Niger Delta Affairs Ministry is coughing out a whooping $10.2m about (N1.7bn) from its 2010 budget for the sponsorship of the lingering World Cruiser Weight Boxing Tournament between Bash Ali of Nigeria and Gunn of United States, The Tide can now reveal.
The Guinness World Records’ tournament to be hosted by Nigeria at Tinapa resort, Calabar is at the instance of the Atlanta, Georgia – based International Boxing Union (IBU) and has received the endorsement of Nigerian authorities – the presidency, National Assembly, Sports Ministry and National Sports Commission (NSC). If Ali wins, his (and Nigeria’s) name could enter Guinness book of Records as the oldest boxer ever to win such a tournament.
The fight earlier slated for December 12, 2009 could not hold due to apathy and doubt about the authenticity of the fight on the part of Sports Ministry authorities which invariably affected the sponsorship.
To protect what he viewed as a deliberate attempt by the Federal Ministry of Sports to frustrate him, Bash Alli, Nigeria’s World Cruiser Weight Champion and holder of the highest national honour ever given to a Nigerian athlete, Officer of the order of the Niger (OON) resorted to staying at Force Headquarters Bus stop, directly opposite the Nigerian Police Headquarters, along Shehu Shagari Way, Abuja which he adorned with banners highlighting his plight.
The Tide learnt that the decision of the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry to sponsor the fight was borne out of the conviction of the Ministry’s officials, particularly the Minister, Chief Ufot Ekaette that the fight is a viable project that is good for the nation and indeed, the Niger Delta region, – Bash Alli being a Niger Deltan, from Delta State, although he grew-up in Lagos.
The Ministry first signaled its intention to sponsor the fight via a letter to the Chairman, National Sports Commission, dated August 27, 2009 and signed by one Dahaltu Sule for the Minister.
Titled; Membership in a Committee; with Reference No. CYD/01/07/VOL.1/45, the letter which copy The Tide got in the course of our investigation into the sponsorship of the imminent fight, reads: “I am directed to inform you that the Ministry is in the process of supporting an International Boxing Tournament between Bash Ali of Nigeria and John Keelon of Britain (the opponent of Bash Ali at the time)
“We are therefore seeking for your nominee to serve as member of the committee that will work out the modalities on how to arrange and finance the tournament. Your nominee should be an officer not below the rank of Assistant Director. Please accept the Honourable Minister’s best regard”.
Our investigation shows that although the letter was dispatched and stamped: “Received” on the same day that it was written (August 27, 2009), the National Sports Commission (NSC) did not nominate anybody as requested by the Niger Delta Ministry and that forestalled the composition of the Sponsorship and local Organizing committee for the World Boxing tournament.
The Tide learnt in Abuja that while the imbroglio occasioned by the NSC lasted, Ali protested to President, Umaru Yar’Adua via a letter dated September 28, 2009 and the office of the President reacted promptly by directing the Minister of Sports to “kindly treat as deemed appropriate”.
The President’s letter, dated September 30, 2009 with Reference No: SH/PSP/22/111 and signed by the Principal Secretary to the President, Mr. David Edevbie is titled: “Re: Bash Ali Boxing Project: Local Organizing Committee”
It reads: “I write with reference to a letter dated September 2009 (copy attached) to His Excellency, Mr. President, from Mr. Bash Ali, OON, World Boxing Champion, regarding the above mentioned subject matter. I should be grateful if you would kindly treat as deemed appropriate. Please accept, Honourable Minister, the assurances of my highest consideration and esteem.”
Our Abuja correspondent reports that there was still inaction in spite of the President’s letter, prompting the intervention of the House of Representatives which deliberated on a motion on the tournament on October 14 and directed the Minister of Sports and Chairman of NSC via a letter signed by Clerk of the House, Mr. Niyi Ajiboye on October 15 “to nominate a member to join the Local Organising Committee of the World Boxing Championship to enable Nigeria satisfy the condition precedent required for actualization of the hosting right which would expire on Friday 16th October, 2009”
The Tide learnt that it was at this point that Sports Ministry and NSC officials nominated a member into the tournament’s LOC but it was rather too late as the Niger Delta Ministry was said to have spent the money earlier earmarked for the championship, prompting the Minister (Chief Ekaette) to be invited by the House Committee on Appropriation and assured that the N1.7 billion if included in the Ministry’s 2010 budget, would be approved by the House.
Informed Sources at the House Committee on Appropriation told The Tide last week that the committee received assurance from Chief Ekaette that the amount would be reflected in the Ministry’s 2010 budget and would be used solely for the purpose – sponsorship of Bash Alli Guinness World Record Title Fight;
When The Tide called at the Ministry office yesterday in Abuja to confirm this, the Hon minister was said not to be on seat but his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Osamor claimed ignorance of the development, saying “I’m not aware of that”. However, Bash Alli when contacted at his Force Headquarters Bus Stop temporary abode confirmed the development.
Ali told The Tide “I met (Chief) Ufot Ekaette, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Ministry on December 22, 2009 at the National Assembly and he agreed before the chairman and members of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriation that this is a viable project and it’s very good for the Niger Delta so they asked him to go and put it in his (Ministry’s 2010) budget, and that it will be approved so this is where we are, as at today.”
The world renowned pugilist who is referred to in New York Times as one of the greatest boxers to emerge from this part of the world thanked the Cross River State Government for donating the Venue of the fight and supporting with accommodation, food and drinks while berating Sports Ministry and NSC officials for their inaction which has delayed the fight till now and prompted its re-scheduling from December 12, 2009 to February 27, 2010, which is Ali’s 54th Birthday.
One Year Anniversary: Governor Wike Sues For Unity
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has called on Rivers people no matter their political affiliation to join hands with his administration to build a stable and vibrant economy.
In a state-wide broadcast to mark the first year of his second term in office today, Governor Wike noted that the state can overcome the present global economic situation if citizens come together in unity of thought and purpose.
“Yes, we can if we resolve to downplay our individual differences and work together for the common good of our heritage, our lovely State, our communities and our people. As a government, we welcome constructive criticisms devoid of politics and mischief, because they serve to make us better performers.
“This is a time for governance, not politics, and we welcome everyone on board to create an environment that promotes balanced economic growth, thriving private investments, boundless opportunity and a State we can truly call our pride and heritage.
“For us, nothing matters more than Rivers State, our people, our interests, our treasures, our enormous resources and assets, our accomplishments and our greatness,” he stated.
The Governor pointed out that within the last one year, his administration had embarked on urban renewal programme in the State capital and the construction of the multi-billion naira three flyover projects at Rebisi, Okoro-nu-Odo and Rumuogba.
He said that the dualization of Kira- Sapkenwa-Bori-Kono Road straddling three local government areas in Ogoni heartland has reached 92 percent completion.
The Oyibo(Mbano camp) road to Iriebe linking Oyigbo and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas had been completed while Alesa-Agbonchia-Oyigbo, Rumuakunde/Isiodu and the second phase of Isiokpo community Roads had also been completed.
Rumuji-Ibaa-Isiokpo, Omoku-Egbema, Odufor-Akpoku-Umuoye, Ula Ehuda-Odioku-Anwunugboko-Ubeta-Ihuechi-Odiereke, Umueze-Umuogba-Umuokpurukpu-Umueke-Umunju-Umuelechi-Eberi, Eteo-Sime-Nonwa and Abonnema Ring Roads have reached various stages of completion.
In addition, the governor said, work has commenced on the expansion of the entire stretch of Ikwerre Road from Education Bus Stop to the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
According to him, the long abandoned roads to the coastal communities of Opobo and Andoni in Opobo/Nkoro and Andoni Local Government Areas has almost been delivered with appreciable work already done on the Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo Unity Road.
On healthcare delivery, the governor said the Mother and Child Hospital has been furnished, equipped and only undergoing necessary testing and preparations for commissioning.
The Braithwaite Memorial Hospital, he said, has been fully equipped and converted to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) leading to the accreditation of the programmes of that facility for the training of medical students by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.
Governor Wike stated that the regional referral hospitals in Degema, Bori and Degema are presently being equipped while structural work is on-going on the ones located in Omoku and Etche.
The State Chief Executive pointed out that funds had been released for comprehensive upgrade of Enitonnia High School, Comprehensive Secondary School, Borikiri, Obama High School, Degema, Community Secondary School, Tombia, Community Secondary School, Omuanwa in Ikwerre Local Government Area and Kalabari National College, Buguma.
Others include, Community Secondary School, Kugbo in Abua/Odual Local Government, Community Secondary School, Obeakpu in Oyigbo Local Government and Community Secondary School, Eteo in Eleme Local Government Area.
On Real Madrid Academy, Governor Wike announced that the construction of students’ hostels is progressing and that the school would soon open for simultaneous football and related training programmes.
He said in line with the promise to refocus on agricultural development, the Datco Cassava Processing Plant with a guaranteed off-market opportunities for 3000 local cassava farmers would soon be completed to stimulate cassava revolution in the state.
The governor regretted that despite the advisories and regulations on social distancing and compulsory wearing of face masks, most residents are flouting the directives to the collective peril of all.
“These are all irresponsible and risky behaviour in the face of the invisible and ravaging pandemic and the enormous threat it poses to public health and the safety of human lives.
“We shall bring the full weight of the law to bear on every recalcitrant person, business or institution, irrespective of status who decides to treat the existing orders and regulations for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in our State with contempt.
“Government may be forced to reinstate lockdown if members of the public continue to flout and disregard the established regulations on social distancing and the compulsory wearing of face masks,” he said.
Governor Wike however, commiserated with the families of those that lost their loved ones to the pandemic and prayed for the peaceful repose of their innocent souls.
He said that while we pray for the quick success, for the global search, for vaccines, the responsibility still rests on everyone to strictly comply with the established mitigating measures.
A Statewide Broadcast By His Excellency Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON, GSSRS, POS, To Mark The First Year Of His Second Term In Office …My Dear Good People of Rivers State
Rivers State Set To Inaugurate Cassava Plant …To Employ 4,500 Persons
The Rivers State Cassava Processing Company located at Afam, Oyigbo Local Government Area will soon come on stream.
Governor Nyesom Wike who stated this Thursday after inspecting the plant, pointed out that the company when fully operational would employ 4,500 persons and also boost agriculture in the state.
He stated that the State Government has 70 percent equity share in the project which is in partnership with Shell Petroleum Development Company(SPDC) of Nigeria.
“We are quite happy that this project which was initiated by the previous administration in 2012 and abandoned has come to the stage of completion.
“When we came on board and saw the usefulness of this project to our economy, we did not hesitate to release funds to complete it.
“As you can see this project which is about 90 percent complete would have been commissioned this month if not for the COVID-19 pandemic which has negatively impacted global economy.
“Let me commend the management of this plant for fast-tracking the completion and the novel initiative that will use mobile machines to collect cassava from the farmers at their various clusters.
“This, will no doubt, reduce the challenge of logistics and increase farmer participation, ” the governor stated.
Earlier, the Managing Director of the Rivers State Cassava Processing Company, Ruben Giesen noted that the cassava processing plant when completed would increase income for small holder farmers by providing an enabling environment for them to sell their cassava tubers.
He also disclosed that the plant would produce about 45 thousand metric tons of cassava flour daily while about 12 thousand metric tons of cassava tubers would be needed for collection by its mobile plants from farmers around the state for processing.
Mr. Giesen commended the State Governor for embarking on the project, which he described as the first of its kind in sub-saharan Africa.
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