Athletes from Kogi State may be barred from participating in the 20th National Sports Festival in Edo State from April 2 to April 14.
The Edo State Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu, who doubles as the Chairman of the Local Organising Committee of the sports festival, said athletes must take COVID-19 vaccines before arrival for the event.
“All athletes/officials are to take COVID-19 vaccines at least 12 days before arrival for the tournament,” Shaibu said in a statement.
Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, however, said he won’t take the COVID-19 vaccine and would also not encourage residents of the state to take it.
“If the Federal Government is gracious enough and gives us COVID-19 vaccines, we will equally sensitise our people. People who wish to take can come and take, but I am not going to subject the people of Kogi State to vaccines or vaccination, and I will not make them the guinea pigs,” Bello told Channels TV on March 5.
According to the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Fiasal Shuaib, all states, except Kogi, have taken delivery of the COVID-19 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.
When our correspondent contacted the Kogi State Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Idris Musa, on Thursday, he said he wouldn’t take the vaccine, adding that the state won’t make provisions for athletes to take the vaccine.
He said he would step aside from participating in the sports festival if he was not allowed in.
“I think the Edo State Government or the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development will agree with us that we are going to do our test to get a certificate that all of us are okay, but in terms of the vaccine, there is nothing I can say now because the Federal Government and the state are still in dialogue.
Up till now, the vaccines are not even enough for some states that have agreed to take them, so, our case should not be a yardstick,” Musa said.
“If they say I can’t participate because I haven’t taken the vaccine, then I have to step down, I will not take it.
“We are not encouraging anybody to take it, it is an individual opinion. If you think you have COVID-19 and you want to take a vaccine, go ahead and take it, but some of us are healthy, we don’t have COVID-19. How can I go-ahead to take something that the producer did not take? We don’t have the vaccines in Kogi.”
Reacting, the Special Assistant on Media to the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, John Joshua-Akanji, said COVID-19 vaccination was compulsory for athletes to be admitted into the festival.
“All athletes must be vaccinated,” Akanji told the journalist.
Meanwhile, athletes and officials in the Edo State contingent for the festival will begin their COVID-19 vaccination on Wednesday (today), ahead of the competition.
Project Manager for Team Edo, Anehita Emeya, who disclosed this to journalists in Benin City, said the team was set to make the state proud.
Emeya noted that the vaccination exercise for the contingent was in line with the directive by the main and local organising committees on compulsory vaccination for all athletes and officials, at least 12 days before arrival for the tournament.
The Project Manager said the organisers of the competition decided that athletes and officials at the festival must take COVID-19 tests 72 hours before arrival for the event, with the contingents presenting certificates and documentation of the tests and vaccination before they could be admitted into the Games Villages.
Emeya added that the state planned to vaccinate about 1, 500 persons, including athletes, coaches, vendors and drivers.