By Jonathan Ugbal and Elijah Ugani
Despite failing to host the 19th edition of the National Sports Festival which it won hosting rights and was slated for 2014, the Cross River State government says it will bid for the hosting of the 20th edition in 2020.
After several postponement, the federal government moved the sports to Abuja.
But, Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade while receiving the torch of unity for the games, declared the readiness of the Atate to bid for the hosting of the 2020 National Sports Festival following the letter of invitation sent by the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung.
Represented by the Chairman of the Cross River State Sports Commission, Orok Duke, Mr. Ayade said that: “let me announce to you that His Excellency has approved in principle that bid for the 2020 hosting of the national sports festival following the invitation sent to us by the honorable minister.”
He said the inability of the State to host the games in 2014 which he goofed by saying 2012 was due to the failure of the federal government to release a “token” for the State.
“I must use this opportunity to complained that we asked for a little token from the federal government to host in 2012, it was not forthcoming, but today, the federal government is using same money to host it in Abuja, we are not angry, this is the home of sports, football, cricket and hockey all started here in 1902.
“I accept this touch of unity on behalf of the government, people and the all the athletes from Cross River State, His Excellency approved that Cross River State should take part in this festival, for us, it is a matter of sadness and joy, you are quite aware that in 2012, when we took over, we were unable to host due to finances.”
The torch was presented to the State by the South South Zonal Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sonny Obot which he said served as an invitation.
“This touch is an indication to invite Cross River State to participate in the National Sports Festival scheduled to hold on 6th to 16th of December, 2018 at Abuja.
“This touch is a symbol of peace, this touch is a symbol of unity, an indication that peace has come to stay in Cross River State and that peace will remain here,” Obot said.
CrossRiverWatch had in an investigation, revealed that the State could not hold the games as scheduled in 2014 due to the failure of the then local organising committee to complete the infrastructure.
Less than a week after that report was published, the postponement was announced and in late 2015, CrossRiverWatch reported that funding had been the problem with Governor Ayade explaining to reporters about a month letter in September 2015.
And, despite ordering contractors to site in December 2015, the contractors called the bluff of the contractors and did not return till date.
Athletes had expressed fears about the new date announced by the State as the youths and sports commissioner, Asu Okang had in January 2016 said that the games will hold by the second quarter while months later, Orok Duke said it will hold in October 2016.
But, another CrossRiverWatch investigation showed that the games will not hold as scheduled and for the remainder of 2016.
A month later in October 2016, the State lost the hosting rights to Abuja and in November facts emerged that the State had requested for NGN650 million to complete the facilities.
The games were rescheduled for 2017 and in April 2017, Mr. Dalung expressed optimism that the State may still host the games which were later rescheduled for 2018 in July 2017.
The confirmation that the State was stripped of the hosting rights came in February 2018, thirteen months after the State denied it.
And, Mr. Duke said that there are about 7 legal cases bordering on the construction and rehabilitation, but promised that they will be completed.
No fewer than 55 athletes from Cross River State are expected to participate in the sports fiesta.
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