This is not the best of time for Nigerian athletics. For three days and two nights, Nigeria’s athletes and officials to the 2019 African U-18 and U-20 Athletics Championships were on the road navigating their way to the competition venue in Abidjan, capital of Cote d’Ivoire.
The contingent was said to have departed from the Gateway International Stadium in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State aboard four luxury buses at about 5am on April 13 with 85 athletes and unspecified number of coaches.
Among top officials on the trip to Abidjan was the Technical Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Sunday Adeleye, who left Ijebu-Ode on his private car. The president of the AFN, Ibrahim Gusau was said to have jetted out earlier to Abidjan by flight.
Before they left Ijebu-Ode, an official of the AFN was said to have assured the athletes that the trip would take less than 20 hours.
However, The Guardian learnt yesterday that the contingent spent over 32 hours on their way to Abidjan, following delay occasioned by series of stopovers, as some of the bus drivers missed their way.
Team Nigeria was said to have arrived at the venue a few hours to the start of the games yesterday morning, with the athletes completely down with fatigue. The championship, which began yesterday, will end on April 20.
It was also gathered that the AFN could not secure funds from the sports ministry needed for the competition.
A source told The Guardian that there was a directive from the sports ministry to the AFN that it won’t be able to fund the athletes’ camping and traveling to Abidjan, and that it won’t also be able to pay competition allowance to Team Nigeria.
The buses, which conveyed the athletes to Cote d’Ivoire was said to have been provided by some board members of the AFN and some former athletes, as accommodation and feeding was expected to be catered for by the organisers.
he Guardian recalls that Nigeria failed to send a team to the 2017 edition of the championship in Algeria due to paucity of funds, which the AFN and Sports Ministry were unable to raise.