BY OBEHI EGENE
President of Rowing, Canoeing and Sailing Federation of Nigeria Rear Admiral Festus Porbeni (rtd) is unhappy that the body’s activities are being hampered by lack of funds.
Speaking on a popular sport programme on Channels Television on Tuesday, the Bayelsa-born called on corporate bodies and well-meaning individual for support towards the realisation of the various programmes mapped out to make the sport more popular in the country.
While regretting the non-listing of the event at the last All Africa Games in Brazzaville, Porbeni stated that the body is financially handicapped to the extent of not being able to obtain international passports for two athletes to participate in an Olympic qualifying tournament in March.
He said: “The federation has no kobo in its coffers because the government has yet to release money to any federation. I and the Secretary General Bunmi Oluode have been running the affairs of the body from our pockets.
“For instance, we had to raise the sum of N30,000 required to obtain international passports for two of our athletes to compete in an Olympics qualifying tournament in March.
“We are also having difficulties making the sport more popular in the country and also have more youths participate in it due to lack of funds. We plan on making use of the University of Lagos waterfront, Navy Town and two other ones, but the athletes need money to transport to and from training venues, which the federation cannot afford.
“Let us not forget that this is a medal-winning sport. The country can win a lot of medals in it, and would have done so if featured by the organizers of the last All Africa Games in Brazzaville. I fought but did not succeed in convincing the organizers to accredit it but they said that they did not know the sport, mainly because they felt they stood no chances at getting medals. This should not be so and I feel something could be done about it.
Porbeni added that the federation needs N3.5 million to organize water sports in Jos, Plateau State and called on state governments, corporate bodies and private individuals for assistance.
Meanwhile, Chierika Ukogo and Jonathan Akinyemi have already qualified to represent Nigeria in rowing and canoeing event at next year’s Olympics in Rio, Brazil and the federation is optimistic that more of its athletes would qualify for the event.
Bunmi Oluode, Secretary of the federation, told NAN in Lagos on Saturday that the two slots were positive developments for the country.
Oluode said that the athletes’ qualification would motivate other athletes to qualify for the games.
“We are hopeful of getting more slots in the 2016 Olympics Games to increase our participation.
“Some of our athletes are undergoing training to feature in a qualifying competition coming up in March, 2015.
“They are all happy that we have two slots and it will definitely encourage them to perform creditably and qualify as well,” she said.
The secretary reiterated the federation’s commitment to enhancing the growth of the sport in the country.
Akinyemi was the first Nigerian athlete to participate in the Olympics, having competed at the London 2012 Games.