President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Pinnick and the 2nd Vice President/LMC Chairman, Mallam Shehu Dikko on Tuesday tackled several issues that have been raised persistently, and even most recently in Nigerian Football, insisting that negative statements and far –fetched allegations are never in the interest of the game.
While appearing on ‘Focus Nigeria’, a talk –show on Africa Independent Television, the two NFF bigwigs tore apart talks of financial recklessness, division within the Board, late submission of memos on matches of the National Teams and the FIFA audit query.
Pinnick, who was second vice chairman, first vice chairman and chairman of the Delta State Football Association at different times, and excelled in getting the private sector to fund that State FA’s activities without resorting to government, said various distractions and negative statements and write –ups about Nigerian Football are driving away investors.
“You wake up everyday and all you see are screaming, negative headlines that are daily punching holes in the fabric of the game. Investors aim to associate with what is positive and credible, but our sports have been savaged by negativity.
“There have been various interpretations to a simple FIFA audit query, which is confidential and a matter between the FIFA –appointed auditor and NFF, but it has been blown beyond proportion and people are even saying NFF embezzled money. It is ridiculous because all FIFA is asking for is clarification on why we have to lump their monies with other monies, and the issue of receipting of cash transactions.” (The use of T-10 form).
Pinnick disclosed that the NFF actually informed the Minister of Youth and Sports, Barr. Solomon Dalung on request, about the audit matter, in the mode of always keeping him informed of all happenings in the NFF.
“If the NFF had anything to hide with regards to the audit query, would the Federation have informed the Minister about it? The two issues FIFA raised were receipting of cash transactions and the matter of dedicated account, which we always had but which had to be merged with other accounts because of the TSA (Treasury Single Account) policy. However, the CBN has now been able to open a domiciliary account for us within our single account and we have forwarded this to FIFA. No one should make mountain out of a molehill.”
Dikko, who is the Chairman of the Marketing, Sponsorship and Television Advisory Committee of the NFF, said aggressive and robust marketing embarked upon by the administration to augment what comes from Government has always been undermined by celebration of what is negative by other forces.
“We need to re-evaluate the funding for sports in this country. The NFF proposed a budget of nearly N7 billion to cater for all matches and tournaments of the National Teams this year, but got only N1.1 billion. Yet, one Super Eagles match cost around N200 million.
“For the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, the sum of N18 million was apportioned! On the part of the Federation, we embarked on aggressive marketing but negative hints and pronouncements about football have continued to discourage investors.”
Dikko wondered where the money is in NFF that people always talk about corruption and persons stealing money. “Take Ibrahim Galadima, Sani Lulu Abdullahi, Aminu Maigari and those who served on their boards; which of them is a billionaire? If there is money in NFF and so much to steal, they would be billionaires.
“We are working on a new strategy to get funding for all the National Teams, like getting corporate bodies to take up each of the teams, but we need peace and tranquility to achieve this.
“The present NFF is committed to probity, transparency and accountability. The NFF Integrity Initiative adopted at the Annual General Assembly is meant to promote these.”
Pinnick reiterated that the company that audits NFF accounts, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, is also the same company that audits FIFA’s accounts. “We called them in at the inception of our administration because we want to do things differently. We want to be accountable and be seen to be transparent. They have advised on a couple of principles and we have taken those to heart.
The NFF President also vehemently denied allegations that he spoke harsh words to the Super Falcons when they arrived from Cameroon.
“I have a lot of respect for women. It was myself Dikko, the captain (Rita Chikwelu) and myself that spoke on a three-way call, and we never uttered any harsh words to them. Even if they did not win the competition, nobody would have spoken harsh words to them. Women are our mothers,” Pinnick affirmed, while disclosing that the Federation sent the memo on the championship to the Ministry of Youth and Sports early enough.
He also reiterated that the immediate target of the present administration is to provide all the support for the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals. “We do not just want the team to qualify, but to go to Russia and break new grounds, set new records, possibly win the World Cup,” he said, while confirming that there is no division within the NFF Executive Committee.