By Jonathan Abang-Ugbal
The 19th National Sports Festival Kick-off day is less than a month away, but how ready is the state, to host this event?
When the Deputy Governor of Cross River State, Barrister Efiok Cobham received the NAFEST torch in the closing stages of the Eko 2012 games, many believed the sports festival was coming to the home of hospitality and sports.
Back track to December 2013; the Main Organizing Committee okays seven venues; U.J Esuene Stadium, CRUTECH, Calabar Sports Club, COE Akamkpa and Tinapa as venues raising hopes for a ”revolutionized games” as described by Governor Liyel Imoke.
Earlier this year, the Governor claimed all funds have been paid to contractors with the immediate past Sports and Youth Development Commissioner, Patrick Ugbe reiterating these assurances in several for a; in fact a deal was struck with DAAR Communications plc for the live coverage of the games.
However, a recent visit by CrossRiverWatch to the venues slated to host the games uncovered a harsh reality; the venues are not ready!
Excluding the U.J Esuene football pitch, all other venues are still under construction with work halted in some, especially the facilities in CRUTECH.
Further inquiries informed CrossRiverWatch that contrary to the claims made by the State Government, only eighty (80) percent of the funds have been paid to the contractors, with some even submitting revised plans to the consulting firm which they are yet to get replies.
A worker at the site of one of the facilities who spoke on condition of anonymity lamented the pace of work which has halted for several weeks now and doubting the possibility of state hosting the games at the scheduled date.
“We have not been working for a long time now, almost six weeks, the contractor says he has not been paid and we can’t meet the deadline, they have to shift the kick-off date” he said.
The last major event leading to the games was the unveiling of the logo and official Mascot of the games, which was dubbed open National Festival.
A visit to the headquarters of the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports at the Michael Ani Secretariat in Calabar to get update on the festival was not entirely successful as the Permanent Secretary who currently oversees the Ministry following the resignation of the Commissioner just said ”no comment” with staff of the Ministry refusing to say anything.
If the story of lack of funding is true, then it further proves the reportage published by CrossRiverWatch recently that the state is broke.
The 19th National Sports Festival might not hold as scheduled as the secrecy shrouding the construction of facilities tells anything but the positive side as the multipurpose sports hall touted to have been ready by September is less than 60 percent complete.
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