By Dwelleth Morountodun
The Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, on Saturday charged the Dr. Henry Nzekwu led Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Nigeria Basket Ball Federation (NBBF), committee to hitting the ground running on revamping grassroots youth basketball and making sure that the domestic basketball league returns to reckoning among other games.
The committee includes: Dr. Henry Nzekwu as Chairman, Udon Ubon Humapwa, Frank Jituboh, Zenith Bank Representative, Prof. Adamu Ahmed, Peter Nelson, Group. Captain Rahinatu Garba, Aderemi Adewunmi, Oluchi Nzekwe and Seni Adio (SAN) as members.
The Minister gave them the charge at the inauguration of the 10-member Committee at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja.
He said the inauguration is a demonstration of the government’s commitment to sports development in all its ramifications, stressing that the 2-year slam by President Muhammadu Buhari, becomes overarching as the relationship between sporting federations and governments should be constructive and collaborative and not adversarial.
On why the Committee was set up, Dare, said: “It is of paramount importance to set up this committee to salvage this ugly situation and reverse the trend. No sports federation is bigger than Nigeria’s sovereignty and federations draw their legitimacy from Nigeria as a sovereign nation. The supervisory powers of the ministry of Youth and Sports stand.
“Therefore, using the weapon of interference to remove from government what the laws of Nigeria have given is objectionable and unacceptable.”
“It should be complementary not antagonistic. Whenever there is a departure, it becomes clear that other interests over and above that of the sport and the athletes have crept in. Federations draw their legitimacy from the Federal Government and a sovereign Nigeria.
“Whatever powers the federations and their boards have, they only exercise them on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
“Similarly, whatever privileges they enjoy is at the behest of the Government. They must not seek to take advantage of this privilege to denigrate the authority of the federal government before international organizations and on the altar of enlightened self-interest.”
In an undertone of warning, he said: “Let me also serve this notice: Sports Development in Nigeria does not stop at the doorstep of any sporting federation. NBBF for instance does not have a monopoly on the development of basketball in Nigeria. The Ministry of Sports has the statutory responsibility of oversight and will not be blackmailed into relinquishing it.”
Dare, added that government does not intend in any way to drop its supervisory role or allow Nigeria’s sovereignty to be impugned, explaining that the leadership of every sporting federation holds such federation in trust for the government in which authority resides and is exercised by him.
At this crucial moment, the country is more interested in developing young basketball talents and the domestic league than managing the crisis and disagreements among administrators.
He said: “For years, the basketball value chain has been truncated such that home-based young players, coaches, referees, physical trainers, and sponsors were left empty. The role of the IMC is clearly and carefully set out: develop youth and grassroots basketball and organize the domestic league. Don’t get entangled in Federation politics.
“We have no choice but to take difficult, sometimes unpopular decisions for the growth and benefit of our sports. The Federal Government seeks to reverse this trend of the past where federations depart from the core of their mandates and the Ministry is caught in the web.
“Our athletes at home and abroad have done this country proud, putting the country first. I thank them most sincerely. We urge all stakeholders to come together. The national interest must come first.
“Achieving the needed unity of purpose in this regard is a prerequisite for any sustained and successful development of any sport. With the Basketball, it was no longer possible and feasible to achieve the kind of development that is required, hence the IMC.
Consequently, the government seeks a re-ordering of the fundamentals of basket development with a bottom-up orientation. This is in line with the universal sports code that places grassroots sports development at the core of developing talents and engendering a culture of competition, the Minister added.
He said the Ministry has concluded plans to commence a youth Basketball league and domestic league to help in nurturing home-based players so that we will have a reservoir of players that will represent the country in international events.
This, he added will also afford our players the opportunity of regular competitions at home which will help them get scholarships to universities abroad and clubs that will improve their living standard which will, in turn, have positive effects on the economy of the country.
According to him, the terms of reference of the committee are to draw up programmes that will revamp basketball from the grassroots, attract corporate sponsors and revive the moribund domestic leagues for the development of the game within 2 years, and ensure the development of Basketball facilities in the entire country, and any other thing that will facilitate the development of Basketball in Nigeria.
He said: “I, therefore, charge you to carry out this enormous task ahead of you with the utmost sense of responsibility, bearing in mind that you cannot afford to fail in this National assignment urging stakeholders of the game to come together to accord the committee all the assistance and co-operation it needs to achieve because national interest must come first.