By Max-Iyaye Samuel/Kayode Adebiyi
The Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung, on Monday assured that Nigeria was working hard to ensure that its non-compliance status at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was reversed.
Dalung who gave the assurance at the opening ceremony of a two-day anti-doping stakeholders meeting in Abuja said this was because much progress has been made in a positive way.
“Prior to the receipt of the notice from WADA which designated Nigeria as non-compliant, we were working to ensure compliance, but our pace was a bit slow.
“One of the key areas of concern identified by WADA is the passage into law, the setting up of an independent national anti-doping organisation.
“They also wanted to be provided the opportunity to review such bill to ensure conformity.
“I can assure now that we have since made progress and this much has been acknowledged by WADA and I am optimistic that, very soon, Nigeria’s status will be reviewed,” Dalung said.
The minister however identified lack of continuity and funding as two major challenges facing the institutionalisation of anti-doping measures in Nigeria.
“We have secured budget line item for anti-doping activities in the 2019 budget. We have also secured approval from Mr President (Muhammadu Buhari) for the funding of the National Anti-Doping Committee (NADC).
“The process of releasing funds is ongoing at the Federal Ministry of Finance. As soon as that is done, further activities required for WADA compliance will commence,” he said.
On tackling the issue of lack of continuity in the administration of anti-doping policy, Dalung said he had discussed with stakeholders and sought special approval to source manpower for the NADC.
The bill for the establishment and funding of a national anti-doping agency is one of the demands stipulated by WADA.
It has now passed the second reading at the House of Representatives.
The Chairman, House Committee on Youths and Sports, Goni Bukar, confirmed the status of the legislation in his goodwill message at the event.
Bukar added that it would have been passed if not for the fact that it was being overtaken on the queue by other crucial issues of national interest.
“We are at the verge of passing into law a bill for the establishment of a National Anti-Doping Agency. The bill has gone through second reading and a public hearing.
“But for the issues of the National Minimum Wage and the 2019 Budget, we would have passed it,” he said.
The lawmaker however assured that as soon as the House reconvened, the bill would be given speedy treatment and sent to the Senate for harmonisation.
WADA had on Nov. 14 declared Nigeria’s national anti-doping agency non-compliant, claiming that the country did not meet international anti-doping standards.
This was in spite of the inauguration of the NADC members by Dalung on Sept. 6, where he charged them to ensure Nigeria’s compliance with anti-doping policies.
Olusade Adesola, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development, said at the event that the setback was regrettable.
“It is regrettable that Nigeria was declared non-complaint in spite of all efforts to ensure otherwise. But the declaration has challenged us to step up our efforts.
“There is an evidence of Nigeria’s concrete resolution to join the world in fighting doping in sports,” Adesola said.
The two-day stakeholders’ meeting is carried out in collaboration with the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sports (SAIDS).
The meeting was aimed at developing the capacity of anti-doping officials.
It will also involve the signing of a tripartite agreement involving Nigeria, SAIDS and WADA as part of efforts to comply with world anti-doping regulations.
In his remarks, Rodney Swigelaar, the Director, WADA Office Africa, said Nigeria was one of the key actors when the body was set up.
“Nigeria therefore retains a strong relationship with the organisation.’’
He said since Nigeria’s non-compliance status was transmitted in November 2018, significant progress had been made, assuring that WADA would assist Nigeria to attain compliance.
“Of course, the fact that we are here today is indicative of the progress made. I know that Nigeria is passionate about anti-doping.
“I agree that it is unfortunate for Nigeria to be ranked non-complaint. We hope that this will be rectified soon.
“We will assist Nigeria as much as possible and we are willing to listen to stakeholders concerning challenges faced by Nigeria in this regard,” Swigelaar said.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SAIDS, Khalid Galant, said at the event that his organisation had the support of the South African government to work with the NADC.
“We have a few challenges, but we are encouraged by the enthusiasm of the Nigerian government and participants at this event.
“We hope that this will be a step towards changing Nigeria’s status in WADA,” he said.
The meeting will end on Tuesday with NADC and SAIDS signing an agreement to collaborate, while WADA will provide oversight in the implementation of the agreement. (NAN)