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Corruption by others ways

FEDERAL Government’s decision to probe the Local Organisation Committee (LOC) of the FIFA is a strong indication of government’s dissatisfaction with the organisation of the competition that has drawn flaks from several areas.

There could be the usual penchant to concentrate on the disbursement of funds in the search for the facades that the organisers threw around the hosting of the competition. Nigeria 2009, as the competition is also known, did Nigeria’s image lasting damage.

Interestingly, the scandals began before the competition commenced. There was the unsolved issue of the Ministry of Information and Communication insisting on the importation of unsuitable broadcast equipment for the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) when it had been proven the equipment would arrive late for the competition and would not meet the required standard.

Moreover, there was a Nigerian broadcast outfit which FIFA approved for the competition. NTA outside broadcast vans had to be air freighted abroad for upgrade to the digital standards required for the competition. The Ministry of Information and Communication went on with the exercise against expert advice about the futility of the upgrade. The N8.2 billion expenditure should interest government. The outside broadcast vans are still abroad.

Broadcasting was just one of the areas where government involvement in the U-17 FIFA World Cup could have been a waste.

The entire budget for the competition was controversial. From a request of N35 billion, the LOC accepted the N10 billion government approved. To date, it remains uncertain what informed this huge demand on public funds.

Government should probe the details of how the NTA upgrade request that was originally N15 billion came to N8.2 billion. After government’s initial anger and insistence on N10 billion, government still released an extra N3 billion to the LOC.

These form some of the gray areas that an investigation could clear. There are also issues with the quality of the work that was done in facilities for the competition.

It was disgraceful stopping play for hours because the pitches in Abuja, Enugu, and Calabar flooded. Surprisingly, Warri was not picked as a centre because its pitch flooded during FIFA’s inspection.

Ambulances borrowed from the unpicked Warri centre rescued the competition’s medical services. There was blackout in Kano and security people had to tear gas the crowd in Kaduna. These situations are alien to FIFA competitions.

Media centres in almost all the venues worked in fits and concerns about adequate protocol when teams arrived, unpaid allowances for volunteers form other areas that call for government attention.

Perhaps, more important is the slur on Nigeria’s image from the cases of over-aged players. The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) pretends the matter is settled. It is fraudulent, an act of corruption, and possibly sabotage of the nation’s efforts for anyone who knew the age of those players to have fielded them. No excuses are acceptable here.

Investigations are important to determine the extent of the damage that the competition did to Nigeria and determine appropriate sanctions for those involved.


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