The Federal and Enugu State Governments have stated their intention to collaborate in the development of the sports sector to combat insecurity, boost the economy, and create jobs.
The Minister of Sports, Sen. John Enoh, and Enugu State Governor, Mr Peter Mbah, stated this during the minister’s courtesy visit to the Government House, Enugu, on Monday.
The minister expressed the Federal Government’s interest in partnering with the state to make sports a profitable venture. He praised Mbah for his dedication to improving the sports industry in the state by enhancing and rebranding sporting facilities comprehensively and innovatively.
According to him, sports is a five trillion-dollar industry that can inspire and change the world.
“It has the power to give hope when there is despair. Sports speak to the youths in the language they understand. Sports has more power than government to break barriers and boundaries of racial discrimination and injustices.” Enoh said.
He also said that sport is expected to contribute in so many ways, especially in job creation and security in the country.
“We have a challenge of unemployment, and there is no sector that can help in tackling this, if not sports and even for our economic growth”, he added.
Enoh further commended the state for its contributions to sports development, saying it had a rich history with an international brand like the Rangers International FC.
“Sports is no longer for leisure and recreation; it is a critical business sector. We need to start thinking of how we can translate the passion and energies in our youths for sports business, which will boost Enugu and the country’s economies.
“The national sports policy is talking about infrastructure, incentives and investment because the businessman who wants to invest in sports needs to be assured of his return on investment.
“Sports is doing much more than it is appreciated because it has the potential to contribute between four and seven per cent to our GDP,” he said.
Enugu State Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Lloyd Ekweremadu, said the sports sector was vital for the economic development of the state.
Ekweremadu commended the Federal Government for sharing the same vision with Mbah’s administration and seeking collaboration with it to boost the economy.
According to him, this will help to reduce youth unemployment and improve the security of the state.
Responding, the governor said that the state would play a significant leadership role in catalysing the change that the nation sought to achieve in sports and youth development.
“It is reassuring because that is in line with the vision of this administration, which is also in our manifesto, on how youths are going to be integrated into the economic development trajectory.
“Enugu State has a growth trajectory of $4.4 billion to $30 billion in the next eight years and we are very mindful of the role sports will play to achieve this target,” he said.
Mbah, speaking through the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Chidiebere Onyia, expressed discontent with the National Bureau of Statistics’ classification of sports as “a mere leisure and recreation”.
He called for a change in designation from leisure to business, arguing it would shift the mindset towards sports. He urged increased collaboration between the public and private sectors to foster sports and youth development for economic sustainability.
“We are building back Enugu Rangers and re-enacting it back to what it used to be. We have the branding of the Rangers jersey by Afrinvest, and we have other private investors who are also showing interest in investing in the club.
“We will not be left behind; we will fight toe to toe with the Federal Government and make sure we change the way sports is perceived in the country and Enugu will be a model for that,” he said.