Athletes and officials of the Rivers State contingent to the 19th National Sports Festival are still threatening to withdraw from the event if their salaries and allowances are not paid.
Several of the athletes and officials, who spoke to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity, have said they have not been paid their emoluments for the past one year, and are now considering withdrawing from the Sports Festival.
The Rivers State contingents arrived Abuja late on Thursday evening and missed the parade and march-past of the opening ceremony as a result, fuelling speculations they may have already boycotted the event, and media reports on Saturday claimed they had threatened to withdraw.
“We have not been paid for a year now and we left Port Harcourt on the day the festival began, arriving Abuja late at night,” a visibly piqued athlete told Leadership sports on condition of anonymity.
“All they’re talking about in Rivers State are the 2019 elections and nothing else. We have always represented the state well, and we deserve to get paid for our efforts,” the athlete further lamented.
The complaints notwithstanding, the state bagged a gold medal in cycling on the opening day of the festival. Gladys Tombrapa won the medal in the women’s 200 metres event inside the velodrome of the Abuja National Stadium.
Following the medal win, one of the team officials informed that winning the medal shows the potential they have, but warned that they could leave Abuja because of ‘hunger’, calling the Rivers State government and its governor, Nyesom Wike, to come to their rescue.
“The gold we won in the cycling event shows you the amount of potentials we have and that we could easily win this festival. But we are hungry, and if this hunger continues, we will be forced to leave Abuja and return back to Port Hacourt.
“One year is a long time to work and not get paid and we are calling on Governor Nyesom Wike to come to our rescue by paying the monies owed to us.”
Efforts to reach the Rivers State Government have so far proved abortive.