Governor Nasir El-Rufai has commended Kaduna State athletes for winning laurels in national and international competitions, disclosing that the pursuit of sporting excellence informed his decision to create a dedicated Ministry of Sports Development back in 2019.
El-Rufai made this known when individual athletes and sport teams who won medals for the state at local and international competitions were presented to him at his office in Sir Kashim Ibrahim House.
The governor listed a number of initiatives that his administration has undertaken since he assumed office.
He said: “We have also reintroduced school sports so that we can get athletes and other sporting talents right from the primary and secondary school levels. We are also developing sporting facilities.
‘’We are building neighbourhood sport centres. Senator Uba Sani of the Central Zone is building seven of those. I am also contributing one in my Unguwan Sarki ward. And many of my colleagues in the state Executive Council will be donating sports facilities in their neighborhoods.’’
El-Rufai said the rationale behind building neighbourhood sport centres is to enable people access facilities easily, “so that people don’t have to travel long distances, either to the township stadium, Ahmadu Bello Stadium or Murtala Muhammed Square, to practice.”
The governor disclosed that his government is also undertaking a major redevelopment and upgrade of the Ranchers Bees Stadium, or the Township Stadium, into a modern stadium.
He revealed that Kaduna State is negotiating with the Federal Government to take over Ahmadu Bello Stadium and expand it into another multi-sports facility, similar to Murtala Muhammed Square.
He said: “Mr President has agreed in principle to the transfer of Ahmadu Bello Stadium back to Kaduna State and we are working out the details between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Youths and Sports.’’
The governor also pointed out that the newly remodeled Murtala Muhammed Square is meant to be the new centre of Kaduna, “where people can walk, engage in sports, play, as well as enjoy.
He revealed that there will be five restaurants in Murtala Muhammed Square, a clinic, a boutique, a hotel and all kinds of sporting facilities.
He said: “Our hope is to replicate Murtala Muhammed Square not only in Ahmadu Bello Stadium but also do something similar in Kafanchan and Zaria, so that our rural people will come closer to modern sports facilities.”
The governor further said that his administration believes that sports is not just an activity to occupy young people but a multi-billion dollar business.
“We are going to get our Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA) to be interfacing with sport associations, so that you can get sponsors that will pay you a lot of money for doing what you enjoy,’’ he added.
The governor said he believes that the involvement of sponsors like NIKE, Puma, Adidas and others will reduce the need for and reliance on government funding for sports.
‘’We will encourage KADIPA to develop sports management capabilities so that they work with the various associations to get you sponsors to attract commercial sponsorship and investments in your talent,’’ he said.
The governor, however, said that the state government will reward the medalists with an undisclosed modest cash gifts.
He said: “The Ministry of Sports Development will be looking for you to give you an amount of money as a token of our appreciation. In addition, all the medalists will be given land application forms, to apply for land, so that you can build your own houses.
‘’We are very proud of what you have done. You have continued to put Kaduna State on the national and global map, and we appreciate you for that. Congratulations!”
Earlier, the Commissioner of Sports Development, Mr Idris Nyam, had said: ‘’Kaduna State has a very rich and robust sports culture which now spans over a century of recorded history, with the establishment of the Kaduna Golf Club in the year 1921.
“Since then, Kaduna State has continued to achieve major milestones in sports, as demonstrated in the commissioning of the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in 1965, being the second oldest stadium in Nigeria.”
According to Nyam, the state has produced several professional sports men and women, highlighting career successes both locally and internationally.
He noted: “In football, we have names such as Sadiq Umar, Moses Simon, Wilfred Ndidi, Macauley Chrisantus, Celestine Babayaro, Garba Lawal, Tijjani Babangida, Rashidi Yekini, Daniel Amokachi, Stephen Musa.”
Nyam also listed Maryam Usman, an Olympian bronze medalist, Scott Nnaji, Ujiri Masai, and Mohammed Tijjani as notable names in basketball, adding that Samaila Usman and Grace Ayuba are award-winning cyclists.
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