Unpaid Rivers disabled athletes: Wike wades into crisis


…As Ministry of Sports sets up committee

By Kelechi Esogwa-Amadi

The rift between the athletes who represented Rivers State at the last National Sports Festival and the State government is gradually being resolved as Governor Nyesom Wike has now waded into the matter.

Already, a committee set up by the permanent secretary of the ministry of sports is currently meeting with the athletes at the Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt today with a view to finding a lasting solution to the payment brouhaha.

TPCN has it on good authority that the committee, made up of one Mr B.L. Wifa, Mr Sunday Adeleye –the sports contractor at the centre of the crisis – another man and a female from the ministry of sports, first met with the athletes yesterday with a view to resolving the imbroglio, in line with the mandate given to it by the permanent secretary.

Recall that TPCN was the first to report last weekend’s protest by the athletes who barricaded the Rivers State Government House demanding for payment of their salaries.

We gathered that on hearing about the protest by the athletes – majority of who are disabled – over their unpaid salaries and allowances on Wednesday and Thursday at the Government House Gate, Governor Wike immediately called the State’s Contractor, Sunday Adeleye, who was supposed to pay the athletes and ordered him to come to Port Harcourt with immediate effect.

The governor also invited the permanent secretary in the ministry of sports, to the Government House.

We learnt that Governor Wike had expressed surprise that the athletes are still being owed about eight months’ salaries after he had approved the payment for one year for them.

According to the athletes, Sunday Adeleye and his cohorts had only paid some of them for two months but lied to the governor that he paid the athletes for four months, which made the governor approve the remaining eight months to complete the one-year payment at sixty thousand naira (N60,000) per month.

But rather than pay the athletes the full amount, the said Sunday Adeleye allegedly paid some twenty thousand naira (N20,000) per month and a selected few the full amount.

But following the call by the governor, Sunday Adeleye was forced to arrive Port Harcourt on Friday during which he met with the permanent secretary of the sports ministry, some officials of the sports council and the angry athletes at the front of the Podium Block building of the Rivers State Secretariat.

Sunday Aeleye’s explanation that the payment was based on the categorization of the athletes fell on deaf ears as the athletes barked and raved and threatened to beat him up if he did not pay them that day.

They cursed and jeered at him for subjecting them to so much pain and suffering, irrespective of the fact that majority of them won medals which made Rivers State finish second at the last National Sports Festival at Abuja in December 2018.

If not for the permanent secretary, some policemen, some sports ministry officials and a TPCN reporter, who all helped to calm the angry athletes, they would have torn Sunday Adeleye to pieces as they threatened.

Some of the athletes, who came from Lagos to participate in the protest, lamented that they left their families with nothing and were not ready to return to Lagos empty-handed.

To make peace reign, the permanent secretary decided to address the athletes, assuring them that the ministry would resolve the matter by ensuring that Sunday Adeleye pays all of them.

He begged them to allow Sunday Adeleye to go since it was already getting late, as it was nearing 7 pm. He went ahead to set up the committee which is charged with the responsibility of looking into all the complaints of the athletes and ensure that they are addressed while promising that Sunday Adeleye would be made to give an account of his activities as their sports contractor.