Sports Minister Plans Monthly Stipend, Pension For Athletes, Ex-internationals
By Amaechi Agbo
Determined to revamp Nigeria sports and give athletes their due regard and national pride, the minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare on Thursday announced plans by the ministry to commence payment of monthly stipends to active athletes as well start up a pension scheme for retired athletes.
The minister who disclosed this while interacting with journalists during a two-day Inter-ministerial Technical Session on Sports Industry Development, said that such policies are long overdue in view of the fact that other countries in developed countries had long ago implemented various schemes aimed at motivating the athletes both before, during and after competitions.
The minister who was visibly worried over how Nigerian athletes survive virtually on their own especially when they are not participating in competitions, said that because the athletes are not taking good care of, they are not putting in their best stressing that once the athletes do not have event or competition to participate in, they will resort to trades of various kinds in order to earn money for their upkeep.
This he noted slows down their training programmes which also impacts negatively in their performances during competitions.
On the issue of pension for ex internationals, the minister first sort to know from his Special Assistant on Sports, Mary Onyali if she was on pension. When the former Commonwealth gold medallist answered on the negative, he asked her again if she needed pension, of which an affirmative response followed.
With that the minister then stated that the ex-internationals should be regarded and treated in the same way retired civil servants are looked after when they leave service.
The minister who noted that because the athletes put in their youthful time to serve the nation in their own capacity, they deserve to be looked after by the government when they are no long in active athletic activities.
“When we went to All Africa Games in Morocco, I was barely two weeks as a minister but one of the things I announced publicly was the establishment of Athletes Sustenance Fund, ASF. Then it was an idea but we have developed it further.
“The whole idea was that our athletes, while they are active, need to be given some monthly stipend because for those that competed in Morocco, after Morocco, some of them will not make any other income until perhaps when they went to Doha, after Doha then they will wait till Olympics in August next year. So what happens in the intervening period? Their training programmes suffer.
“Some of them go back to their normal businesses. Some of them end up turning their cars to ‘Uber’ just to keep earning some money for upkeep. So by the time they have to compete, they pack their training programmes to three or four weeks. We lost six months of doing nothing, no training to earn an income and then you pack your training for four weeks and then go on to track with someone who trained for 9 months. We want to change that. We think that giving our athletes some incentives or stipend every month will help them to keep them busy and also manage their time and training programmes.
“But beyond that, after you have served this country, the athletes also serve this country at the global stage, the civil servants serve this country and they get pension; we think that the athletes that have served this country also after they have gone into retirement also should benefit from the pension system.
“We have the national Sports Development Fund Incorporated, which was chaired since inception by Chief Nwanyanwu, we are looking at it. We also have the sports development fund which we want to drive as part of the entire sports development policy that we have.
“The most important is that as we have in the UK, where they have a pull of fund for grant to athletes for training, they give their athletes various grants; we are developing that model where we will have a pull of fund to take care of active and retiring athletes,” he said.