Nigeria will host the 2009 Under-17 World Cup, after President Umaru Yar’Adua gave the all clear for a new hosting price tag of 9 billion naira to be included in next year’s federal budget (US$1=118 naira)
The new amount is a far cry from the 37 billion naira price tag earlier submitted by the Local Organising Committee (LOC).
The decision to host the tournament, which Nigeria has earlier ditched on the grounds that it was not a priority, was contained in a statement from the presidency Tuesday evening.
The statement said: ”Following a drastic downward review of the estimated cost to the Federal Government of hosting the FIFA Under-17 World Cup next year, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua today gave the go-ahead for Nigeria to host the tournament as originally planned.
”After giving due consideration to the many representations made by global football community and other stakeholders, President Yar’Adua has directed that the sum of N9 Billion be provided in next year’s budget for the Under-17 World Cup.”
It went further: ”The President expects that with prudent management and complementary funding from FIFA and the private sector, the final cost to the Federal Government of hosting the Under-17 World Cup will be even less than the N9 Billion which the National Assembly will now be asked to appropriate.”
The statement said the turnaround was taken with the understanding that FIFA would bear the full cost of accommodating participating teams and an encouraging response from the Nigerian private sector to the demand that it should contribute much more significantly towards the successful hosting of the tournament.
”President Yar’Adua has also asked Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to oversee the management of the Federal Government’s role in hosting the tournament to ensure that Nigeria receives full value, in every respect, for funds committed to it. Consequently, the Local Organising Committee will now report to the Vice President,” it said.
According to the statement, Vice President Jonathan has written to the President of FIFA confirming that Nigeria will still host the Under-17 World Cup between 24 October and 15 November 2009
The decision to withdraw from the hosting has elicited mixed reactions from local and international commentators.
President of the African Football Confederation (CAF), Issa Hayatou, had criticised the decision, which he termed an embarrassment to CAF and the entire African continent.
Nigeria’s main opposition Action Congress (AC) asked President Yar’Adua to reconsider the decision not to host the tournament, saying it would portray Nigeria badly in the eyes of the world.
But the leading private newspaper, Guardian, supported the decision not to host the age-group competition, arguing that the world economic downturn made Nigeria’s stand reasonable.