-Call for Gov. Sanwo – Olu’s intervention
-It’s against international convention to pay children; we are working on educational support for them – LSSC
Parents of young Lagos swimmers residing at Majidun in Ikorodu West Local Council Development Area (LCDA) in Ikorodu Division area of Lagos State, Southwest, Nigeria, have called on the Sports Commission to pay compensation to their children who participated in the National Youth Games in Ilorin.
The parents, under the aegis of Parents’ Swimming Association of Majidun, alleged that their children returned home empty handed from the games, a situation they said they had never experienced before.
They appealed to the Governor of the State, Mr Babajide Sanwo – Olu, to intervene in the matter and prevail on the Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC) to compensate their children with money alongside the scholarship they promised them.
But the Commission, in its reaction, has stated that the state is a signatory to international convention that forbids payment to minors who are participating in sporting activities.
The Technical Head of the LSSC, Mr Travih Olumide, who just got back to the country from a state assignment, spoke with our reporter on the phone.
He added that the Commission is working on scholarships and other educational support for the children.
However, the aggrieved parents have threatened to take their protest to the Governor office in Ikeja if there is no quick response to their demands.
The concerned parents, who also claimed that many of their children returned home from Ilorin with sickness, addressed THE IMPACT at their meeting in Majidun on Sunday, November 28, 2021.
Mr Happiness Onbowada Otunla, the Chairman of the group who said that he had also represented Lagos State as an athlete, said that:
“The entire parents under our association, Parents’ Swimming Association of Majidun, are the ones protesting, even including those that do not have children that are engaging in swimming.
“Imagine taking the children away for two weeks for competition and the children came back home with sickness. Is it the parents of these children that they represented at the competition that they were forced to be responsible for their medical expenses”, he asked rhetorically.
“In fact, they did not give the children the money they were supposed to give them and this has never happened before. They were not given bonus and were also not given food before they embarked on the journey back to Lagos and by the time that they returned home, they were hungry”, Mr Otunla further alleged.
“These children inherited swimming ability from some of their parents like me. I was given a scholarship to further my education through sports and was at same time paid a salary every month. Then, everything was free.
“I find it hard to believe that they said that they cannot give them money because they are under – age but that they will be given scholarship.
While stating that other states compensated their athletes with money, Mr Otunla insisted that there must be monetary compensation for the children.
“Other states already paid athletes that won medals and almost all the children came home with medals. The least is the one who collected one medal. There should be some benefits that they should be given aside bonuses and camp allowances, Unfortunately, they were not even given bonus or camp allowance.
“Even if they want to give them a scholarship, won’t they eat? “, he asked rhetorically.
“We want the governor to intervene because I know the governor is a listening governor and he does not joke with sports. He should know that the money meant for the benefit of the children did not get to them”, he said while calling on Governor Sanwo-Olu to intervene in the matter.
“Before, we wanted to go to the Governor’s office to protest but we decided to make use of your medium to get across to him first. But it is not yet late to do that if there is no response after reaching out to them through your paper”.
He said that they are also holding the children’s coach responsible for the situation. According to him, the coach had initially told the young swimmers that they would be paid but that just last week, he informed them that they will be given scholarship instead on the ground that they are underage.
“We want the government to help us. These children have already been discouraged because they have not been taken good care of. We are not opposed to the scholarship which will help them through school but it must be supported with feeding”, he said.
Prince Olu Abejoye, another chieftain of the group, said that parents are responsible for the upkeep of the children most times that they are in camp.
“These children usually call home that we (parents) should send them money for feeding which shouldn’t be the case. It is the responsibility of the government to do that since they are under them”, he said.
“It is quite surprising that this is happening. The children are trying their best for the Lagos State Government and if the government allows them to lose interest, it will be their fault.
“We have been the ones taking care of them when they are sick and we are also responsible for getting clearance for them in their schools when they are going on state assignments. We usually go to their various schools to plead with their schools’ authorities to release them”, he added.
“We appeal to the government to help us and also help these children because they will be useful to the state”, he pleaded.
Omoba Rotimi, the Vice chairman of the association who said that Majidun has been the area where the government has been grooming swimmers for Lagos, appealed to the governor to direct the sports commission to compensate their children for representing the state.
The General Secretary of the Parents’ Swimming Association of Majidun, Mrs Adenike Akintoku said that the development still looks like a surprise to the parents because those that represented the state before now were compensated.
“It was a big surprise to all the affected parents. We did not expect what is happening at all. Just like the chairman said, most of them (the swimmers) returned home sick and we have been the ones taking care of them.
“We have been expecting to hear from them but it was when they did not that we called the swimming coach to explain what is happening to us.
“They are not the first set of athletes from Majidun. Each time our swimmers go to competitions to represent the state, they always come back with lot of gifts. It’s unfortunate that this set went to represent the state and came back empty – handed.
“They are not given money and nothing has been heard about the scholarship they promised them. We are crying out so that they won’t forget our children . We are crying out to the government through your medium because we don’t have anyone that can help us.
“They went to represent the state and they were abandoned since they returned. Many of them have problems in their various schools because they went on assignment for the state and nobody deem it fit to inform their schools.
“It is we, the parents, that usually go to their schools to resolve these issues and anytime that they are travelling, we are also the ones that will go to their schools to seek their clearance”, she said.
Mr Travih Olumide, the Technical Head of the State’s Sports Commission, responding to the allegations, said:
“The Lagos State Government is signatory to many international conventions which prohibits monetary payments to children who are underage or minor when they participate in sporting activities.
“Underage children that participate in gymnastics at the Olympics are not compensated monetarily. I hope that you know that”, he asked our reporter.
“We are to support these young athletes in terms of their education. We have planned to give them scholarships and the Commission is working on that”, he added.
He denied the allegation that the Commission didn’t formally secure the release of the students from school to participate in state assignment.
“That is not true at all. Lagos State Sports Commission is an arm of the state government and the Ministry of Education is also an arm and there is synergy among all the Ministries. We do communicate through necessary channels for the release of these children whenever they have to be away from school on state assignment”.
The Technical head, however, pleaded with our reporter to call him some other time on other issues because he just arrived in the country.
Speaking with Mrs Titi Oshodi, the Public Affairs Officer of the LSSC, she said that the release of the young athletes who are in public schools are usually done through the Education Districts.
“These athletes that you mentioned are in public schools owned by the state government. We usually communicate that we need them for state assignments through the Education Districts. That is how we secure their releases”, she told our reporter on phone.
“We don’t engage middlemen to do this for us”.
On the allegation by the protesting parents that their children came back from the youth games with health issues, she said that members of the state contingent to the National Youth Games in Ilorin returned to Lagos in sound health