Enraged by the nonpayment of their accumulated allowances, athletes in Ondo State have shut down the Ministry of Sports, paralysing all business and sporting activities.
Armed with placards bearing different inscriptions on Monday, the athletes alleged that the state government owed them 16 months in stipends, and barred entry into the sports complex.
The ministry also houses the Akure township stadium of the sport complex.
Some of the placards read: 'All We are Saying, Pay our 16 Months Stipend', 'Enough of Suffering', 'No More Scoping, We Need our 16 Months Allowances, Enough Is Enough', 'No Alert, No Opening of Gate'. They also chanted solidarity songs.
According to the athletes, the stipends were as low as N3,000 monthly, which is "just too ridiculous" despite their efforts in winning laurels for the state.
Bankole Michael, one of the athletes who spoke with journalists, complained about the maltreatment faced by the athletes.
Michael, who is also a champion in heavyweight lifting, said many of his colleagues in the state were languishing in poverty and had been abandoned to their fate. He explained how officials of the
Ondo State Sports Council took them to Abuja, where they represented the state at the National Sports Festival, but were never paid all their allowances.
"Just imagine, we went through hell at the festival in Abuja and we could only agitate for a meagre stipend of N2,000 out of N75 million that was allegedly released for such trip. When we returned from the Abuja trip, these officials promised us that our allowances would be paid before the Yuletide, but all were lies," he said.
"What made many of us here angry is that the officials shared bags of rice, including groundnut oil, among themselves in December, while nothing was given to us despite all our efforts. So, we decided to protest and shut down this entrance since they seem to have deliberately forgotten all of us and are not appreciating our efforts."
Kazeem Aminu, another athlete, said the attitude of the government towards sportsmen and women was really demoralising and vowed to quit sporting activities.
Aminu, who disclosed that many of them are graduates, said unemployment forced them to embrace sports rather than roam the streets.
"We have families who depend so much on us for their living and we have bills to pay. However, we have not been able to live up to our responsibilities due to the 16 months' allowances owed us by the state government," he stated.
Saka Yusuf-Oguleye, Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, pleaded with the athletes to let peace reign.
He said of the 16-month accumulated allowance, the government just approved payment of eight months.
"The other eight months was owed by the past administration. I'm not sure the present government has been notified by officials of the sports council," he added.