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Jonathan in his first public fitness walk, pledges special funds for sports

By The Citizen
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President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday promised to institute a special fund for the country's sports sector if re-elected for a second term on March 28.

Jonathan made the promise while addressing sportsmen and others at a solidarity rally organised for him at the Eagle Square, Abuja.

Vice-President Namadi Sambo in his short remark at the event said Nigeria could not afford to be governed by a 73-year-old President.

'To strengthen sporting activities in Nigeria further, there are some areas that we need to look into and I promise that when we come back, we are going to set up a special fund that will handle these special areas.

'I have identified about five areas that we must look at. I realised that sometimes when we have major tournaments, because of government budgeting and files movement, training periods are delayed. We want to make sure that we stop that by setting up a special fund that can serve as a stop gap.

'One other thing I realised from our interactions with sportsmen and women from my days in Bayelsa State to the centre here is that some of them want special training programmes that their federation cannot fund and they won't have money to do that. We must stop that.

'Some other ones want to improve their professional career. Because they are so committed to sports, they may not go to university at the time they should have gone. So when they want to go, they may not have the money. We must have fund for that.

'Another area is that some of them get injured and can no longer participate and sometimes, they are left on their own. We must get some funds to take care of such people.

'Another one that I have identified is that some people have made this country proud. Sport is one key thing that brings unity to this country. Whenever our sportsmen are playing, we don't discriminate.

'We must set up a fund to make sure that nobody who made this country proud will be a beggar,' President Jonathan said.

Jonathan also promised that his administration would strengthen sports institutions such as the National Sports Institute in Lagos and Abuja.

He said in developing the institutions, his government would not depend on an annual budget with its yearly change in benchmark.

He said the management of the fund would be in the hands of the private sector so that it would continue to grow and take care of all the areas that he had identified.

President Jonathan said his government would continue to budget for fund but the intervention funds was needed to complement what government budgets annually.

'That will give us the opportunity to take care of these areas that we have identified. My conviction is that when these areas are properly handled, Nigeria will begin to dominate sporting activities globally,' he concluded.

Meanwhile, Sambo, in his short remarks, said Nigeria could not afford to be governed by a 73-year-old President.

'I don't think this country deserves a 73-year-old President. Jonathan should carry go,' the Vice President declared in a veiled remark directed at the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

Others who spoke included the Minister of Sports, Tamuno Danagogo; Director-General, National Sports Commission, Gbenga Elegbeleye; football stars, Augustine Eguavoen and Joseph Yobo as well as Mary Onyali.

Jonathan and his men started the long walk from the gate of his official residence inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja at about 7.15am.

With members of the nation's Paralympics leading the way, Jonathan arrived the Eagle Square at about 7:50am to a loud ovation by those already at the venue.

Nigerian musicians such as Skales and Omawunmi thrilled the audience with their performances.

The President also participated in light aerobics led by Yobo.

The event put together by a Non-Governmental Organisation, Desire for Greatness Foundation, saw the President walking from the Presidential Villa, Abuja to the Eagle Square.