President Muhamamdu Buhari has tasked the Super Eagles to ensure that Nigeria’s participation in the Russia 2018 World Cup is not as a mere spectator.

This is even as he urged the ministry to ensure that the country sustain the tempo of successes recorded in the sports sector in 2017.

President Buhari’ charge was conveyed by Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, at the weekend, to State House correspondents after a meeting he had with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The minister, however, did not disclose the minimum stage the President demanded that Super Eagles must reach at the competition.

According to him, “The President encouraged me to, in 2018, sustain the tempo of the successes recorded so far in 2017 especially with the World Cup in Russia.

“He challenged me to ensure that Nigeria does not go to Russia as a mere spectator,” he said.

Dalung said he told the President that part of the strategies put in place by his ministry is to ensure that by March, all the Super Eagles’ players are paid their match, training and camp allowances upfront while their bonuses would however be in terms of their progression according to performance at the World Cup.

On how prepared the country is for the World Cup, Dalung said, “For the World Cup, apart from the friendlies we have now, I think we have lined up so many friendlies to play with countries participating in the World Cup and top ranking countries that did not make the World Cup, so as to strengthen our preparation.”

He disclosed that although the budget had been approved, it has not been released.

“The difference we have in the budgetary allocations this time is that the budget is funded by the government, private sector and the federation. The era where government alone will fund such competition is no more acceptable.

“There are grants released by organisers to complement efforts of government, this must be declared and included in the budget. And then the monies realised from sponsorships and marketing will also have to be declared to constitute the budget that will be declared for the World Cup.

“So we have a round figure that has been budgeted which is N3 billion but the Nigeria Football Federation will raise about N1.5 billion from what we are getting from FIFA and Corporate Nigeria, the private sector.

“Government is expected to turn in N2 billion or N1.5 billion for the competition,” he said.

The ministry said the Ministry was waiting for the 2018 Budget which is currently before the National Assembly.

He described 2017 as a good year in sports for Nigeria with the nation recording its best outing so far.

He also recalled that elections were held into the federations.

The development, according to him, helped the nation with the federations winning medals in almost all the competitions.

Dalung said, “I briefed him (the President) about our plans for 2018 because it is a sports year right from February to August, there is no dull moment.

“Right from CAF African Nations Championship to African Youth Champion in wrestling taking place in Port Harcourt, to Commonwealth Games scheduled for Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, between 4 and 15 April 2018, to Basketball, the World Cup in June and the African Championship of the Athletics Federation in Asaba.

“We need the support of the President as usual and funding as it is required to enable our teams succeed.”

For the Commonwealth Games, the Minister said all budgetary allocations had been released and the nation was on course.

He added, “The athletes are in camp; they are training. We have athletes in Port Harcourt while others are in Abuja.

“The challenge basically has been lack of training facilities. As we all know, training facilities has to do with infrastructural deficit in sports because of long time neglect.

“The visit I made to Lagos, the athletes are in high spirit and are maximising the available facilities on ground to do their best but we will cap it up possibly with our budget support with foreign camping.

“After reviewing what is available to us, if we can guarantee it, then we can export some of our areas of comparative advantage. We will send some of our athletes to foreign countries.”

Dalung also disclosed that funds allocated for maintenance of sports infrastructure but misused will be probed and culprits prosecuted in the court of law.

He described lack of patriotism as one of the reasons why sports infrastructure decay because of lack of maintenance.

“When we are talking about patriotism, we have to begin from the foundation, that is the award of the contract. For instance, the National Stadium in Abuja, the contractors retained maintenance. And the cost of maintenance in two, three years is close to the entire contract sum.

“The contract is faulty because it maintains maintenance within the contractual agreement to where it did not foresee circumstances or economic realities will not be there to support it.

“Secondly, lack of patriotism in terms of our maintenance culture. For instance, the National Stadium Lagos, does it mean that since 2003 the stadium was shut down and no maintenance at all? Because that is the only reason to explain its present deplorable state.

“Thirdly, every year, there is a budget for the maintenance of that particular infrastructure, the question is what has become of these budgetary allocations?

“Even if issues were picked one after the other, we should have had over 16 to 18 years’ impact but certainly not this dilapidated state it is. So certainly, the absence of patriotism and maintenance culture is behind this infrastructural decay that we have,” he said.

He explained, “Definitely, there will be investigations because the best way to stop a problem is to try to discover what happened and then put on records for the benefits of future generation so that it serves as a good guide.

“So, investigation is imperative but sanctions will be determined by the legal system and not the bureaucratic system where you appear before a committee and explain.

“It has to go beyond that because huge budgetary allocations were made and if there are no real impact to justify how they were spent, people should be made to account for them.”

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