The ongoing 20th National Sports Festival in Benin City could be halted without it even reaching the halfway point as the hosts groan under a heavy financial burden.
The Local Organising Committee of the festival has threatened to put an end to the event, citing a lack of promised financial support from the Federal Government.
“The Local Organising Committee, Edo 2020 regrets to announce that it will end the games abruptly tomorrow, Thursday, April 8, 2021, for lack of funds,” the organisers, under the supervision of the Deputy Governor of Edo State Philip Shaibu, warned in a statement released late on Wednesday night after a meeting.
“Rising from an emergency meeting this evening, the LOC says it has to take this hard decision due to lack of funds having expended its reserves to kick start the games.
“Regrettably, the FG is yet to redeem its pledge to support us as the host state financially for the cost of postponements. So, we are left with no option but to end the games at noon tomorrow.”
It has never happened in the history of the sports festival that it is brought to a halt midway but Edo State could have some justification.
After three postponements of the festival from its initial schedule of March 2020, Edo State was reluctant to host any more, stating that the state would need financial aid from the federal government to organise the ‘Nigerian Olympics’.
After several meetings between the LOC and the Main Organising Committee, which is under the supervision of the sports ministry, the parties agreed that the federal government would provide additional funding for the festival.
Events began on Sunday but the opening ceremony was held on Tuesday with great fanfare, not indicating the crisis that lay ahead.