Nigeria – The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has stopped the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and Lagos State from hosting the African Athletics Championships.
Sports minister, Sunday Dare, had secured hosting rights for the country after meeting with the President of Confederation of African Athletics Kalkaba Malboum in Cairo on May 24.
Nigeria thus took up the hosting rights after initial hosts Algeria shifted the event due to COVID-19.
The PTF, in a letter to the sports ministry on Tuesday, declined to grant approval for the hosting.
The letter, signed by Dr. Assad Hassan, Deputy Head, Technical Secretariat for the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, stated that the PTF didn’t grant approval for the hosting because:
“a. The increasing trend of COVID-19 cases in certain countries coupled with widespread prevalence of mutant strains of the virus outside Nigeria, which poses the risk of importation of these mutant strains.
“b. Recent re-institutionalisation of enforcement of the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations in the country due to increasing non-adherence by the public of non-pharmaceutical interventions and other COVID-19 protocols.
“c. Delay in vaccinating a large proportion of the citizenry due to a shortage in global supply of vaccines, which translates to a risk of another wave of infections in the country.”
The PTF added that due to the above reasons, “hosting the 2021 edition of the African Athletics Championships at this time will constitute a threat to the gains that have been made by the national response in mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Speaking with our correspondent on Thursday, General Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Siminialayi Pepple, said though the federation wasn’t carried along by the ministry before securing the hosting rights, it was sad Nigeria won’t be able to host the competition.
“It would have been nice for Nigeria to host because there are several advantages and legacies that come from hosting.
“One, we would have had the opportunity to field maximum number of athletes for every event. We also stand a good chance to qualify for the Olympics and win,”
Efforts to reach factional president of the AFN, Olamide George, on the issue proved abortive. He didn’t pick our correspondent’s call and was yet to respond to a text message sent to his line as at the time of filing this report.