By Oviri Kelvin, Sports Editor
The organizing committee of the recently concluded National Athletics Championship in Benin have vehemently refuted a petition to the Honorable Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare that the athletes were treated with ‘disdain’.
According to the committee, the petition was written by the athletes’ representative on the governing board of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Mr Henry Okorie In a statement by the organizing committee that was saddled with the responsibility to plan, execute and record a successful event that also serves as a platform to pick qualified athletes to represent the nation in the World Athletics Championship in Oregon, USA and Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Okorie is feigning ignorance of the limited funds raised by the committee which was duly given to him to settle athletes’ expenses.
The committee said that while they raised the sum of ten million Naira which was not enough to settle athletes’ bills, the Edo state government helped immensely to provide accommodation for all the participants during the national championship. The Trumpet Gathered
“Our attention has been drawn to the petition written by Henry Okorie, the athletes representative on the board of AFN accusing the chairman of the organizing committee for the championships of not respecting the athletes,” the statement read.
“While we feel it is not necessary to join issues with Okorie who, as a member of the executive board of the AFN, should be abreast of development in the federation especially the organization of the event, it is however necessary we put the record straight for posterity to judge us.
“Okorie pretended not to know that the committee was charged with the responsibility of raising funds for the organization of the championships.
The committee was able to raise N10m for the championships while the Edo State government took care of accommodation, which Okorie allocated to the athletes,” the statement added.
Furthermore, the organizing committee lamented that the ten million was not able to pay for flight expenses for foreign-based athletes, adding that the chairman of the committee, Chief Solomon Ogba went beyond using his personal fund to upset some incurred expenses.
They underlined that Okorie would have thought it wise to ask how the committee, despite the paucity of funds, could achieve such a huge success. The statement continued:
“The N10m raised was not even enough to pay for the flight tickets of the Ghana and Benin relay teams invited for the championships as well as some of our foreign-based athletes.
Okorie should have Ogba added personal funds to assuage expenses endeavored to find out how the committee managed to accomplish the task with just N10m. If he must know, the chairman of the committee he desperately tried to malign used some of his personal money to offset some of the expenses incurred including
the money Okorie collected for the feeding of some of the athletes.
“He should also know that the AFN president and the Delta State Sports Commission also came in to rescue the committee. He may also claim not to be aware of the delegation to the Edo State acting governor, Comrade Philips Shaibu on the first day of the championships who speedily granted the committee’s request for more assistance.
“If he does not know, it is the board of the AFN of which he is a member he has rubbished with his unfounded allegation and not Chief Ogba, who was a two time president of the AFN honored by World Athletics in 2013 with a veterans pin award for his contribution to the development of athletics in Nigeria,” it stated.
More so, the organizing committee implored AFN to refer Okorie to its disciplinary committee as he could not substantiate his allegations, stressing that his actions are capable of soiling the reputation of the federation