Cross River Govt Denies Athletes For Tokyo Olympics Access To Training Facility Over Political Differences

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By; VITALIS UGOH, Calabar

Worried by the recent development in the political scene in Cross River State and in a desperate quest to become relevant,  the Cross River State Government under the leadership of Senator Ben Ayade has commenced a systematic clamp down on government appointees and associates that may have have declined to follow him to the All Progressives’ Congress (APC).

Just recently Governor Ben Ayade decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressives’ Congress (APC).

The first causality is the Chairman of the Canaan TableTennis Club, Otuekong Orok Duke as the hall  has been shut down on the directives of the Governor Senator Ben Ayade.

As at the time of filing the story, the athletes were stranded.

Reports unfolding shows that, the state government has ordered the closure of the Canaan Table Tennis club hall that the state’s table tennis team and some members of the public use to train as the state government  has instructed the Director of Sports to close and shut down the place  and this may not be unconnected with the refusal of the former Chairman of the State’s Sports Commission, Chief Orok Otu Duke to move to APC.
 A notice signed by the Director of Sports, Mr. Etim Coco-Bassey Omara for the Chairman of the Commission and pasted on the wall of the hall in the stadium, said, “i have the directive to inform the public and athletes that the table tennis hall has been closed till further notice”.

A visit to the Stadium confirmed that a number of  the players were sited stranded at the stadium as they had no place to train for a competition  in Turkey next week and the Olympic games in Tokyo and non of the officials would comment on the matter.

However sources close to the commission said the directives came from the governor and it is political in other to checkmate any PDP sympathizer close to government.
 Mr. Francis Etang said “the complex in the Memo of article and Memorandum of Association shows that the state government has an equity share holding of 40 percent while individuals have 60 percent. The state Table tennis club has made the state proud in recent times. The cadet team came third in the just concluded National sport festival. Idongesit Udoka has won a gold medal in recent meet but was rather appreciated by the Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello.

“The club through individual sponsors has been able to produce the likes of Aruna Kadiri, an Olympic semi finalist and African champion, Funke Oshonaike and Offiong Edem, all African Games Champions and Olympians. They have brought glory to the state at different point in time.  Their sponsorship is largely from individuals as the state government had stopped the subvention to the Table tennis Club”.
 Commenting on the matter, the Chairman of South South Table Tennis, Otuekong Orok Duke described the lock down of the hall as very unfortunate as “they athletes need to train there so that the equipment do not go bad. Now look at what has happened, they have locked the place without telling us. I don’t know they have locked the place and I just hope it is not political…Why are they locking it for. Is it for security breach?  Its only the chairman of the commission and Governor Ayade that can explain better. The chairman said the governor asked that the place should be locked but all those things belong to us”. 
Duke who is also the incorporated Chairman of Canaan Table Tennis Club stated, “We are supporting him but it is just that I am not crossing over to APC. As an elder states person you cannot stop supporting government because you want progress in the state otherwise how else would I spend N3 million in last competitions to make them win laurels for the state. Why did I go to Edo and I spent money for feeding and other things and we won laurels. They children came back with all excitements to come and continue training to improve their skill only for the venue to be locked. Who locks down sports venue? There are more questions than answers. That is what I am facing that for the first time in the history of this state that a training venue will be locked down”. 
Meanwhile the state government in a notice dated May 24 and signed by the Senior Special Adviser Political to the Governor, Dr Peter Ojie, said the governor, Senator Ben Ayade has “approved interactive meetings between 25 and 28 of May 2021 .with the under-listed stakeholders in Government: Cross River House of Assembly, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants/Special Assistants, Chairmen of LGA/Councilors, Director General/Chairmen of Boards/Members, Party Executives (state and LGAs)”

The said interactive meeting according to stakeholders is to  determine those with complete allegiance to the governor as he had decamped to APC.

Meanwhile,  the Commissioner for Climate Change and Forestry, Ntufam Donatus Etim is said to have taken the bull by the horn as he has tendered his  resignation.

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