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No plans to pay Obudu race winners – C’River

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Mudiaga Affe, Calabar

The Cross River State Government says it  has  no plans to pay the  athletes   who won prize money at   the 2014 Obudu Mountain Race, saying the state did  not derive any economic benefits from the competition.

 Kenya’s Kemboi  Kipkorir won the men’s category while  Abebe Dinkesa of Ethiopia and Kiplimo Philip of Uganda came second and third respectively.

Genet Yalew of Ethiopia won the women’s  race, with Chessang Stella of Uganda and Ababel Yesshaneh of Ethiopia coming  second and third respectively.

The first three finishers in the men  and women’s  categories were to be rewarded with cash prizes of $50,000, $8,000 and $4,500 respectively.

However, the state could not pay the athletes at the end of the competition, forcing the angry runners to threaten legal action.

But the   state  Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Asu Okang, told our correspondent that the state government had decided to suspend the race indefinitely, adding that it also  had no plans to redeem the prize money owed the athletes who won their categories in 2014  due to a lack of funds.

Although he said the race  attracted so many people to the state, especially foreigners to the ranch, the venture was not profitable.

Okang  said, “When I came on board as a commissioner, I met a bill of N70m to be paid to prize winners, but unfortunately we do not have that kind of money.

“The concept of the mountain race is good but it adds no economic value to Cross River State. It is not a profitable venture and we keep paying money to winners that have no value to Cross River. We must keep our money.”

He said  the state might decide to start the competition in the  future if the economy improves.

The commissioner  said  the Obudu Mountain Resort is still functioning as a tourist destination, adding that the only facility for the race, which is the road leading up the ranch, is  still in use.

The mountain race was introduced by the  Donald Duke administration  and continued in the eight-year tenure of ex-governor Liyel Imoke.

The International Association of Athletics Federations recognised competition, which attracted no fewer than 130 athletes from various parts of the world to  the Obudu Mountain Resort venue for the race yearly, had about   $200,000 at stake  for winners.

Sponsor of the race, Cross River State Government,  dumped the  event after some athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda as well as their Nigerian counterparts  threatened to take legal action against the state for not paying their prize money in September 2015.

 After Cross River dropped the Obudu Mountain Race, the  Okpekpe International Road Race sponsored by the Edo State Government, which started five years ago,  has become very popular as it keeps attracting top foreign athletes.

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