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21st African Senior Athletics Championship: Delta ready to host Africa

All is now set for the hosting of the 21st African Senior Athletics Championship in Nigeria by Delta State as the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, venue of the event billed to hold from August 1 to 5, has been completed and facilities installed just as the test-run of the facilities have been carried out.
The test-run of the facilities:
The test run of facilities for the championship was done Wednesday, July 18, featured various track and field events by students of selected secondary schools and professional athletes from within and outside the country.
Kingsley Otuaru, Deputy Governor of the state, speaking at the occasion, said the athletes from 45 African countries including Nigeria, would be in Asaba for the championship.
According to him the test running of the facilities was in preparation of the championship. “As you can see, we are very set for the country, we are set for Africa. For everyone, both athletes and guests, as a state government, our simple message is that Delta state is set to give them a beautiful hosting; we are an accommodating people, everything that is needed to make this championship a success is set and we are welcoming them all”, declared the number two citizen of the state.
The issue of security is not a problem as the Otuaro assured that adequate security and other logistics had been provided to ensure a hitch free championship.
He explained that the test run of facilities was organized to prove to the world that the state was 100% ready to host the continent.
Flooding issue and cleaning of Asaba:
Journalists who were at a media briefing held at the ministry of information on July 18, had expressed reservations over the issue of flooding in the state capital.
But the commissioner for works, James Augoye while addressing the issue, assured of the state government’s commitment to addressing all flood related challenges in Asaba, Warri and other prone areas across the state.
He noted that the state government had embarked on three strategic storm water projects in Asaba, assuring that at completion, the challenge of flooding in the state capital would soon be addressed at the project completion in February 2019.
He made them to understand that the current flooding challenge was not only caused by the quantum of flood water from rainfall but that the indiscriminate dumping of waste by the residents of Asaba and Okpanam communities contributes to a large extent.
He pointed out that with the rainy season, the challenge of flooding would not be over yet until the storm water projects were completed. He added that roads construction and drainage work were ongoing at various corners of Asaba in addition to the dualization of Okpanam road among others.
The government is on course with the ongoing storm water projects in Asaba and is determined to make the drains effective to evacuate flood waters in the state capital, assured Auguye.
He recalled that, “The governor in his quarterly briefing had said that the storm water project will not have much effect this year until 2019 when they will be completed.
“Apart from the high volume of water particularly from the Okpanam axis to Asaba, the challenge we have is with the people who dump waste indiscriminately into the water channels.
“The people have turned the drains to refuse dumps and this is creating a serious problems to us”.
He, however, assured that state capital would be cleaned up within the week to make it presentable as the contractors handling the roads and drainages channels were working into the nights.
“We assure that before the contingents for the African Senior Athletics Championship will start arriving the state, Asaba shall be cleaned up and made presentable,”Augoye said
Sports minister’s rating of Stephen Keshi Stadium:
On July 12, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung having inspected the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, told newsmen that the facilities in the stadium were of high standard capable of hosting world tournaments.
Dalung who was conducted round the facilities by the chairman of the local organizing committee (LOC) for the event, Solomon Ogba, “there has been great and massive improvement on the stadium from the last time I came here.”
“I can confidently assert that with what I have seen here, our capacity to even host world championships is possible and this is because apart from the infrastructure, the equipment that has been installed and are being installed can serve and host the world,” he said.
“I must again, commend the government of Delta state for not only taking responsibility to host, but for this massive and durable legacy which the governor has invested; the sports community will live to remember him and his legacy and I am indeed impressed”, he emphasized.
He added, “this championship is an African championship and Nigeria is hosting, so, there is already existing partnership between the federal government and Delta State government.”
Explaining the nature of the championship, the Minister of Sports, stated, “this championship is a Senior African Championship, meaning that participants are professionals, so, they are coming here to either defend their titles or to upturn existing titles and make newer records and those who will emerge victorious here will emerge as African champions and they are going to take us to the next level.”
N500m raised in support of the championship:
On the night of Thursday, July 13, more than N500 million was realized at a fundraising dinner for the forthcoming championship.
Zenith Bank Plc led the donors at the event with the sum of N300 million while Bube Dan, gave N20 million, Levant Construction N20 million, Gomene N11 million, Delta State House of Assembly-N7 million, Federal ministry of Sports -N5 million among others. Some corporate organisations and individuals made their donations anonymously.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, his wife, Edith, Deputy Governor, Kingsley Otuaro, Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Ibrahim Gusau, among numerous others attended the fundraising ceremony which took place at the Grand Hotel, Asaba.
“In less than three weeks from today, athletes from 47 African countries, as well as officials will begin to converge in Asaba for this historic event; it is historic in the sense that though this is the second time Nigeria will be hosting this event, this is the first to be held outside Lagos, Nigeria’s sporting capital because in 1989, Lagos was the venue for the sixth edition of the competition,” Governor Okowa said at the occasion.
He disclosed that he accepted for Delta State to host the tournament being organised by the Confederation of African Atheletics (CAA) in conjunction with the NAF, saying, the championship provides “glorious opportunity to further our agenda to regain Delta’s frontline status in sports by hosting this event.”
“Apart from being a dominant force in the National Sports Festival in the years gone by,. Delta State has produced foremost international athletes such as Tony Urhobo, Maria Usifor, Violet Odogwu-Nwajei, Sunday Uti, Blessing Okagbare and many others; however, in recent times, it does seem like athletics is taking a backseat, hence, our young ones do not see much hope in pursuing a career in athletics; we believe this event has the strong potentials to reawaken the interest and consciousness of the upcoming generation and motivate them to strive for greatness in athletics,” the governor said.
Continuing, Okowa said, “on our own, we have delivered on our promise; the Stephen Keshi Stadium is ready for the event; it was tough but, we got it done and the stadium is actually a beauty to behold.”
Minister for Sports, had in a speech, described Governor Okowa as a performer who saved Nigeria the shame of failing to host the tournament.
“If this type of stadium is replicated in every part of Nigeria, no Nigerian will pass through the Sahara to look for greener pasture because, they will be engaged; Asaba in future may host world championship because of the quality of facilities at the stadium”, expressed Dalung.
Okowa’s performance also attracted the accolades of the AFN’s president who in his address, described him as a blessing to Delta State, saying no one had hosted bigger championship in the country like the governor.
Mercy Enoch, Asaba
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