From Habiba Ibrahim-Sam
Deaf athletes in Edo State on Monday staged a protest in Benin to challenge the exclusion of deaf sports from the forthcoming National Sports Festival (NSF) billed to take place in Asaba, Delta State, later this year.
The athletes stormed the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Edo State council, in their numbers, carrying placards with different inscriptions.
Dr. Sunny Aimufua, head coach, Deaf Sports in Edo, who led the protest, said the Ministry’s decision was discriminatory.
“The protest is on, because the deaf have been excluded from the forthcoming National Sports Festival and our athletics, made optional sport, which should not be so.
“We have the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development. You cannot be talking of development when you have optional sports.
“Also, we have three major sports committee in the world, the IOC (International Olympic Committee), International Paralympic Committee and the Committee of Sports. Now the Ministry has favoured the two other while we are being neglected,” he said.
The head coach noted that a sport could only become optional when there are no facilities for that sport.
In this case, he said deaf athletes could use the tracks in stadia across the country.
“If you have a place for Athletics Federation of Nigeria – para athletics – why won’t you have a place for deaf athletics.
“Ministry of Youth and Sports Development should stop playing politics with the deaf sport athletes who are different kind of persons and need to be encouraged.
“They have been training and some of them are employed by the states,” he said.
Also speaking through an interpreter, Assurance Omoria, who said she is the current African champion in deaf long jump, queried how she would further her career if not allowed to participate at the sports festival.
Omoria said she was promoted from Grade Level five to 12 by Gov. Godwin Obaseki based on recommendation, arising from her exploit at the African Championship.
“I have proved my mettle in competitions. What we want the ministry to do is to restore deaf sport to its permanent status and ensure that the athletes participate at the NSF in Delta,”Omaria added.