By Kelechi Esogwa-Amadi
Rivers State Government House was under siege yesterday, Thursday, 6th June 2019, as angry athletes blocked the entrance in protest over unpaid accumulated allowances.
The latest protest comes just two months after the athletes protested in front of the government house over unpaid dues.
The placard-carrying protesters, some of who are handicapped, numbered over thirty.
Some of their placards read: “Boma Iyaye and Sunday Adeyeye took our money. They should pay us…” “Wike is a good man. He has released our money but some people are holding it…” “Coaches were being paid N400k and N500 thousand instead of N1-2 million. And total money athletes received was N240,000 instead of N720,000,” among others.
A few of the handicapped athletes laid down flat on the ground, blocking the main entrance near the security post, thereby preventing vehicles from driving in and out of the government house.
Every plea by the policemen and other security personnel on duty for the athletes to shift in order for vehicles to pass fell on deaf ears.
The angry athletes said they preferred to die there rather than leaving without their allowances, adding that they were tired of living in hardship after doing the state proud in various sports competitions.
The athletes, many of who are Yoruba by origin, complained bitterly of neglect and ill-treatment by the immediate past commissioner for sports, Boma Iyaye and one Sunday Adeyeye whom they claimed is the state’s sports consultant, accusing them of hijacking the money the state government released for them during the last sports festival held at the University of Port Harcourt.
According to them, the government released over five hundred million naira for payment of their allowances and general welfare but regretted that only stipends were paid to them, in the neighbourhood of N240,000 a year which amounted to N20,000 monthly whereas the state government promised to pay them N60,000 monthly.
Speaking to TPCN, Mr Shola Shoremekun, a para-table tennis coach, said he had been working for Rivers State since 2011 during which he had participated in three sports festivals, winning 24 gold, 32 silver and 31 bronze medals in the process.
Shoremekun, who expressed dismay over the ill treatment being meted to them, called on the Rivers State Government to fulfil its own part of the bargain by ensuring the payment of their accumulated allowances.
Quazeem Oniga, who said he is the coach for the sport called ayo, lamented that despite their achievements for Rivers State in the last sports festival, their full allowances were yet to be paid.
“We have been making Rivers State proud. During the last sports festival, Rivers State came second. Delta State came first. I won silver and bronze in ayo. The fault is not from the governor. The governor is a good man. He appreciates sports but the problem is those in charge of sports,” he said.
Asked if they had ever taken their complaints to the former commissioner for sports, Boma Iyaye, the ayo coach answered in the affirmative, adding that they had lodged several complaints to the commissioner but on each of the occasions, they were either told that the government had not released all the money or promised that something would be done about it.
Quazeem Oniga expressed disappointment that they should be subjected to such maltreatment and appealed to Governor Nyesom Wike to come to their aid.