By Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial Zone, Comrade Senator Shehu Sani, has called for the amendment of the nation’s pensions laws to accommodate sportsmen and women, who have made the country proud.
He made the appeal, after receiving an Award of Excellence from the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Kaduna State Chapter, in Kaduna.
“Our pension system, the Pension Commission Act, must be amended to give people, who served this country in the field of sports. We must devise ways to give pensions to our players, who wore the national jersey,” he said.
“Men and women, who served Nigeria in sports, are allowed to suffer in pains and die in penury. Footballers that we so cherished when in the field, who brought honour, are allowed to die in poverty,” Senator Sani lamented.
Comrade Senator Sani wondered why sports is being treated merely as a game in Nigeria, rather than as a multi-billion naira business that it ought to be, saying, “There’s need to have a national sports conference in Nigeria. Sports should be seen as an avenue for job creation. We have not invested in sports, and we want to reap gold,” he added.
According to him, “It is unfortunate that young people have lost interest in our national league and are more interested in European leagues.
“Our young people know all the players in Madrid, Man U and Barca. They know their birthdays and when their wives give birth, but they don’t know the ranking of Nigerian teams.
“In those days, our teams – Enugu Rangers, Pillars, Kwara Bombers, UNTL, NEW Nigerian, Prisons – all were teams we grew up to cherish. Today, we have departed from that path.
“Our young people even dump their names born with and adopt names of players. Our national team is only supported when they win; if they lose, nobody goes to welcome them,” he pointed out.
Senator Sani said that as part of his contribution to moving sports forward all over the country, a bill he sponsored has reached advanced stage in the Senate.
“My bill, aimed at decentralization of National Institute of Sports (NIS), is to have it decentralized in all zones. It has passed second reading. When passed, NIS would be close to you and help in developing sports all over the country,” he stressed.
He called on government at all levels to stop appointing politicians as ministers and commissioners of sports.
“If you must appoint a doctor as Minister of Health, a professional sports personality should also be appointed for sports,” he said.
The Senator argued that budget of sports is dismal, calling for more funding, to achieve desired results. “If we want to achieve, we must budget more. Tax breaks should be given to firms, which support sports. I must say we must as a people invest in sports.
“For now, we are only interested in results without investments. If we invest in sports, it would provide opportunities for our young men and women. If we invest, we would reap more gold at international outings.
“National Stadium Surulere is left in disrepair. For over three-to-four decades, a section of Sir Ahmadu Bello Stadium (ABS), Kaduna, is left uncompleted.”
He commended sports writers for persevering and keeping the flags flying, in spite of challenges. “Even though, you are relegated to the back pages of newspapers, your publishers should try to bring sports to ‘Page-2’ so that it would attract more interests,” he advised.