Gateway Games 2006: All About Import Waivers, by Otunba Gbenga Daniel

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Ogun State under my watch won the rights to host the National Sports Festival christened Gateway Games which was successfully held from 6th April to 16th April 2006. Ogun State contingent came 3rd overall and won the largest no of medals including the Gold medal in soccer. The best performance ever recorded by our State in the history of the games. Sports professional nationwide agreed that Gateway Games 2006 was probably one of the best organised in history. In the course of our preparation, we built from the scratch the Gateway International Stadium and Games Village in Ijebu Ode and also upgraded the MKO Abiola Stadium Abeokuta to FIFA certification, such that 2 years later, we played host to the world in Ogun State State when The facilities in Ijebu Ode was selected by FIFA as one of the venues for the Junior World Cup. Spain and USA were actually one of the countries that played in our State. This is just by way of subtle reminder because human memories can be short.

Funding of the games was a challenge as our administration decided ab initio that we cannot afford to use scarce and unavailable states resources to fund the games which was a very expensive venture. We therefore created The Gateway Games Commission under the executive control of Dr Yomi Majekodunmi who was later to become my Chief of Staff in June 2007, because of what I considered to be his impressive performance during the Games. Together with Gateway Holdings Ltd, a wholly owned investment company by Ogun State Government under the executive control of its pioneer Managing Director/Chief Executive, Mr Gboyega Isiaka, they were charged to create ingenious ways and look for funds from various sources to fund the Games.

Part of this initiative amongst others was the Usage of Customs waivers to import vehicles for the use of the Games and also Steel for the Construction of the Games Village. The State Government duly applied to the Presidency and was granted the waiver via two companies nominated/accredited by Federal Government for their earlier successful performances on similar waiver on National Festival Games like COJA etc.

The vehicles were duly provided by Globe Motors to our satisfaction. However, the steel importation, I was aware, provided lots of challenges as the Steel did not arrive in time for the construction of the Games Village. The waiver was approved to the best of my recollection due to the usual bureaucracy in December 2005 barely 3 months to the commencement of the Games in April 2006. As the State Government had no money to fund the Games as I earlier indicated, the whole logistics of importation and funding was arranged by the duo of Gateway Games Commission and Gateway Holdings Limited, all funded by a Bank.

I was informed while in Government that when the steel finally arrived, there were issues of demurrage, seizures etc which was making nonsense of the financial projections and timing for the Games as the steel finally arrived after the end of the Games. The Games Village under construction was not ready and we had to make alternative arrangements to house the over 10,000 participants in the Games, the largest contingent in the Games history.

Our concern, thereafter, was how to ensure that the nightmare  was managed in such a way that the State was not left with any debt as a result of this development. I feel proud that on the final date of the games, an audited report of the Games finances was publicly rendered during the closing ceremonies in the presence of the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo  GCFR, and the Gateway Games Commission announced a modest profit of about N10m, if my memory serves me right.  This was on the 16th April, 2006. With that closure, we all felt elated that the Best Organised National Sports Festival was not only concluded without incidences but that such a game can be successfully done without directly impinging on the States lean purse but more importantly that Sports can be a profitable venture if well organised. This, we believe, has become a landmark in Sports administration, and we feel elated that since Gateway Games 2006, all other States hosting have been making it a reference point in planning and execution.

However, since the Games ended and despite the audited report publicly rendered, the Games have been the subject of continuos probes and investigations as is all our other efforts in States administration, such that over 7 years later, I was invited to provide some clarifications yesterday by the EFCC. I honoured and provided answers to the best of my recollection as all the details of all that transpired are in the custody of the current State government. I was not aware of any scam whatsoever either on these transaction or any other transaction whatsoever during the 8-year tenure of my administration. This short summary are my initial comments to whatever insinuations that the public might have been fed about my visit to the EFCCs office yesterday.

Otunba Engr. Gbenga Daniel, FNSE., FNAEng.,

Governor, Ogun State. 2003-2011.

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