The first Secondary School Unity Games in Abia state have kicked off on Friday with the opening ceremony which was graced with the presence of Governor Alex Otti and other top dignitaries.

The sports competition which is organized to run from 22nd to 27th of March 2024 will engage students from the 17 local government areas of the state in 24 games at the Umuahia township stadium.

The lighting of the competition touch light signaled the opening of the games.

In the speech of the governor during the kickoff, Governor Otti congratulated the athletes and their coaches for scaling through the qualification stages for the first secondary schools games finals.

Stating the importance of the sport events, Governor Otti said opportunities will be opened for the students as their progress in sports has been monitored by the state ministry of sports and other stakeholders. He also admonished the students to see the sporting activities beyond the chance of winning laurels but as an opportunity to learn very important lessons in team work, leadership and resilience.

Governor Otti also advised the students to approach every game with the goal to win, while also advising the officials of the games to “quietly excuse themselves if they would not be fair to the competitors and teams” in their officiating.

“As I stated during the flag off of the games at the local government level, fairness on the part of the officials is a sine qua non to the success of the games. Let me state my earlier warning that anyone found to have compromised for whatever reasons shall be dealt with using the appropriate legal and constitutional framework. I therefore encourage any officials who cannot be fair to all the competitors and teams to quietly excuse themselves in their best interest.” Governor Otti said.

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Governor Otti watched the match past display from some schools as well cultural displays.

Governor Otti applauded the effort of Nwaobilor Nwadimma Ananaba, the commissioner for sports and youth development and his team for proper planning and organization of the games.

Governor Otti also said that sports in the state will be run as a professional venture and the ministry of Sports and Youth Development is working with the state Ministry of Education to restore physical and health education as a major subject in primary and secondary education for the purpose of teaching students relevant skills to build the future of their dreams. He also pointed out that school heads have been charged to revitalize inter house sports in their various schools.

Governor Otti also revealed that “the plan is to see that Abia rises to number one in the sports table in the country. He also called on public spirited individuals, development partners and business owners to come partner with the government to take the state to new frontiers.”

Nwaobilor Nwadimma Ananaba, in his speech thanked governor Otti for the opportunity to serve while also applauding the commitments made by governor Otti to sports development in the state.

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“His Excellency is very intentional on what he wants to do for the state. The plan is to start the development from grassroot. He has approved two hours a week for physical education, he has also approved inter house sports. He has sponsored athletes to five countries since he came into office”. Nwaobilor said.

Governor Otti also inspected the sporting equipment newly procured for the sports ministry by his administration.

Former Super Eagles striker and current chairman of Enyimba Football Club International, Kanu Nwankwo also graced the event. During an interview by newsmen Kanu said with such a deliberate plan for such sports competition, it will lead to discoveries of talents in the state.

“If we don’t have programs like this, we can’t get them right, I started in such manner, but today if you talk about football, you talk about Nwankwo Kanu, This is the opportunity that his excellency is also giving back to a lot of people here, if you are good in boxing and table tennis,this is where it starts. Kanu Nwankwo said.

Chiemerie Victor, a student of Ibeku High School who is participating in track event in an interview with newsmen said he is fully prepared to win in athletics and make his school proud while also thanking the sports ministry and the state government for organising the event.

Princess, a 200 meter race athlete representing his school from Isialangwa North local government area of the state also expressed joy being part of the games.

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