullahi was appointed the Supervising Minister of Sports in December 2012, he met a football sector in disarray as a result of numerous and complex conflicts.
There were many court cases by several aggrieved parties over issues relating to the previous election into the board of the FA, and even whether the FA should be an ‘Association’(NFA) or a ‘Federation’ (NFF).
One of the consequences of the conflicts was that Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea/Gabon in 2012.
Abdullahi settled the almost fratricidal war in the Nigerian Football Federation, by making all the parties involved in the crises agree to a comprehensive peace deal.

2. Presidential Retreat on Sports;
After the failure of Team Nigeria to win a medal at the London 2012 Olympics, the Presidency with active participation of the NSC organised the first ever Presidential Retreat on Sports. Consultants McKenzie were tasked with putting the retreat together. It held in November 2011, with major stakeholders in Nigerian sports attending.
The outcome of the retreat is the blueprint, which provided a holistic framework for sports development in Nigeria. The key recommendations were on funding, private sector participation, management and administration, and developing grassroots sports.

Implementation:

i. Nigeria, again under Abdullahi developed new election guidelines and code of governance for the administration of sports federations.
The code focused on entrenching the principles of transparency, efficiency and accountability across the Federations while providing a framework that maintains an ethical culture through a committed self-regulatory approach.
We implemented the new guidelines for the last elections into the boards of sports federations and many analysts say the elections were the best in recent times.
The present boards are also reputed to have the right caliber of people because real sports stakeholders and not political jobbers and government nominees populate them.

ii. On funding, we are implementing a new funding regime for the sports federations. We have established a system of funding to guide the disbursement of funds across the various sports and to shift focus from funding sporting federations to funding sporting activities.
What this means is that instead of giving subventions to federations, which may be mainly used for administrative purposes, we now fund specific sporting activities and programs of the federations.
This has resulted in better funding for the federations, especially those that are sometimes considered as lesser sports.

iii. Also, working with the office of the CME and the GTBank, we are developing a framework for sustainable private-sector-driven Sports Development Fund that explores opportunities in lottery and additional tax on some luxury goods such as tobacco and alcohol.


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