Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, Director General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye, and former Nigerian track & field queen, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, were yesterday unanimous in their opinions that the involvement of Corporate Nigeria in sports sponsorship will help drive the growth of the sector.
Speaking at a stakeholders forum in Lagos yesterday to help attract sponsors from Corporate Nigeria for the19th National Sports Festival tagged the Centenary Games to be staged in Calabar in November, Imoke, said that the games promises to be the best in the country’s history.
“It presents a unique opportunity to chart a new era for Nigerian sports. For the first time, elite athletes will be taking part in the festival. We want this game to represent a new beginning for Nigerian sports. We want to give equal opportunity of fairness, an event devoid of the use of drugs.
“The game is very important to the developments of our youths, hence we are soliciting for the support of corporate Nigeria. We have invested significantly in this games by providing infastructure. We have estimated that we will be spending about N8 billion to host a first-class event.
“We have provided tracks at the stadium and new facilities at the state’s university. We want to organise an event that can meet international standard,” Imoke assured the captains of industries represented at the event.
On his part, the NSC boss, Elegbeleye, said “our task is to offer the best platform for our youths to discover their talents. We hope to use the festival to consolidate on our achievements at the African Youth Games in Gaborone, Botswana where we won a record 40 medals to surpass all previous appearances.
He tasked Corporate Nigeria to support sports development not only as a corporate responsibility, but as an empowerment of the youths.
“Governments invest heavily in sports, so corporate bodies must take up the challenge as well. Whatever you do for sports will be supported by the government through task incentives.”
In her own remarks, Onyali-Omagbemi, said “ The festival is being thrown open to give opportunity to all athletes to compete. If we shut out our athletes, other countries will grab them. It is sad to see our children born in the diasporas compete for other countries because we did not give the opportunities to come and be part of us here. Corporate bodies must therefore support our athletes so that they can become future medalists.”
Business moguls led by Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Tunde Folawiyo and Chairman of the governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Bassey Ewah Henshaw were inducted as patrons of the Centenary Games scheduled to hold between Novemver 27 and December 7.
Over 15,000 athletes are expected to participate in 28 sports at the sports fiesta.