More revelations are being made as Nigerians try to understand the continual downturn of the country’s sports, especially as it concerns the just concluded Rio Olympics. The Minister of Youth and Sports Solomon Dalung who spoke with The PUNCH in Brazil, said he met an establishment short of proper organisation and accountability which also affected the way preparations for the 2016 Olympics were handled.
He disclosed that part of the problem he inherited was the practical disappearance of the sum of N3bn budgeted for the High Performance Centre designed to keep the athletes at their optimum for competitions.
He said, “I am aware that up to N3bn was approved for the High Performance Centre long before we came but it is a mystery how that money was used. I just couldn’t understand how such a thing could happen.
“The money not just to equip the centre but was also meant to cover the salaries of the experts we brought in work with the athletes but they found a way to spend the money. They wiped everything such that we are now paying the experts from our overheard cost rather than the money actually meant for that. It is as bad as that, I mean what we met on ground. So you can see how long this problem started
“It could have been a lot much better. So this is why we have to struggle with funding when it should not be.”
It was not readily explained what has happened to those entrusted with the funds or if any investigation was carried out to explain exactly how some of the cash developed wings.
A coach who also made an allusion to the reckless spending by those concerned said the athletes should never have complained the way they did if the officials were really accountable.
“Why won’t athletes go to other countries? All the funds they are talking about didn’t walk away; people diverted them. But the painful thing is that many of those who know what went wrong with the funds are in Rio here with us too murmuring or their cronies are here. We didn’t need to go down this far,” he said.
Nigerian athletes returned from the Rio Olympics with just a bronze medal the football team won with less than 24 hours to the end of the competition. It was just a thin line off the result from the London 2012 Olympics where Nigerians returned empty-handed.
From the pre-competition days and all through the events, it was all about poor athletes welfare and arguments over funds.