Taiwo Ogunjobi, Bolaji Ojo-Oba and Sani Lulu

By Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA— THE four helmsmen: Taiwo Ogunjobi, Sani Lulu, Uchegbulam Amanze and Bolaji Ojo-Oba, who allegedly ran the football house aground were, yesterday, invited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to explain their roles in an alleged N1.3billion fraud bordering on misappropriation of public funds and gross abuse of official position.

Vanguard reliably gathered that the top shots in the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, that turned the World Cup tournament into a jamboree will tomorrow share their experience with operatives of the anti-graft body which has reportedly listed over 100 of the atrocities they allegedly committed.

Vanguard also gathered that 142 additional names were included into the original list of delegates while “funds made available to the federation by FIFA and CAF were mismanaged without recourse to due process.”

A source said: “The sum of $250,000, $125,000, $400,000 were at various times given to the federation yet there is little or nothing to show for all these monies dolled out simply for good soccer administration.”

Other allegations included the $236,000 that developed wings and flew out of the coffers of the federation in a highly questionable manner in Abuja; $5million being proceeds of marketing given to the body by FIFA was equally poorly managed while the helmsmen allegedly did not use other various sums such as the $1million from corporate sponsors and FIFA properly.

The source added: “Another $200,000 was released to them and it went the way of the others. They will have to explain to Nigerians how they used N95million to buy buses for the Super Eagles that turned into Super chickens in South Africa and another N34million that cannot be explained.”

EFCC’s Head, Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Babafemi confirmed to Vanguard that the four former NFF leadership had been invited.

FIFA unbanning: AC flays policy

The Action Congress, AC, yesterday, criticised the Federal Government’s capitulation on the issue of the ban placed on national football teams from participating in international competitions for two years.

In a statement issued in Ibadan by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the government’s decision to lift the ban, without concrete reasons beyond trying to avoid a FIFA ban, would hurt Nigeria’s football in the long run.

It said the action had also provided an insight into how key decisions were taken at the highest echelon of government – without being well thought-out!

Mohammed said: “The presidency said the ban was reversed after the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, apologised to the President and Nigerians, and because of the appeals from ‘well meaning Nigerians’ and former leaders. It also said the NFF has put its house in order by sacking its leadership.

“We cannot think of a more untenable excuse for the presidency to embark on such a policy inconsistency. The cosmetic change at the NFF, which removed only three of its members, cannot produce the kind of radical change that we need to push our football forward.

“Singling out the former NFF President Sani Lulu, former first VP Amanze Uchegbulam and former head of technical department, Taiwo Ogunjobi, amounts to a white-wash.

The entire NFF executive committee should have accepted responsibility for embarrassing Nigeria and resigned to pave the way for fresh elections, after the disgrace in South Africa.”

The party wondered why the government was so afraid of a FIFA ban, when it had in fact banned itself so it can reflect deeply on its football and restructure the administration of the game in the country.

It said: “Didn’t they take into consideration the fact that FIFA will ban Nigeria for taking that decision, which of course contravenes the global body’s non-interference-by-government rules? If they were not ready to damn the consequences, why place the ban in the first instance? Don’t they think such policy sommersault exposes our country’s leadership to ridicule?”

Describing the whole issue as unfortunate, AC said nothing had happened so far to show that there would be a paradigm shift in the hunt for talents and administration of football in the country.

Enthusiasts hail FG’s decision

Meantime, football enthusiasts have hailed the Federal Government for rescinding its decision to withdraw the country from international football for two years.

Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, shortly after the government reversed its earlier decision, the enthusiasts, however, said that football administration in the country should be streamlined.

They said that football federation members should be accountable to the government and the people.

Retired Brig.-Gen. Emmanuel Okaro said that the government was justified in its decision to withdraw from international football for two years as he believed that the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, was running a “parallel government.”

Okaro, a former Sole Administrator of the Bauchi Sports Council, welcomed the government’s decison stressing that the ban would have adversely affected the Nigerian youths.

Clampdown on football administration

He said that clubs, players and referees would have been affected by the ban, adding: “There must be a clampdown on football administration in Nigeria.

People should be accountable for the monies entrusted to them for the running of the game. There should be a system of checks and balances in the administration of  football in the country.

The finances should be audited and given to the government for scrutiny and posted on the website for the public to make input.”

In his reaction, two-time Chief Coach of the national team, Adegboye Onigbinde, noted that the government’s decision to withdraw from international football and Monday’s decision to rescind it were both taken in the interest of the country.

Onigbinde described it as a “welcome development and shows that we have a  listening government, a government that loves the nation”.

The CAF and FIFA Instructor said that he believed that the impeachment of NFF President, Sani Lulu, First and Second Vice-Presidents, Amanze Uchegbulam and Taiwo Ogunjobi respectively  might have influenced the government’s decision to rescind its decision.

He said that the government must also have been worried as the rest of the public at the poor standard of football in the country.

CAF and FIFA Executive Committees member, Amos Adamu, said he was happy that the government rescinded its decision “to allow football to grow”.

Adamu congratulated President Goodluck Jonathan and the Minister of Sports, Ibrahim Bio, on the new development, and called on sports administrators to ensure that they planned ahead to avoid last-minute preparations for competitions.

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