The Nigerian athletes to the London 2012 Paralympics will be formally received by President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
The Punch learnt on authority from the National Sports Commission that the Paralympians who are billed to arrive in Nigeria on Tuesday will be hosted Saturday evening in recognition of their performance at the just concluded Games. The Falconets, who also returned from the FIFA U-20 World Cup after finishing fourth, are also to go along with the Paralympians.
A top executive of the Sports Ministry said, “The President is delighted by their performance and has therefore offered to give them a presidential treat. It is one of the best ways to show that the entire country followed all their outings in London and are very appreciative.”
By the detail of the reception, the athletes will be awarded with cash as some other presidents in the past did before former president Olusegun Obasanjo introduced the “presidential handshake” which offered athletes food and drinks only. The breakdown of the awards was not immediately known but the Paralympians are expected to receive bigger bonuses than the footballers. Jonathan, who seems to have found some fresh interest in sports, visited the Super Eagles at training last Thursday before they flew to Monrovia for an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match. He also set up a mistrial committee to evaluate the decay in infrastructure at the Abuja Stadium and recommended a rework package for the multi-billion naira venue.
The athletes are to be released after their arrival from London but will assemble in Abuja on Friday as prelude to the event set for the banquet hall the following day. The athletes have spent the last two months away from the country having camped in Korea from where they crossed to London for the Games.
Team Nigeria won 13 medals after an impressive 11-day action in London. The medals haul is the biggest for Nigeria at the Paralympics and by far a great relief to the country whose athletes returned empty-handed from the London Olympics. Nigeria clearly dominated in powerlifting, where they won 12 medals – six gold, five silver and one bronze. The final medal outside the lift event was a bronze medal won in the shot put by Esther Iyiazi.