By Patrick Omorodion
Before long, the government of PresidentÂ Goodluck Jonathan may bare its fangs on top officials of the Nigeria Football Association, NFA who, not only embarrassed the country by booking a sub-standard hotel for the Super Eagles in South Africa but has cost the country a fine of US$125,000 for contract breach.
Sports Minister/Chairman National Sports Commission, NSC, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio dropped this hint at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos Monday on arrival from South Africa where he led a delegation to inspect facilities booked for the Eagles World Cup participation.
Even though he would not state categorically what sanction awaits those â€œwho made the arrangementâ€, the minister said the matter should be left for the acting president whom he( Alhaji Bio) would brief about the outcome of the inspection visit.
He said that those who booked the hotel may have considered the cheapness of the facility and not the security of the players, adding that the media outcry forced Dr. Jonathan to direct him to investigate the veracity or otherwise of the report.
â€œNo country will play with the lives of its players especially after what happened to Togo in Angola. The security of our players is very important to us and we cannot toy with itâ€, the minister said, adding that the government was ready to pay anything to ensure the comfort and safety of the team.
â€œThe management of the hotel(Hampshire) said we were going to pay $250,000 fine for breaching the agreement but of course we had to tell them they too should bear part of it because they did not meet the agreement, so we are paying $125,000 (about N19m),â€ he said.
Director-General of the NSC, Dr. Patrick Ekeji who was also on the entourage said the trip of the presidential inspection team which included Nigeriaâ€™s High Commissioner to South Africa, Brigadier-General Buba Marwa and the NFA president, Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi saved the country a lot of embarrassment.
In an SMS to Saturday Vanguard sports, Dr. Ekeji wrote â€œOur trip certainly saved the country an embarrassment. Our boys (Eagles) would certainly have complained loudly if we had not rejected outrightly the Hampshire Hotel.â€
Meanwhile heads may also roll in the football house over the missing $236,000 from the NFA coffers as the sports minister said the government white paper on investigation into the matter was ready and would be released soon.
He said his regime was one with a zero tolerance on corruption, stressing that whoever is indicted by the report shall not go unpunished, no matter his or her status, to serve as deterrent to others in future.