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Festival: Ajunwa knocks sports ministry over Para-sports exclusion

Olympic gold medallist, Chioma Ajunwa, has kicked against the sports ministry’s decision to exclude Para-sports from the 21st edition of the National Sports Festival, which holds from November 28 to December 10.
In a virtual meeting of the National Council on Sports on Wednesday, sports minister, Sunday Dare, who is also the NCS Chairman, approved the scrapping of the three compulsory Para-sports at the festival namely Para-athletics, Para-powerlifting and Para-table tennis from the NSF.
Special sports athletes on Monday staged protests in Lagos and Benin City over their exclusion from the forthcoming 2022 National Sports Festival in Delta State.
In Lagos, Para-athletes blocked the entrance to the National Stadium, Surulere, causing gridlock on the Ojuelegba-Iponri road. The athletes carried placards conveying different messages, and called on Dare not to exclude them from the biennial festival.
Following the protests, the Director, National Sports Festival and Para-sports at the Federal Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, Peter Nelson, explained that the festival was transitioning into two different Games, adding that the athletes were aware that they now have their own separate festival.
“This protest is very unnecessary because the minister, Sunday Dare, has approved the Para-sports festival for special athletes and the second edition will be held next year,” Nelson stated.
Ajunwa noted that Para-athletes made a living from sports, adding that participating previously at the festival had given them a sense of belonging in the society.
The police officer stated, “It’s not right for the Para-athletes to be excluded from the National Sports Festival. The sports minister should have allowed them to enjoy what the able-body athletes are enjoying. I can’t give a reason why the minister took that decision, if the international bodies deem it fit to allow Para-sports or Para-athletes at their events.
“Immediately the able-body athletes finish on stage, the special athletes take over. Why can’t the Nigerian government do it the same way, knowing that the majority of these athletes make their living through sports? It makes them happy to be carried along. They also get something to support their families competing at such an event. They don’t want to go to the streets and start begging, it would have been better to make them have a sense of belonging by allowing them to participate, so others that are still on the streets begging can embrace sports.”

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