By Mahmud Itohan, Benin
Officials in the ongoing National Sport festival “Edo 2020” in Benin are protesting what they termed ‘myriad of unreasonable disqualification of sportsmen’.
They are accusing the screening committees of bribe taking and favoritism in screening and disqualification process.
The protest is following the disqualification of a 14 years old professional golfer, Ms. Iyene Essien and two others including Ms. Mboko Uloma, and Mr. Mark Joseph.
The disqualified trios are members of the Golf Team representing the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja at the Sports festival.
Second Vice Chairman, FCT Golf Association, Mr. Clinton Agbor who spoke with The Union Nigeria alleged that the screening process was faulty and far-fetched from being transparent.
He said, “We came with five golfers, three ladies and two males for the Edo 2020 National Sport Festival. We are all aware the game is open to amateur and professionals. One of our representatives, Miss Mboko Uloma was disqualified on grounds of being a professional.”
“We paraded 14 years old, Ms Iyene Essien, one of the youngest golfers in West Africa. She was also disqualified on technical grounds which were not explained. Mark Joseph’s name was not found on the list at all. Meanwhile we sent our list as at when requested. So much irregularities.”
Agbor lamented that their appeal to allow the golfers play on protest, according to sports rules, while the committee sorts out the issues, was turned down.
“I moved that they should play on protest. The committee refused. It is sad because we had to take permission to get our youngest golfer, Iyene Essien from school. Her father drove her down to Benin from Abuja due to irregularities in logistics arrangements.”
“All our athletes have gone home. Our team is demoralized. Today we have just one person competing. Only Bola Mustapha was cleared and won silver for us. I think the management should readdress this issue so it doesn’t happen.
“If we are scouting for the best, all sportsmen must be given opportunity to compete. When persons are disqualified without reasons that are tilting towards political motivation and interest, then there is cause for alarm.
Meanwhile, a source who pleaded anonymity, accused the screening committee of collecting bribes from certain teams and participants. “They are collecting cash from certain interests. They screen out supposed threats to their interests. The essence is for the persons they are protecting to go home with gold on a jolly good ride.”
“It is rather sad that even in sports we have allowed these vices to take precedence.
“The whole arrangement for the sports festival has been faulty from the beginning. The festival almost did not hold because funds budgeted for it was not released on time.”
Allegations unfounded – NGF
Board member and acting President of the Nigerian Golf Federation (NGF), Mr. Thaddeus Yilmen, who spoke with The Union Nigeria in response to the allegations, said the decisions of the screening committee were in line with golfing rules.
He described as unfounded, allegations suggesting irregularities in the screening process.
“We are the only sporting federation so far in this National Sports festival to have received commendation from the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for comportment and for following due process.
“We have not received cash or bribe from anybody. We will not receive either. Neither have we disqualified any team from participating. We will look at the issues and anybody found wanting will be sanctioned.”
Secretary of the NGF, Mr. Umar Lambo who also spoke with The Union Nigeria said, the screening committee has not default in any of its duties as it were.
According to him, “This festival has rules and regulations. Each team submitted a long list before the commencement of the games. After that, there is a Delegate Registration meeting (DRM) where we seat with team representatives to confirm the names on their list.
“The main organizing committee thereafter gave a window for change of athletes who must be on the long list. For instance, if you don’t put Ngozi on the long list, you can’t bring her in later. That was exactly what happened to the group.
“Some of the athletes’ names were not on the long list. We tried our best to see what official efforts came made to remedy the situation. It is not fair that we are facing such allegations. We will always do what is right.” Lambo stated.