The Minister for Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, and the Minister of State for Health, Adeleke Mamora, have given more insights into how and why the National Sports Festival billed to commence this weekend was postponed.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported the approval given by President Muhammadu Buhari that the Sports Festival tagged EDO 2020, be moved forward due to the pandemic coronavirus.
While speaking with State House correspondents on Tuesday after meeting Mr Buhari, the sports minister explained that the decision to postpone the biannual multi-sport event was inevitable despite the earlier green light issued for the event to go on as planned
He said: “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development because of the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival, has been in close touch and consultation with the ministry of health – particularly with both the minister of health and the minister of state, health.
“We’ve also been in consultation with the governor and the deputy governor of Edo State, the LOC, and the MOC but we have had the ministry of health take the lead.
“Based on daily review on development, we got assurances that we could go ahead. But because we are dealing with a dynamic situation, this morning, we had a meeting at the ministry of health in the office of the minister of health with the minister of state, health, present, myself, the permanent secretary and the Director-General of NCDC.”
The sports minister said after briefing the president on the development, the postponement was approved and a new date will now be communicated.
He said: “Shortly after the meeting which lasted for about 45 minutes, we proceeded to the presidency to brief Mr President.
“After briefing Mr President, Mr Presdent took the initiative and gave the directive that the National Sports Festival, christened Edo 2020 should be postponed as a precautionary measure against the press of COVID-19. A new date will be communicated late based on development around COVID-19.”
On his part, the Minister of State for Health, Mr Mamora, said the decision to postpone the National Sports Festival was for the good of all.
He said: “I did say that as at that time, if the situation happening thereafter, dictates that certain action be taken, we would not hesitate to take such and so it was against that background that we also had a meeting this morning with the honourable minister of youth and sports and we felt that in the overall interest of Nigerians and national health security, it is better to err on the side of caution and therefore, we conveyed to Mr President our thought and Mr President thereafter kindly agreed that it was best for us to have this postponement.
“One of the things that we need to give attention to is the postponement is the possibility of people carrying the virus even without knowing – what we called asymptomatic – that is they carry it but they don’t even know because they are not manifesting symptoms. And what we need so far is that up to 80 to 81 per cent of people would either be asymptomatic – that is not showing any symptoms or where they show symptoms, the symptoms may just be mild and moderate and this is a major source of what we call community transmission. So the principle of social distancing has to be respected.
“That is preventive or advising against congregation of large number of people starting from the National Sports Festival which stands postponed.
“That also extends to religious gathering or any other gathering that would have a large number of people. It is not advisable at this point in time.”
Before the postponement was announced, a former Nigeria international, Segun Odegbami, had warned against going on with Edo 2020, describing it as a huge risk.
“Nigeria obviously does not have the facilities and infrastructure to manage an outbreak of the disease from such a gathering.
“It is arrogance to disregard the warnings of the world, and take the divine grace of only one infected person so far since the scourge began, as a license to take things for granted.
“With what we see happening in the most advanced countries, we would stand no chance tackling the deadly virus should it descend here with any vigour,” Odegbami warned.
He added: “It is better to prevent than to fight against an enemy the rest of the world is battling to even understand.”
According to the organisers, about 11,000 athletes and their officials had declared readiness to participate in this year’s sports festival tagged Edo 2020.
The National Sports Festival was designed to showcase the best athletes in the country, from elite to up-and-coming, exceptionally gifted, young athletes discovered from every nook and cranny of Nigeria, across all Olympic sports; in a festival of healthy competition, cultural exchange, unity, love and friendship in the true spirit and tradition of the Olympic movement.
The three main objectives for establishing the games were to develop and showcase Nigeria’s best in all sports and to unite the youth of the country.
Nigeria has so far had three confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with one of them later recovering from the disease which has caused over 7,000 deaths globally.