Nigeria's National Sports Festival has been postponed again ©NSF

The Nigerian Taekwondo Federation (NTF) has said its athletes have been left "shattered" after the country's National Sports Festival was postponed for the fifth time.

Pressure has been put on the Government to set a definitive date for the multi-sport competition, which is seen as a key preparation event before this year's rearranged Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Sports Minister Sunday Dare hosted a meeting where it was agreed the Festival would not take place this month, after dates in March, November, December and January had already fallen through.

There are worries about the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic and also over the availability of university accommodation in Benin City, the host of the Festival.

Financial support and a lack of funds are other reported issues, but Dare has pledged support for the event to go ahead in April due to its importance in an Olympic year.

"Taekwondo competitors across the country have been left shattered again by the fifth postponement of the National Sports Festival," the NTF said.

"The decision leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of taekwondo competitors, with many struggling for over a year to keep their competition weights intact and many others heavily impacted by the economic consequences of the constant festival postponement."

Chika Chukwumerije won Olympic bronze for Nigeria at Beijing 2008 ©Getty Images
Chika Chukwumerije won Olympic bronze for Nigeria at Beijing 2008 ©Getty Images

Athlete Ibrahim Gambo called on the Government to act while Ismail Kayode said the postponements had "killed his morale".

Taiwo Emmanuel, a bronze medallist at the last Festival in 2018, has opted to retire instead of waiting for a rearrangement. 

"I call on the Government not to postpone the Festival again," said Gambo. 

"If worship places and markets are open, why [does] sport suffer? 

"We do combat sports, so it is weight specific. 

"So many athletes have been shedding and making weight for so long."

The NTF added that it had been impacted by the cancellation of educational workshops which were due to run alongside the Festival.

Nigeria has qualified one athlete in taekwondo for Tokyo 2020, with Elizabeth Anyanacho earning her place in the women's under-67 kilograms division.

Chika Chukwumerije won Olympic taekwondo bronze for Nigeria at Beijing 2008.