By; MUSA KUTAMA, Calabar
The Cross River Government said it has evolved a programme that will ensure reasonable protection for young people representing the state in sports activities in order to address parents’ concerns.
Orok Duke, Chairman, State Sports Commission, gave the assurance in an interview with New Nigerian Sports in Calabar.
Duke spoke on the side lines of the flag-off of the 2017 Nestle Milo Championship for Nigerian Secondary Schools preliminaries at the U.J Esuene stadium.
He said that parents had expressed concerns over the safety of their wards drafted to represent Cross River on sports competitions.
Orok said: “We had an incident last year where some parents did not allow their daughters to go for the regional conference of the 18th edition of this championship.
“But this year (19th edition) we have signed a surety, standing as guarantors and to take care of any child that may qualify to represent the state in the championship.
“Parents have the right to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their children. We are also duty bound to protect those who vie for honours for the state in all competitions, this we will reasonably do.’’
Duke said that due to the seriousness attached to the training of young people Festus Oduah, a retired basketball coach, was drafted to nurture team Cross River in this year’s competition.
“When it involves so many students we actually deploy senior players to train them. Of course this is the 19th edition and we are ready.
“No fewer than 30 schools have registered for the competition in Cross River State.
“The timing is good because it has not conflicted with the school time table in terms of running exams and at the same time having the championship.
Our programme is that after the Ayade U-15 football tournament we will have the basketball championship.
“But the Nestle Milo basketball championship is a national programme and will run side-by-side with Ayade tournament. We will accommodate them.
“Weather permitting, we are looking at one week maximum after which they will go for the zonal championship,’’ Duke said.
The 18th edition of the Nestle Milo Basketball Championship for Secondary Schools ended at indoor sport Hall of Asaba stadium, Delta with two thrilling finals in the girls and boys categories.
The girls’ final match featured the 2015 champions, St. Judes Girls Secondary School Amarata, Bayelsa State and Wesley Girls Senior Secondary School Lagos.
The Lagos team defeated their Bayelsa counterpart 30-29 points in a well contested game to emerge champions.
In the boys final match Government Secondary School Karu, Abuja, lost 49-57 to Osadenis Mixed Secondary School Asaba.
He said that the state had also despatched a strong contingent to represent Team Cross River at the ongoing Gov. Seriake Dickson Wrestling Tournament in Yenegoa, Bayelsa.
“We have sent six girls and five boys to represent the state at the wrestling tournament.
“We have managed in the face of limited resources to send the coaches and relevant officials there. The state athletes are training in the naval base,’’ he said.
According to Duke the commission has also commenced the final recruitment of players for Gov. Ben Ayade United Football Club which inauguration is captured in this year’s budget.
“We will sign agreement with them, release their licenses and start paying their stipends on monthly basis. We have 35 names,’’ he said.
He said that Gov. Ayade’s administration was supportive of the commission’s sports programmes.