REVEALED: Why PTF Shifted National Sports Festival From December To January
By Amaechi Agbo
On Wednesday, the Nigeria sports stakeholders went into frenzy following reported cancellation of the 2020 National Sports Festival, NSF Initially Scheduled to hold in Benin, Edo State Capital from December 5th to 18th, 2020.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, PTF reportedly ‘cancelled’ the festival citing fear of increase in the spread of the virus should it be allowed to hold.
Consequently, angry Nigeria journalists, athletes and other stakeholders in the sporting sector took to social media to register their disbelief and called on the authorities concerned to rescind the decision.
However, less than 24 hours after the social media protest, the PTF along with the ministry of youth and sports including the National Centre for disease Control, NCDC and Edo State government had a virtual meeting on Thursday, November 26, 2020 and announced January 3-17 as the new dates for the festival.
Investigation by this paper has revealed that the postponement of the festival from December 5– 18, 2020 to the new January dates was not unconnected with the expiring lifespan of the PTF.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 was established by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 9, 2020, to coordinate and oversee Nigeria’s multi-sectoral inter-governmental efforts to contain the spread and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
The PTF had initial lifespan of six months which elapsed in September but was renewed by the President and extended till December 2020.
A source who spoke confidentially told our correspondent that during the virtual meeting, the PTF appealed to the minister of youth and sports as well as the Edo state government to see reasons with them and appealed that the festival should be held at a time when the PTF must have concluded its national assignment on coordination of the COVID-19 plans and activities.
The source noted that after due consideration, the new dates of 3 – 17th January was arrived at.
“Everybody was not happy with what happened with the second postponement from December. We were all looking forward to that having had the meeting with the National Council of Sports, NCS which recommended December 3 – 18 for the new dates of the festival.
“Yes, the minister of sports got a letter from the Presidential Task Force on the need to postpone the festival from December. In the letter they cited cases of some covid-19 measures not being put in place and all that.
“However, during the meeting on Thursday which held virtually, further details were provided and one of them was the fact that the PTF lifespan is coming to an end in December and they pleaded that the festival be shifted till January,” the source said.
It could be recalled that the festival was at the first instance scheduled to hold from March 22 to April 1, 2020 but was on 17th March postponed indefinitely following the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.
As at Friday, November 27, 2020; Nigeria has a total of 67,220 confirmed cases of the virus, 62,686 discharged while fatality stood at 1,171.