July 25, 2024
Suit 25, Mangal Plaza, Nouakchott Street, Wuse Zone 1, Abuja- Nigeria.

Nigeria’s NNPC is Reviving Passion for Sports Development

If there is one organisation in Nigeria that has contributed wholesomely to sports development in the country, it is the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).

As a responsible corporate citizen committed to the empowerment and development of Nigerian youths, the NNPCL has, for decades, promoted sports development through the sponsorship of flagship sporting events.

Many young Nigerians today who have benefitted from the company’s award of education scholarships and sponsorship of an annual science quiz may not be aware of the NNPC’s rich history of sports promotion and sponsorship of sporting activities because it predates their birth.

One key area the company has done this is through the sponsorship of the annual national athletics championships in partnership with the multi-national oil company, Mobil.

For two decades beginning in 1990 and ending in 2011, the company and its partner bankrolled what was without doubt the biggest national athletics event on the African continent.

Every year, young and talented Nigerian athletes joined their internationally renowned counterparts like Innocent Egbunike, Mary Onyali, Falilat Ogunkoya, Fatima Yusuf, Chidi Imoh, Olapade Adeniken, Yusuf Ali, the Ezinwa twins, Davidson and Osmond, Glory Alozie and others to compete for honours at the championships, which served as a platform for selecting Nigeria’s representatives to major international competitions like the All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games.

In the process of competing, new stars were born who went on to become internationally renowned athletes.

Aside from the national athletics championships, the NNPCL was also in 2001, involved in the sponsorship of the annual Schools Athletics Championship in partnership with Mobil and the Government of Akwa Ibom State.

That tournament has produced athletes many of whom have become national stars winning medals in key national sporting events like athletics classics competitions and the National Sports Festival.

Great role acknowledged

The NNPC’s involvement in sports development has been acknowledged and praised by leading sports journalists in the country. One of them, Olukayode Thomas, an award-winning former sports editor of some leading newspapers in Nigeria, and currently Race Director of the Abuja International Marathon, says NNPCL will forever be remembered in the annals of sports in Nigeria for the central role it has played in helping to churn out new sports stars as well as promote already existing ones on the national and international stages.

“NNPC has been a key player in sports in Nigeria, particularly in terms of its contribution to tennis, football and other sports but it was in athletics that NNPC and its partner, Mobil shone like a million stars. For twenty years they sponsored a championship that brought the best Nigerians from all over the world to compete like Falilat Ogunkoya, Innocent Egbunike, Chidi Imoh, Yusuf Ali, the twins, Davidson and Osmond Ezinwa, Fatima Yusuf, Olapade Adeniken, and other Olympic and World Championships medalists to Lagos to compete in the then glamorous and competitive championships.”

Many football enthusiasts remember with relish the exploits of the then NNPC Football Club of Warri, which featured prominently in what was then known as the Division 1 Football League.

More than sponsorship

As the NNPCL promoted sports on the national stage, it also made it a key plank of its management objectives to encourage the participation of its employees in sports as a way of promoting wellness and fitness among them.

In this regard, the annual NNPC Games was born. The games, which involve employees of the company and its subsidiaries competing in different sporting events like football, tennis, basketball, athletics and many other events, have run for several years attracting nationwide acclaim for their quality and consistency.

The games went into hiatus in the last few years beginning in 2020 following the outbreak of the rampaging coronavirus pandemic, which left millions around the world, dead. The suspension by no means meant that the Mele Kyari-led management of the NNPCL had abandoned the games. As it has turned out, it was working quietly to improve both the quality and substance of the games. This much became evident this February when a revamped Games took place in Abuja to the admiration of Nigerians who had earnestly yearned for its return.

Mr Thomas, who was at the final of the 2024 games, praised the management of NNPC for resurrecting it.

“For many years, NNPC has been synonymous with sports; so when I heard that the final of the NNPC Games would take place at the main bowl of the MKO Abiola Stadium, I decided to go not just to observe the organisation. I must confess the games was well organised and the participation was good. Apart from the fun and thrills that come with winning medals and trophies, I am happy that the NNPC is encouraging the culture of participation in sports among its staff and I hope the staff will key into the initiative to embrace sports as a way of life because of the immense health benefits that come with engaging in sports”, Mr Thomas said.

He said the icing on the cake was the invitation of former Super Eagles players like Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha, Garba Lawal, Alloy Agu, Daniel Amokachi, Tijani Babangida and others.

He noted that besides adding colour to the games, a lot of footballers came to the stadium because of these football greats and their performance has given many of them an incentive to work harder. He said NNPCL’s invitation of Okocha and the others has provided these youngsters the motivation they need to work harder.

“Most of them told me that watching the great Jay Jay Okocha and Emmanuel Emenike play was not just a dream come true but also gave them the drive they need to work harder to achieve their goals,” Mr Thomas added.

He appealed to NNPCL to return to athletics and help Nigeria revive its glory in the events in which it once excelled globally.

He specifically called on Femi Soneye, the new NNPC spokesman, who himself has a background in sports journalism, to make a case before the management of the company for NNPC to return to athletics.

“I recall Soneye’s days as a sports journalist and I am not surprised that he has done a very good job with the management of the NNPC. Since he took over, he has made sports journalists like me proud of the way the NNPC is always in the news for good reasons these days,” Mr Thomas stated.


This article was republished from Premium Times

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.