Despite the initial apprehensions hanging tough on the organisation of the National Sports Festival (NSF) that was held in Benin City, Edo State, the 20th edition of the biennial sporting exhibition christened “Nigeria’s Olympic” held auspiciously. The festival churned out incredible attainments as various national and festival records were set mainly in swimming events.
President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Chief Sunday Dare, have to be applauded for their intervention and doggedness in ensuring the continuance of the games after the fad produced by the Edo State government’s admonitory to shut down the festival if the counterpart funding expected from the federal government was not released as soon as possible.
Buhari, while declaring open the 20th National Sports Festival, noted that it ought to have taken place one year ago, but due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, it suffered several deferments. He also accentuated its concernment to national peace, unity, development and growth.
We agree no less with the president as sports cannot be treated with levity. With the country currently under the firm grip of banditry, terrorism, herdsmen killings, kidnapping and armed robbery, engaging the youth in sports could go a long way in bringing to a screeching halt the high incidence of criminality. The government has to understand that investment in sports is an investment in youth development and empowerment which unfailingly translates to national development.
The ineffable 20th edition of the competition, which kicked off with an opening ceremony on April 6 at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, drawing participants from the 36 states across the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), somewhat lived up to its billing as a cultural and religious melting pot.
Recall that the national sports festival was introduced in 1973 to promote mass participation in sports and strengthen the fragile unity of the nation following the bitterly fought civil war of 1967 to 1970. The game also serves as a development and training event to aid athletes to prepare for continental and other international meets.
It is not a prodigy that the incredible rise in Nigeria’s sports profile – until the recent setback – has everything to do with the festival. It was meant to uncover talents in their raw configuration for victuals to international standards. Since the first edition in 1973, the improvement in the nation’s sports has been observed across all the disciplines, most especially in football, boxing and athletics.
The festival has equally helped states to advance their sports amenities. Whenever a state is nominated to host the competition, a lot of brace is directed at improving its infrastructure across the board as it was evidenced in the current host state, Edo, whose infrastructural upswing would become the permanent heritage that would serve the state long beyond the event.
However, we are greatly troubled that the national sports fiesta has been adjudged the worst ever organised by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development. This impression is also held by stakeholders in the sports sector including the participants and the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN).
It was alleged that the festival was characterised by altercations, shenanigans, manipulations and outright browbeating, primarily by Team Edo and their backers which placed a huge question mark on the virtue of the games. Poor officiating and alleged financial baits to officials by some states were substantiated. There was also the participation of non-Nigerian nationals thereby inhibiting the process of replacing ageing talents.
At the Cultural Centre, where the boxing event held, hell was let loose during a brawl between Lagos and Ogun States. Fans at the venue conflicted as the declared result of the fight did not indicate what the fans glimpsed. Tables and chairs were used freely to disperse the ring, while officials ran for safety. It took security operatives quite a while to restore order before the competition could start again more than two hours later.
Nonetheless, the most appalling development of the sporting event was the open thievery against Godwin of Rivers, who won his semi-final fight only to realise that his conquered opponent from Ondo was scheduled to appear in the fight for gold to the discomfiture of his coach and Team Rivers officials. It was later learnt that the fight was awarded to the loser after the competition had ended.
There was a catastrophe and a dispute at the football final women competition where Team Edo fans and officials tried their best to coerce and harass Lagos. Edo eventually won the final 1-0 but the men’s final between the same states almost failed to hold as Lagos declined to participate in the game because of what occurred to their women counterpart. Lagos had to be persuaded to play.
These developments at the National Sports Festival are indeed ignominious and run contrary to the spirit and objectives of the festival which is to fast track national integration, talent discovery and sports advancement. There is a pressing need to reconsider these objectives. As far as those disruptions go, for us, Edo 2020 is a disappointment when compared to the organising and performances of past editions of the competition.
We implore sports federations to effectively ensure that men and women of ascertained integrity are engaged as technical officials in future festivals. States should prioritise sports funding rather than cutting corners. Team Edo’s irascibility and win-at-all-cost attitude are denounced. This practice must be prohibited as it could undermine the National Sports Festival which has produced great sportsmen and women that have made our country proud.
Immortalising Herbert Wigwe
Tears and emotions are running high as the countdown to the burial of the Wigwes draws nearer. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, his wife, Chizoba, and their eldest son, Chizi, tragically lost their lives in a helicopter crash in the United States of America. Among the victims was the former Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Abimbola Ogunbanjo. The families of the deceased have released a week-long burial programme for the late Wigwes, starting on March 4, and culminating in the burial on March 9.
Herbert Wigwe was born on August 15, 1966, in Ibadan and died at 58. He hailed from Isiokpo, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State. His father was the head of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), and his mother was a nurse. Herbert earned a bachelor’s degree in Accountancy from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1987. He then pursued a Master’s degree in Banking and International Finance from the University College of North Wales, followed by a Master’s degree in Financial Economics from the University of London.
He began his career at Coopers & Lybrand Associates, where he developed chartered accountancy skills. He then worked at Guaranty Trust Bank Plc for over a decade, taking on various leadership roles. In 2002, he led the transformation of Access Bank Plc as its Deputy Managing Director. He became Group Managing Director/CEO in 2014, leading Access Bank to become one of Nigeria’s top five banking institutions. He also served as the Chairman of Access Bank Ghana Limited, Access Investment & Securities Limited, Central Securities and Clearing System (CSCS), and was the Chairman of Access Bank (UK) Limited until his passing.
In 2016, in recognition of his exemplary role in society and contributions to youth development, the Boys’ Brigade (BB) appointed Herbert as Patron for Lagos State Council. He was also named Banker of The Year in the same year by both The Sun and Vanguard newspapers.
Herbert Wigwe’s personal life was defined by his unwavering commitment to family, faith, and a wide range of interests. He was happily married to Chizoba Doreen Wigwe (nee Nwuba), a successful lawyer and entrepreneur. The couple was blessed with four children: Chizi, Tochi, Hannah, and David. Herbert’s devotion to his family was apparent in the precious moments he shared with them, cherishing every opportunity to be together.
A man of strong faith, he was known for his devout Christianity and active participation in the activities of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). As a pastor and mentor within his faith community, he impacted the lives of many with his wisdom and guidance. Herbert’s dedication to his beliefs was evident in the way he lived his life, always striving to be a positive example to those around him. He had unwavering commitment to his faith, and his influence within the church was profound.
His humanitarian efforts have had a significant impact through the non-profit organisation he established in 2016 — The HOW Foundation. As a result of his successful and selfless service to millions of underprivileged individuals in society, he was honoured with the Nigerian national award of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) by former President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2022.
The pride of Ikwerreland, and indeed, Rivers State, lies in the upcoming world-class Wigwe University located at Isiokpo, the headquarters of Ikwerre Local Government Area. Herbert had invested half a billion dollars in the institution, focusing on management, science and engineering, Information Technology (IT) and creative arts. The institution is due for commissioning in September 2024, bringing a new era of higher education to the region.
The passing of Dr Herbert Wigwe has left a deep void in the hearts of many, with tributes pouring in from all over the world. President Bola Tinubu expressed his shock and sorrow at the “overwhelming tragedy of Dr Wigwe’s death”. Governors also paid their respects, highlighting his industry, spirit of excellence, and status as a business icon of repute.
During the Night of Tributes in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, acknowledged Herbert’s impactful life and positive influence on society. Fubara expressed his administration’s determination to immortalise him as a worthy son of the state. He described his passing as a double loss, both as an in-law and as a trailblasing individual who embodied the resilience and ambition of Rivers people.
The Senate paid tributes to the late Herbert Wigwe, expressing sorrow over his passing and acknowledging the immense loss to Nigeria, Africa, and the world. A former governor and classmate of Wigwe at Federal Government College in Sokoto, Senator Aminu Tambuwal, shared his memories of his generosity in providing 10 Hajj seats to his people even though he was a Christian. Senate President Godswill Akpabio praised the late finance expert as a true pan-Africanist who successfully expanded Access Bank’s global reach.
The outpouring of grief and messages within the country and across the world testify to Herbert’s extraordinary qualities and outstanding contributions. He was an exceptional person who never let his remarkable achievements diminish his compassion for others. While some people lose touch with their roots after reaching the pinnacle of success, he remained connected to people from all walks of life. He maintained relationships with his high-profile acquaintances, as well as with his secondary school classmates, church members, village chiefs, community leaders, and former colleagues.
From one end of the spectrum to the other, Herbert consistently embodied his witty, kind, humorous, and amiable self. He had a deep passion for youths and initiated numerous mentorship programmes for them. His philanthropic efforts through his foundation are widely recognised. The establishment of a university for what he called the ‘fearless’ generation will always be a lasting legacy. We are thrilled that the individuals he brought together to bring the university to life have pledged to continue his dream.
Undeniably, the late Herbert Wigwe deeply connects with our shared social awareness. Therefore, in line with Governor Fubara’s stance, we strongly believe that the esteemed banker should be commemorated for his remarkable and exceptional character. This will serve to educate present and future generations on the values of hard work, innovation, and perseverance. By immortalising him, we can inspire people to strive for greatness and contribute to the creation of a society that is as commendable as those we choose to celebrate.
May God grant their souls: Dr Herbert Wigwe, his lovely wife, Chizoba Doreen, and son, Chizi, eternal rest!
Towards Cutting Cost Of Governance
After many years in limbo, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has given approval to the 2012 Steve Oronsaye Committee Report, which suggests merging, scrapping or subsuming certain ministries, departments, agencies (MDAs) and commissions of the government with similar functions. The approval was given at the FEC meeting on Monday, February 26. This decision is aimed at reducing the cost of governance and improving efficiency within the government.
The administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, which established the committee in 2011, did not follow through with the recommendations. Instead, it issued a White Paper to show executive acceptance. Similarly, former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration released a White Paper on the report and made efforts to put it into action. However, it later reversed course after taking a few initial steps, leading to the consolidation of few government agencies.
Recall that the Oronsaye committee submitted a report consisting of 800 pages on April 16, 2012. The report on public sector reforms revealed that there are 541 Federal Government parastatals, commissions, and agencies and suggested that 102 agencies and parastatals should be abolished or merged, while others were suggested to be self-funding. The committee identified a significant amount of competition among multiple overlapping agencies. This competition not only caused resentment among government agencies but also led to unnecessary wastage of funds.
Also recommended by the committee, among other things, was the stoppage of government funding for professional bodies and councils. The main aim of these measures was to prudently allocate funds for essential infrastructure projects all over the country. Oronsaye’s report received a mixed response as job cuts were expected. But, many people believed that despite the impact on agencies and individuals, the civil service would become stronger and more efficient.
A statement signed by the Special Adviser on Information and Strategy to President Tinubu, Bayo Onanuga, in Abuja, provided the details of the resolutions reached during the FEC meeting. According to Onanuga, an eight-man committee had a 12-week deadline to ensure that the necessary legislative amendments and administrative restructuring needed to implement the reforms were effected efficiently.
Among the principal suggestions are the inclusion of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission under the Fiscal Commission and Revenue Mobilisation departments. The Bureau of Public Enterprise will merge with the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission, renaming it the Public Enterprises and Infrastructural Concession Commission. Public Complaints Commission and National Human Rights Commission will merge.
The report proposes the restructuring of several agencies, including the scrapping of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), merging the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and National Commission for Refugees into the National Emergency and Refugee Management Commission, and renaming the Border Communities Development Agency as a department under the National Boundary Commission. The report also consolidates the Code of Conduct Bureau, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission as National Anti-Corruption Commission.
The Federal Ministry of Science will oversee a new agency combining NCAM, NASENI, and PRODA, while the National Commission for Museums and Monuments and Gallery of Arts will merge into a single entity. The National Theatre will become one with National Troupe, and the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa and Directorate of Technical Aid Corp will unite under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among others.
We applaud the Tinubu administration for taking bold steps to address high governance costs by incorporating recommendations from the Orosanye report. In a time when many Nigerians are facing challenges and the economy is showing signs of weakness, reducing the expenses associated with governance will help redirect resources to areas of greater need and stimulate economic growth.
It is truly heartwarming to see that after many years of hesitation and a lack of political will to take the necessary actions to achieve the desired results, especially following the release of the Jonathan and Buhari White Papers on the report, the Federal Government has finally recognised the importance of fully implementing the recommendations of the Oronsaye report on civil service reform.
This report should be implemented without further delay, as many MDAs are not only draining the economy but were established for political purposes. The funds saved from the consolidation and elimination of these agencies could be better utilised to establish industries and create employment opportunities across the country. The industries should be self-sustaining, reducing the need for annual budgetary allocations.
There is a fear that implementing the report could lead to mass layoffs of workers. But the Federal Government has assured Nigerians that genuine employees of the affected MDAs would be redeployed to appropriate offices without any job losses. We hope that the Federal Government will see this task through. While the assignment may seem challenging, it is definitely achievable with determination. This is an area the Tinubu government can make a positive impact. And if religiously implemented, it obviously will help cut down the cost of governance to save scarce resources and funds for areas of critical need. This is the right way to go!
Towards Sustainable Tourism In Nigeria
In a resolution passed on February 6, 2023, the UN General Assembly declared February 17, to be Global Tour-
ism Resilience Day. The resolution emphasised the importance of encouraging sustainable tourism development. The disruptive and critical effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel and tourism sector informed this decision. Additionally, it drew upon precedent UN resolutions, conferences, and agendas highlighting environmental sustainability and bolstering industry resilience.
Tourism is a vital industry that contributes to sustainable development and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in developing countries. It provides income, foreign currency earnings, tax revenue, and employment, and connects people with nature, promoting environmental responsibility and conservation. This cross-cutting industry is particularly beneficial for Africa and middle-income countries.
Sustainable tourism, including ecotourism, promotes economic growth, poverty alleviation, employment, and decent work. It accelerates lasting consumption, promotes sustainable use of oceans and marine resources, and enhances local culture. It improves the quality of life for women, young people, indigenous communities, and rural populations, ultimately contributing to the achievement of the SDGs.
Utilising endurable and resilient tourism as a means to promote continuous and inclusive economic growth, social development, and financial inclusion facilitates the formalisation of the informal sector. It also supports domestic resource mobilisation, environmental protection, the elimination of poverty and hunger, as well as the conservation and tenable utilisation of biodiversity and natural resources. Moreover, sustainable tourism encourages investment and entrepreneurship in the industry.
Tourism plays a vital role in supporting numerous direct and indirect employment opportunities globally, especially benefiting women and young individuals. In certain small island nations and developing economies, tourism makes up more than 20 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The economic impact of tourism, indicated by the tourism direct GDP, was calculated at $1.9trillion in 2021, surpassing the $1.6trillion reported in 2020. However, it still remains lower than the pre-pandemic figure of $3.5trillion.
Tourism is a rapidly growing global economic sector, and destination countries must develop it sustainably to maximise benefits. Nigeria, with its vast geography, cultural diversity, and historical sites, has established tourism ministries to capitalise on its potential. The country’s landscape holds great potential for a sector that can compete with black gold in terms of foreign exchange earnings, making it an attractive destination for tourists.
However, owing to the considerable financial gains obtained from the oil industry, tourism, along with other sectors of our economy such as agriculture and solid minerals, has been severely overlooked. For instance, the annual Osun Osogbo Festival and the Calabar Carnival have been sustained; thanks to the dedicated initiatives of private sector contributors. These events have propelled the city of Calabar into international recognition in recent years.
The previously lively Argungu Fishing Festival, the renowned Argungu Motor Rally, the Yankari Game Reserve, the Jos Wildlife Park, the Olumo Rock, the Asop Falls, and the boat regatta in the coastal regions of Nigeria, particularly Opobo and Andoni, have all seen a decline.
In contrast, the Elmina Slave Castle in Ghana remains a popular destination for tourists seeking to learn about the tragic history of trans-Atlantic slave trade victims. Monuments in Nigeria such as those in Calabar, Lagos, and Badagry are gradually losing their significance in the global tourism landscape.
The Mambilla Plateau, Gashaka-Gumti Game Reserve, Ngel-Nyaki Forest Reserve, and Taraba’s indigenous festivals are potential tourism destinations that could generate revenue comparable to Nigeria’s oil sector earnings. Proper promotion of these attractions could boost the states’ economies and improve their status as one of the poorest in Nigeria. Yobe and Borno states also have the Dagona Birds Sanctuary, attracting diverse bird species from Europe, North America, Australia, and Asia.
Several key landmarks showcase Nigeria’s rich history and potential, such as the 8,000-year-old Dafuna Canoe, the Tulo-Tulowa – dubbed the ‘Desert Land of Hope,’ – as well as the shrinking Lake Chad, which could have thrived as a critical tourist and economic centre. More could have been done by the government to preserve and support these treasures.
The pertinent government bodies must safeguard our biodiversity by penalising those who partake in haphazard bush burning and deforestation. The government should increase funding for infrastructure development and showcase Nigerian tourism attractions globally on international media platforms and embassies. There should be private sector involvement. The authorities should also intensify efforts to tackle security challenges in areas that could negatively impact the sector, such as terrorism, armed banditry, kidnapping, and other allied crimes. Tourists would not visit a country suffering acute security challenges, despite the attractiveness of its tourism destinations.
To address spending deficits and inflation, diversifying the economy is crucial. Tourism, with its substantial revenue sources, can fund government policies and programmes. States like Rivers can use tourism to stimulate economic growth, create new jobs, and foster community connections. This initiative will boost revenue, fuel developmental efforts, strengthen social bonds, and promote peace and cultural unity.
Exploring new investment opportunities in tourism in areas like Port Harcourt, Bonny, Andoni, Opobo, Kono, Okomoko, Oyigbo, Umuebule, Abonnema, Degema, Buguma, Mbiama, Ndoni, Isaka, Okrika, Ogu, and others, will not only attract tourists but also drive development to these regions. With their beautiful beaches and other tourist attractions, these areas have the potential to become popular destinations, creating jobs and boosting the local economy.
The Songhai farm has the potential to be revived, offering opportunities for tourists to appreciate the vast resources available in the state, just as it did in the past. Similarly, the waterfronts in Port Harcourt can be transformed into beautiful beaches for tourists to enjoy. With these in place, the social life in the city can be restored with exponential investments in tourism. Not only will tourists have a new attraction to visit, but residents will also benefit from improved living conditions.
This is why we urge increased government investments in tourism through a pragmatic diversification policy that is inclusive and innovative. We commend a vigorous private-public partnership that taps from the abundant tourism potential in the state to create an enabling environment for enduring peace and sustainsble development. We insist on a deliberate government strategy to boost investments in tourism and broaden citizen interactions to enhance healthy living and wellness in the state.
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