Athletes who represented the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Bayelsa State at the just concluded 19th National Sports Festival in Abuja have resorted to carry placards in protest of nonpayment of camp allowances.
The FCT athletes have vowed to continue with their protest until their entitlements are paid. They alleged that the FCT Social Development officials, in their bid to avoid paying them their allowances, have tagged them (athletes) ‘South-south terrorists’.
Speaking with The Guardian, some of the athletes who represented the FCT at the fiesta said they were supposed to have the best treatment as the hosts. “But that was not the case. We were faced with the worst camping condition.”
FCT athletes alleged they were camped at the Old Parade Ground with poor care, lack of food, while their environment was unkempt, and were exposed to various illnesses.
Solomon Chibuike, a bronze medalist for FCT in super heavyweight boxing event lamented in a chat with The Guardian over the non-payment of their allowances and poor treatment meted out to them during the preparation for the festival.
“It is bad and callous on part of the FCT administrators to treat us this way. We were not paid our camping allowances, not well fed and we were abandoned. I came from Lagos, as well as some other athletes to camp in preparation for the Festival. As a super heavyweight boxer, I am supposed to weigh 100kg; and when I resumed camp, I was weighing between 95kg and 96kg. But during my weighing in for my bout, my weight had drastically dropped to 93-94kg, which was not healthy for me. Even at that, I was able to settle for a bronze medal.
“While in camp, there was no medical facility for us, and the medic I got was a sachet of panadol sold at N50, and nothing more as our medical care.
“The main issue now is, we are being tagged South-south terrorist, and that we are not their own. They said that we were here in Abuja to formant trouble,” a frustrated looking Chibuike Solomon said.
Speaking further, Solomon said the N15,000 promised each of the athletes was not commensurable with what some of them in the martial art suffered.
“Imagine the FCT administration is offering to pay us N15,000. How can one cope with that after receiving deadly punches in the ring? As we speak, I came out from the ring with jaw injury. No medical care, except the panadol given to us. And because we are asking for our entitlements, we are now being labeled ‘south south terrorists. They say we are FCT athletes. They say we are thugs wanting to cause trouble. These are words used by the FCT officials to describe us after using us to achieve 7th position on the final medal table, which FCT has not achieved in the recent past festivals.”
The FCT athletes were to have been paid N15,000 by the Social Development Secretary officials. This infuriated the athletes to take to the streets to display their grievances.
The angry athletes over the weekend, marched from Old Parade Ground camp to the Cyprian Ekwensi Centre that houses the Social and Development Secretary office, where their monies are being held up.
It was understood that the Social Development Secretariat (SDS) is holding up the Festival fund, which was released by the FCT Ministry few weeks ago.
The FCT Sports Departments, whose responsibility is to receive and disburse the funds to the athletes, did not have access to the funds.
It was learnt that the SDS officials met with the protesting athletes and pleaded that their allowance will be increased to N50,000.
“What will N50,000 solve in the midst of this long hardship in camp with no food and various injuries suffered? While in camp, there was no good diet. We fed ourselves in the first one month in camp, and when the FCT officials decided to feed us after one month in camp, we were treated even worst than the refugees, poor food was served, and it comes at their own time. In most cases, we left for our events without food,” Solomon added.
Also, Bayelsa State athletes came out with placards with different inscriptions such as: “We are hungry,’ ‘We are stranded’, ‘We are suffering’, Where is our money? ‘Nigerians come to our aid.”
Bayelsa State athletes, during the parade on the closing ceremony, expressed the illtreatment they got during the 12-day in Abuja for the 19th National Sports Festival.
It was gathered that Bayelsa state athletes were not paid their camping allowances, and were left behind, as their state officials have returned to Yenagoa, the state capital.
Bayelsa state finished 5th on the final medals table with 32 gold, 56 silver and 48 bronze medals.