NIGERIA @ 57: Poor policies hindering sports development

NIGERIA @ 57: Poor policies hindering sports development

Sports in Nigeria since independence has continued to lag behind other sectors in the country unlike developed nations of the world where sports business has become a major revenue earner and contributes significantly to the GDPs of those countries.

Mitchel Obi, President, International Sports Press Association (AIPS) Africa and seasoned sports commentator, in a telephone chat with BusinessDay, lamented that since 1960 till date the sports sector has remained unchanged in terms of growth and development.

Obi insisted that for sports to thrive, Nigeria must act on the Vision 20:2020 document that highlights, objectives, strategies, implementation and expected results of the Vision for sports.

“When Nigeria was 50 years, my views are still there, nothing has change, no policy in place to drive the sector. I don’t know anything about the way forward, it has been explicitly stated in so many visions; Vision 2010, Vision 2020 and now Vision 2030,” he said.

“The way forward is there, the vision 2020 tells you our sports master plan.  We said by year 2020 Nigeria should be in a position to, at least, come home with 10 gold medals at the Olympics and host the FIFA World Cup by 2020; we were visioning based on our capacity, capability and the surrounding elements of nationhood”, he said. He added that with the growing population in the country, sports if well harnessed could contribute significantly to the economy. “It’s sad that at this stage, the leadership of this country does not consider sports as a catalysts for her developmental effort; that is the fundamental draw back. Sports is a veritable attraction for the teaming Nigerian youths.”

The veteran sports analyst  also lamented government’s neglect of sports, especially in the recent Economic Blue Print by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo

“The Economic Blue Print by the Vice President recently came out with, it was an after taught that sports was in included. “Looking at the milestones, Nigeria have not make any progress toward achieving the vision 2020 goal, at 57 years, Nigerian sports is still in napkin.

He advised that the government should change the approach and have a right system with functional policy in place for sports business to grow.

Any stride that has happened has merely been accidental; it’s not an outcome of a well planned and prepared processes or systems. He faulted the political leadership of the country for not recorgnising the strength of sport as a catalyst for development.

“Even Nigeria is a signatory to United Nations Programme for Sustainable Development Goals, were sports was defined as an enabler, but we have not concretize that. Sports cannot operate in isolation, it’s a culture and about the people.”

“In Nigeria, sports it’s not even an industry, it’s still a sector.  There are lots of value chain that can impact when sports business is thriving; from sports wear clothing, Stadia, hotels and tourism.

Stakeholders in the Nigerian sports industry recently gathered at the Nigeria Economic Summit NESG to discuss the economic potentials in sports business and how it can impact on the economy.

The stakeholders from the public and private sector unanimously agreed that government interference is hindering the development of the sports industry in the country and pointed out that the industry should be private sector-driven while government provides the structure, policies and enabling environment to attract investors.

Panellists at the recent Nigeria Economic Summit NESG to discuss the economic potentials in sports business and how it can impact on the economy highlighted the business potential in Nigerian sports that can be exploited to drive future economic growth and youth development.

They pointed out that capital investment is needed in the areas of real estate, sports merchandising, hospitality, media, and facilities, stressing that it was the best model to financing sports to drive revenue generation, employment and business opportunities

Analysts challenged that there should be a system in place to drive potential investors into Nigeria sports business.

“Sports system in Nigeria is not working; it’s difficult to talk about development of sports when we don’t have a development process in place,” said John Opubor, a business sports analyst and former director, Actis Nigeria.

Amaju Pinnick, president, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), mentioned that the potential in Nigerian sports is limitless, adding, however, that the government needs to create enabling environment for sports industry to thrive.

“Twenty-five years ago, the British government invested £200 million in the Premier League and today, the EPL is worth £8 billion. If we create enabling environment with proper structure, sports can contribute significantly to Nigeria’s GDP more than any other sector,” said Pinnick.

“We must engage reputable brands to drive sponsorship for the national team. If every geopolitical zone concentrates on its strengths and harness them properly, Nigeria will fly the flags high at international competitions and thus get global attention for investors to come in and invest,” he added.

Adebisi Adedeji, deputy director, Development Finance Department, Central Bank of Nigeria, said the CBN is committed to intervening in Nigeria sports industry, but warned that government intervention in sports is not sustainable and it should be private sector-driven. He added that the government needed to look at legal betting and sponsorship to help in sports financing.

“Few years back, England had challenges in financing sports and athletics and formed the National Lottery. The National Lottery has financed over 5,000 athletes to major tournaments and over 600 medals have been won by the athletes. The National Lottery played a huge role in financing the 2012 Olympics,” he said.

“Recent survey revealed that Nigerians spend N1.8 billion daily on illegal sport betting. The opportunities are unlimited and government should tap into them to create revenues for financing sports,” he said. Adedeji added that Nigerian athletes need to perform highly at tournaments to earn sponsorship. “Aside from the earnings, Floyd Mayweather Jr. earned closed to $50 million from five different sponsorships in his recent fight with Conor McGregor,” he said.

Ben Okorafor, managing director, Pipul TV, highlighted opportunities in sports broadcasting but enjoined the media to talk more on Nigerian league.

“We need to invest in the sector in order to attract investors. The media need to should wet the appetite and popularize our local league and sport tournaments; promote live coverage to our league games. No investor will invest in a business where revenue is not guaranteed,” Okorafor said.

The stakeholders called for a national sports policy as a blueprint for Nigerian sports.

Laoye Jaiyeola, chief executive officer, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, remarked that CBN doesn’t have the fund to finance the sports industry, as the size of government revenue is small to handle all the sectors.

He revealed that government total revenues are all potentials, the private sector should the driver to grow the industry as government lack the funds to drive all the sectors of the economy.

“Government expected revenue for 2017 as captured in the budget is N5 trillion, the budget is N7.4 trillion and borrowing N2.4 trillion. We have borrowed those monies year in year out,” Jaiyeola said.

“We are servicing with almost 33 percent of what we generate, you get money by generating or borrowing. One of Nigeria’s main source of revenue is taxation, which is 4 percent to GDP ratio, lower than Angola and Congo which have 15 to 25 percent tax to GDP ratio,” he said.

Anthony Nlebem

@AnthonyNlebem

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