By Fred Edoreh
We enter the new year with a renewed attack on the Nigeria Football Federation by Sports Minister Solomon Dalung. He is rightly asking for retirement of the N1.6b released for the 2018 World Cup. The NFF has responded but rather than wait for the scrutiny by relevant investigation bodies, he seems in a hurry to constitute himself into complainant, prosecutor and judge.
“This has raised questions about credibility of NFF financial spending and government will not release any money to them if proper account can’t be given,” Dalung thundered.
It was no surprise that a wild social media campaign followed in the first weekend of 2019, declaring falsely that President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered prosecution and travel ban on NFF President Amaju Pinnick, an orchestration not only at preempting the cause of justice but also at tarnishing the NFF leadership.
The NFF has explained they spent part of the fund on the World Cup proper and took from it to sponsor the France 2018 U-20 women World Cup, the Super Eagles Nations Cup qualifier with Seychelles, the friendly with Liberia and the national U-17 team to the Niger 2018 Africa Youth Championship, all of which the minister knows he did not release funds for, and it is a wonder how he expected the NFF to fund them.
He similarly denied funds to the NFF for the Super Eagles two legs Nations Cup qualifiers against Libya, the away game with South Africa and the friendly against Uganda in Asaba. The NFF had to improvise.
It was funny that while government released the World Cup fund to the ministry six weeks before the kick off, the NFF only got it after the Super Eagles had played the first match against Croatia.
Rather than vilify the NFF, it should be commended for resiliently sourcing sponsorship to prepare the team, including the friendlies with Argentina, Poland, Serbia and Congo, the camp in Austria and a pay out of about $2.8 million for players bonuses, allowances, ticket refunds and salaries to the technical crew, besides other obligations. And, for the first time in our World Cup history, there were no issues.
Dalung knows that his first class air ticket and estacode to Russia including the tickets, accommodation and allowances for his entourage was drawn from the fund. Nigerians will marvel at the figures. He knows that even after the World Cup his about N4m travel personal expenses and estacode to the U-20 Women World Cup in France, including the dollars he flaunted before the girls in a video, were drawn from same purse.
Nigerians may not know some of its officials celebrated the Super Eagles loss to Argentina and crash from the group stage as it provided them a good weather to oust the NFF leadership back home. It has turned out that about N140 million of the said World Cup money was reportedly hijacked by the gang who took siege of the NFF Secretariat after the World Cup. While we wonder what they did with it without any assignment, Dalung is saying nothing about the burglary.
The NFF always informed the minister on all its expenditure plans and receipts from sponsorships. Its income profile shows inflow from marketing is higher than that from government, a departure from the past and an indication that the board can achieve greater financial independence to reasonably relieve government of the burden of national team sponsorships.
Sadly, Dalung’s constant harassment of the NFF is beginning to toll on the confidence of sponsors in view of the frequent queries from investigators based on spurious accusations. While sponsors demand decorum and mutual respect, even the security agencies are beginning to understand that the attacks on the NFF is more of politics than anti corruption crusade.
Dalung knows this but he seems driven by a pattern of obsessive malice to pull the Pinnick leadership down. Still, the NFF continues to thrive in dogged determination to succeed.
It will be recalled how in 2016 he screamed that FIFA had stopped funds to the NFF for financial impropriety whereas FIFA was only supervising a reforms in national federations to establish different accounting, disbursement and reporting systems for its funds, for which the NFF had to open a sub TSA account and there were no issues.
Same manner Dalung harassed the NFF and disowned the camping of the Dream Team in Atlanta ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games even when he was duly informed of the team’s programme. “What are they there for?” he had retorted and, in fact, not a few Nigerians expected Pinnick to go directly to jail from Brazil on accusations of fraud in the airlifting of the team to Manaus. It all turned out to be a ruse and the football team finally produced the only bronze medal for Nigeria from the games.
Then followed the Super Falcons at the Cameroon 2016 African Women Championships. The NFF was starved of funds until the girls had to take to the streets to protest the non payment of their entitlements. Dalung accused the NFF of late request but also explained that the provision was not made because he didn’t expect the team was going to win.
Dalung’s demeanor, or lack of it, in the NFF leadership tussle is so well known. He insisted on non existent court judgments to pursue the removal of Pinnick and queried the competence of the Attorney General to advice a restraint on one-sided court orders. He even publicly countered Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on government’s stand that Nigeria football should be governed in line with FIFA Statutes and rejected the global authority of FIFA which refused to grant him audience with his 15 man delegation of mostly non NFF officials to Zurich.
While he couldn’t stop Pinnick’s election into the Executive Committee of CAF, he sought to dictate to him on the vote for the CAF Presidency, unknown to him that there was an emerging new movement in world and African football for which, if Pinnick had not stood his ground, Nigeria would have been on the wrong side. Today, not only is Pinnick the third Nigerian to be in CAF EXCO, he has emerged the 1st Vice President and has pulled up a number of Nigerians into various CAF and FIFA committees.
Dalung was desperate to stop the 2018 NFF election and re-election of Pinnick and he seems pained that, for the first time in a long time, an incumbent NFF President could return as against the fates suffered by the likes of Ibrahim Galadima, Sani Lulu and Aminu Maigari from such ministerial highhandedness.
That the election still held, and in Katsina, President Buhari’s home state, with Governor Bello Masari on ground, speaks volumes of the clear headedness of the government which most of Dalung’s antics have tended to depict as irresponsible.
Dalung’s dossier is a litany of how not to serve a nation. His latest campaign seems to be a last desperate attempt to pull Pinnick down before the Nigeria general elections and expected dissolution of the cabinet, but as they say in common parlance, “ko le werk.”
Nigeria is not a jungle were governance can be driven by the base sentiments of hate and malice. They are sad and worried that while a compatriot is rising in African and global football and visibly succeeding in chatting a new direction in the management of Nigeria football, the sports minister of his country is desperately in the works to destroy him. Dalung ought to understand by now that the fact that he is a minister does not make other citizens denizens nor less noble.