Mudiaga Affe, Calabar
The Cross River State Sports Commission has berated the Federal Government for alleged poor treatment meted out to the state women’s table tennis team (Canaan Queens) that represented Nigeria at the just-concluded 2017 African Club Table Tennis Championships in Agadir, Morocco.
Egypt’s Alhy defeated Canaan Queens 3-1 in the final to retain their women’s title in the June 28-30 tournament.
The Nigeria Table Tennis Federation picked Canaan Queens as the country’s flag bearers in Morocco after winning the national women’s competition. Offiong Edem and Funke Oshonaike were part of the team.
Chairman of the commission, Orok Duke, who spoke to reporters in Calabar on Thursday, alleged that the Caanan Queens, who were sponsored to the competition by the Cross River State Government, were treated shabbily by the Federal Ministry of Sports.
Duke lamented the sports ministry had not recognised the achievements of the team since they returned home from Morocco.
He also alleged that the Nigerian Embassy in Morocco snubbed the team throughout their stay in the North African nation.
He said, “While in Morocco, not even the Consul-General or his subordinates were on the ground to accord us the due protocol as the flag bearers of the country. We entered and departed as orphans.
“If they were footballers, I am sure that this would not have happened, even if Nigeria ended up as losers after the match. Fortunately we came second best in the competition.”
Duke decried the focus on football to the detriment of other sports in the country.
The sports commission boss, who was recently elected for the fourth time to represent the South-South zone on the board of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation, commended Governor Ben Ayade for sponsoring the team to the tournament.
He said, “The governor prevented what would have been a national disgrace if the state had failed to take up the slot to fly Nigeria’s flag in Morocco.
“We had no support from Federal Government and this was further compounded by the shabby treatment we got from the Nigerian Embassy in Morocco over the handling of visa matters.”
Duke added, “If it was the Super Eagles that were in Morocco, all consular arrangements would have been put in place. The Federal Government wrote to us that we were to represent Nigeria in the female category of the championship, which involved 54 countries.
“The trip cost us (Cross River) over N15m and there was no handshake, no acknowledgement and no formal reception when we came back. We just crawled back into Nigeria quietly. We only got visa guarantee letters to travel to Morocco.
“We are not completely angry with them because they hardly sponsor anything that is not football. My own stand is that if you have any state that has been sponsoring athletes to represent Nigeria, you should also consider them for waivers when they are importing sports equipment. We have more than six containers lying idle at the Onne Port in River State because of huge customs duties.”
Asked for comments, Nneka Anibeze, the Media Adviser to the sports minister Solomon Dalung, said she was not aware of the development.
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