The Minister of Youths and Sports, Solomon Dalung, on Thursday said President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the funds needed for the Super Eagles to face their Zambian counterparts on Sunday.
Dalung who disclosed this during a visit to the APC national secretariat in Abuja, said the ministry and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) were having financial challenges.
“This situation brought about the need to approach President Buhari for financial assistance,’’ he said.
The Nigerian senior male national football team will face the Chipolopolo in Ndola.
The match is a Match Day 1 fixture in the Group B of the Final Round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Dalung however added that the Nigerian side was ready for the match in spite of the situation.
“We are prepared for participation in Zambia. I will be travelling along with the team to give them the moral and physical support as they kick-start their campaign.’’
He assured that all issues related to the match, especially in the area of players’ welfare, had been taken care of.
“One thing Nigerians need to know is that in a competition like this, some of the players are coming from outside.
“There are, of course, international obligations as to some of the allowances, bonuses, money to pay for their flight tickets and insurance before they come.
“But right now, all those issues have been sorted out completely.
“Even as we are facing economic challenges, all these have been taken care of because President Buhari has been quite supportive.
“On Sunday, I could not go to church because I had to sit to draft a memo which was taken to the President on Sunday. He approved it for funds to be provided for the team to travel.
“That is how serious this government takes sports,’’ the minister said.
Nigeria is grouped alongside Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia, with the group winners qualifying for the World Cup finals.
Speaking on reward for Nigeria’s Paralympians who excelled at the Rio Paralympic Games in September, Dalung said the athletes were “handsomely’’ rewarded.
“It is not correct for anybody to assert that they have not been rewarded when he has not done the job of verification very well. The reward for the Paralympians was automatic.
“I supervised the payment of bonuses of $5,000 (about N2.5 million) for gold medallists, $3,000 (about N1.5 million) for silver medallists and $2,000 (about N1 million) for bronze medallists.
“So, those raising the issue that they’ve not been compensated may not be aware. It is not correct to say that they have not been compensated.
“After the reward from the ministry, there is a need to get presidential blessing. So, if Nigerians are talking about the presidential blessing, I have written to the President about this.
“As soon as we get his approval, a day to honour those who have made Nigeria proud will come.
“But let’s not lose touch of the fact that we as a country are undergoing certain challenges. So, we must do things based on the reality on the ground,’’ he said.
Paralympians had performed excellently at the Rio Games of Sept. 7 to Sept. 18 by winning eight gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
Their performance was a sharp contrast to what the Nigerian Olympians did at the Rio Olympic Games about three weeks earlier, when they could only win a bronze medal.