Protesting Ondo athletes take over stadium over unpaid 19-month allowances
Scores of Ondo State athletes on Wednesday barricaded the entrance of the Ondo State Sports Complex in Araromi, Akure, to protest against the failure of the state government to pay them their allowances for close to 19 months.
For close to three hours, the protesters shut the main gate of the stadium complex where the sports associations offices are located preventing workers from gaining entrance. The development paralysed official and business activities in the complex.
Chanting anti-government slogans, the athletes, both able and disabled, alleged that for almost 19 months the state government had failed to pay their entitlements.
Some of the athletes, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they needed money to provide for their families ahead of the Yuletide.
The protesters called on Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to look into their matter and pay them before the Christmas break.
One of the protesters, who identified him as Sunday, said the government was insensitive to their plight.
He said, “We have represented Ondo State in many competitions and many of us won medals for the state across various categories but the government is not being fair to us in the area of welfare, we don’t deserve this.
“It started during the previous administration of Olusegun Mimiko, but we thought the Akeredolu administration would be better, but nothing has been done to our matter since he came on board almost nine months now. Christmas is coming now, we need money to take care of ourselves and our families, and the governor should have mercy on us.”
Our correspondent learnt the protesters, who were gearing up to storm the Governor’s Office after their protest at the sports complex, shelved the plan after learning that Akeredolu had travelled out of the state.
The state Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Saka Yusuf-Ogunleye, appealed to the protesting athletes to be patient with the government, saying their salaries would be paid soon.
He said, “It is true that the government is owing them and the governor has asked us to go and do their verification to know their actual number, that is what we are doing now.
“Their file was brought to me last week and I’m taking it to the governor for approval and I know the governor will give approval either today or tomorrow when he comes back from Abuja. So their money would be paid any moment from now. “
Meanwhile, the state-owned Premier League club Sunshine Stars have been crippled by financial crisis, with many of the players yet to be paid their salaries for months.
The development forced some of the players to ditch the Akure side for other outfits.
The Premier League kicks off on January 14 but Sunshine, who will travel to Owerri to take on Heartland, are allegedly unsure about honouring the encounter as the team’s financial crisis worsens.