Nigeria Netball Crisis: CSED, Stakeholders Condemn Alleged Registration, Threaten Legal Action
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By Our Correspondent
The state of netball in Nigeria over the years had left many followers, stakeholders concerned, aghast and worried. But with concerted efforts of some individuals under the aegis of Community Sports and Educational Development, CSED Initiative and the Naija Netball Stakeholders, NNF concerted foundational activities including construction of netball courts, training of players, coaches, have been achieved in given time.
However, the constitution of the leadership of the Nigeria Netball Federation, NNF by the ministry of youth and sports development have thrown the federation into crisis that need to be nipped in the bud.
Trustee of CSED Initiative and sports for change activist, Cornelius Ehimiaghe and members of the Naija Netball Stakeholders have been in the forefront of championing the development of netball for some years name with visible records.
It is no wonder then that the CSED Initiative and Naija Netball Stakeholders have questioned the intent the actions of Dr Esther Oluwatoyin Aluko and Dr Henry Nzekwu) who have allegedly ‘illegally’ registered the Nigeria Netball Federation (NNF)
The Naija Netball Stakeholders view the action of the President and General Secretary of NNF as an illegal action that violates the principle of justice and fairplay.
An aggrieved Mr Ehimiaghe claims that the duo were imposed on the netball stakeholders by the top hierarchy of the Sports Ministry, who failed Nigerians in conducting their developmental and supervisory role in respect of netball, in the past one decade.
“Now that they have seen the gradual progress of ‘PROJECT 2027’ (CSED Initiative programme of making one million Nigerian school girls to be aware of netball), they are now trying to be a clog in the wheel of progress. Naija Netball Stakeholders see the recent move by Dr Esther Aluko and her backers as a desperate attempt to further their personal interest of being relevant in the sports sector in Nigeria.
“As they do not have any major contribution they have made to the development of grassroots sports in Nigeria, apart from relying on the goodwill of their principals, in order to short-change the Nigerian taxpayers, at whose expense they have lived on throughout their more than thirty years of being involved in sport in Nigeria.
“Members of Naija Netball stakeholders expressed their disappointment with the way some friends and associates of principal officers of the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development and the NOC have been allowed to hijack the development of grassroots sports in the country, to the detriment of the Nigerian athletes and taxpayers.
“We the stakeholders sent a petition letter to the Honourable Minister of Youths and Sports on 26th January 2023, complaining about the illegality that has been perpetuated in Nigeria netball in the past one decade. Instead of investigating our allegation, the next thing we know is that Dr Henry Nzekwu who is a bosom friend of Mr Sunday Dare (the current Minister of Youth and Sports), is now the President of the Nigeria Netball Federation.
“More worrying is the fact that Dr Aluko who since October 2021 fooled Nigerians to believe that she is the General Secretary of an unregistered NNF, is now calling the shot at the NNF (Nigeria Netball Federation).
“This is the same Dr Esther Oluwatoyin Aluko who contested for the post of General Secretary of the NOC in December 2022, as a representative of Handball Federation of Nigeria (HNF).”
Mr Ehimiaghe further stated: “This is the same Dr Esther Aluko who lied to Nigerians that basketball stunted the growth and development of netball in Nigeria. But in December 2022, she used mercenaries from other sports to demonstrate netball at the NSF in Asaba. This is the same Dr Aluko who lied during a television interview on 2 April 2022, by misleading sports journalists to believe that AFFAN built the first netball court in Nigeria. This woman is so desperate to be relevant in Nigerian sports that she would not mind selling her country (Nigeria) for a bowl of porridge.”
Mr Ehimiaghe noted that Dr Esther Aluko keep flaunting the fact that she played netball in the 1960 and 70s, before she converted to handball. However, Mr Ehimiaghe stated that if netball was that important to Dr Esther Aluko, what did she do to develop netball as a civil servant; where she spent more than 30 years and rose to the position of Director, before she retired from service a few years ago?
Mr Ehimiaghe stated: “Funny enough, I was the person who brought the problem in netball to Dr Esther Aluko, as the president of AFFAN. I did so in 2019. If I am lying, you can ask her to confirm or deny this.”
Regarding Dr Nzekwu, Mr Ehimiaghe disclosed that the current Sports Minister has given him roles to play in the past in football and basketball.
“Though we do not know if the current Minister is behind Dr Nzekwu current elevation to the position of President of NNF, we the Naija Netball Stakeholders are not going to accept this. Na only Dr Nzekwu be the competent sports administrator wey dey Nigeria?” He asked colloquially in press statement sent to Best Choice Sports
The one-million-dollar question that Naija Netball Stakeholders want to ask the ‘principalities and powers of Nigerian sports’ is: “is the role of sports developers at the national level only reserved for former Sports Ministry/NOC staff?” If not, can any other citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, aspire to play a role in developing grassroots sports in Nigeria, without being the bosom friend, girlfriend, and boot lickers of the principal staff of the Sport Ministry and NOC?
It would be recall that CSED Initiative have been in the forefront of trying to revive netball in Nigeria.
Since 2019, they challenged the authority of the former General Secretary of the unregistered NNF, Hellen Manufor, who dribbled the NOC and Sport Ministry staff to believe that the NNF was a registered Federation.
While the principal officers of the Sports Ministry and NOC were in their deep slumber, one Cornelius Ehimiaghe brought the deceit of Hellen Manufor to the attention of the former Nigeria Sports Minister, Barrister Solomon Dalung, to the misdeeds of Hellen Manufor.
Barrister Solomon Dalung ordered the NOC to investigate the grievances of CSED Initiative in respect of how netball was being run in Nigeria. Instead of doing so, the then General Secretary of NOC only wrote an email to CSED Initiative.
But behind the scenes, two members of staff of the Sports Ministry and NOC were allegedly rewarded with a place in the ‘illegal’ NNF Board that was handpicked by Hellen Manufor in May 2019.
“It is only in Nigeria that people are appointed into the board of a Sports Federation that is not even registered with the regulatory corporate affairs regulator,” Mr Ehimiaghe claimed.
Mr Ehimiaghe stated that since nobody seem to care about the development of netball in Nigeria, CSED Initiative took the bull by the horn and in February 2020, they built the first netball court in Nigeria this millennium, at IDPs Camp Uhoghua (Edo State).
In March 2020, CSED Initiative went further by training 24 Nigerians to be certified as Netball Africa Coaches. The first time this has happened in the history of Nigeria. Till date, CSED Initiative has trained an additional 216 Nigerian P.E. Teachers/youths to become Netball Coaches.
“These trainings were conducted in Utoka (Edo State), Mosogar (Delta State), Uyo (Akwa Ibom State), Enugu (Enugu State). Yenogoa (Bayelsa State) and Jalingo (Taraba State).”
Mr Ehimiaghe further stated that CSED Initiative does not only train teachers in netball, but they have also embedded safeguarding in their training of these coaches. He lamented that the NOC/Sports Ministry in Nigeria do not even have a safeguarding protocol, not to talk of implementing one for Nigerian athletes.
Furthermore, “at the end of our two days basic netball training, CSED Initiative usually provide free netball starter packs (netball balls, finger-held whistles, two sets of netball training bibs and two netball rims/nets) to participants of their training events. The attendees of these free training are also provided with a decent lunch. One of the Naija Netball Stakeholders (Edward Edema) stated:
“I am aware that CSED Initiative delivered equipment for the training of 30 P.E. Teachers in FCT (Abuja) to Dr Esther Aluko. But Dr Esther Aluko diverted it to pursue her own personal/AFFAN interest. This is a typical example of how the personal interest of an individual is greater than that of an entire community. It is an open secret that even with their access to public funds, the Ministry of Sports have not trained one Netball Africa certified Coach. More laughable is Dr Esther Aluko’s recent claim that the target of the NNF is to participate in the 2024 All Africa Games in Accra, Ghana.
“Dr Esther Aluko is supposed to be a Ph.D. holder, but some of the views she has expressed in respect of netball in the past one year, raise concerns about how she obtained her doctorate degree.
“Does she and her illegal president of the NNF think that other countries who have been playing netball regularly in the past few decades are just going to go into hiding, because they are going to play Nigeria in future?”
“Even with Dr Esther Aluko and Dr Henry Nzekwu being highly connected to the authorities in the Sports Ministry, because of them being former staff, there is no guarantee that they are going to remain in their current position. This is because CSED Initiative and Naija Netball Stakeholders are currently in the process of consulting with their members and solicitors with a view of taking this matter to Court.
“You cannot build something on nothing,” Mr Ehimiaghe concluded in the statement.
Best Choice Sports gathered that the NNF in a letter dated 9 March, 2023 declared that the federation has been registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC and invited the CSED Initiative and the Naija Netball Stakeholders for a meeting of which date, time and venue has not been fixed.