No fewer than 500 international and local athletes will participate in the maiden ECOWAS-Abuja International Half Marathon scheduled to hold on Dec. 14.

Mr Francis Njoaguani, Director, ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre, while addressing newsmen in Abuja on preparations, said the event is open to athletes outside West Africa.

Njoaguani said the race with the theme “Run for Unity and Integration” is being organised in partnership with the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and would see athletes win cash prizes ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

According to him, adequate security arrangements have been made to ensure a hitch free race expected to cover about 22km.

“As ECOWAS, we don’t believe that Abuja has a problem with security; we are convinced that the Federal Government is equal to the task.

“The Minister of FCT is part of the process and we believe that they will put in place all the necessary mechanisms to ensure safety of all the athletes.

“The proof that we have today is that International athletes have already registered because as at now, we have four athletes from Ethiopia and Kenya who have indicated interest to be part of the process.

“We have also got confirmation from some Cameroonian athletes that they will be part of the event and all these are evidences that Abuja is a good enough place for the race.

“There is no difference in security situation in Nigeria compared to any other part of the world; every day we hear incidence of attack but that doesn’t stop life from going on.

“So, security agents and authority in Nigeria are fully capable of ensuring not just the safety of athletes but all other people that will come out to cheer athletes to the finishing line,” Njoaguani.

On her part, Director of Sports, FCTA, Mrs Dilichukwu Onyedinma said although the competition would involve participants outside the shores of ECOWAS member States, the sole purpose is to foster unity among members of the sub African region.

“This event is going to involve international athletes; athletes from ECOWAS countries and four athletes from East Africa.

“We also have a theme; ECOWAS is for integration and Abuja is for unity, so we came up with a theme, Run for Unity and Integration and it is important we make people realise this,” she said.

|NAN|

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