Cross River State government has revealed that it has lost over 22 of its athletes to poachers after investing over $9.8 million on sports development.Briefing newsmen at the weekend at the U. J. Esuene Stadium during the formal presentation of Cross River athletes, who featured at the last Commonwealth Games and national table tennis tournament, the Chairman of the State Sports Commission, Otuekeong Orok Duke said, “in our athletics we are making progress because when we came we did not inherit any athlete that so much money had been expended on. May be imaginary athletes but what we came to find out was that eight of our girls that were running for Cross River State were sold to Bahrain. They are now Bahrainis.
“14 of our athletes, basketball players are now in US universities without having anymore link with us. What I have come to conclude regarding that is that all the money spent by Governor Liyel Imoke on sports were spent to recruit people that were finally sold out to other countries. Now we don’t have any, none of the athletes created in that period is running for Cross River State government.”
He said the previous government spent over $1.4 million a year for seven years to groom new athletes, adding, “it did not include the money for tours and athletes grooming, yet all the athletes have disappeared. It happened before we came and it had to do with the method employed.”To check this ugly trend, Duke said, “if you discover athletes and groom them, you must get the government to key in by employing them.
There is a policy that if you are good and you win laurels for the state you should be employed. My coach is on level 14 and there is this policy if you win something they move you to the next level but for sometime nothing has happened.
“They won the last sports festival in Lagos, nothing, last year Cecilia Otu was national champion, nothing, this year the same thing but no promotion for the athletes and coaches. We are trying to streamline it and push to the governor for approval. With that nobody will poach anybody.
“This poaching was done before we came because these athletes were not documented. The consultant had said the 14 athletes he wanted to give them a better life and put them in Universities in US but that was done yet no link to the state that created the athletes. There is no where you discover an athlete for a University that you do not get a percentage as an agent. One of them Edidiong Ofonime qualified for semifinal for Bahrain at the Olympics. She was here running and last December she was here on holiday. We came but did not see any athlete but we heard there was a training programme.”