By Onochie Anibeze
Youth and Sports Minister Solomon Dalung, Thursday expressed outrage that allowances and bonuses of the Olympic soccer team were yet to be paid even after they beat Senegal 1-0 the previous day to qualify for the Rio Olympics.
He ordered the Permanent Secretary and the DG in the sports ministry to source intervention fund and pay the team that will play in the final of the African Championship with Algeria today.
But the sports minister will need to do more, going by our findings. The messy situation of our sports will embarrass him the more if he does not arrest the situation.
Coaches and some technical crew of national teams are being owed salaries for up to five months.And prominent among them are Samson Siasia who is currently leading the team in Senegal and Emmanuel Amuneke, the man who has just won the Under 17 World Cup in Chile.
Amuneke and his team have a pathetic story. And they are disgruntled, frustrated and disappointed by the system they served with utmost commitment.
Amuneke and his coaches are also owed salaries. Worse is the fact that their camp allowances before and during the Championship in Chile have not been paid to them. Their bonuses from the semifinal tie are also yet to be paid. President Mohammadu Buhari called from Nigeria to speak with the players to motivate them before the final in Chile. He was Head of State in 1985 when Nigeria won the maiden edition of the cup and wished it happened again. The boys delivered. Now, they cannot reconcile the spirit in Buhari’s voice when he spoke with them and the neglect visited on them on return to Nigeria. But while the Presidency is too far away from them, they cannot understand why reprieve has not come from the Sports Ministry and the Nigeria Football Federation.
“The money approved for the Championship in Chile has not been released to the federation,” a federation source lamented.
The sports minister was said to have been saddened by the development. But he has equally not been able to help out. And when Siasia and his boys defeated Senegal on Wednesday he directed that they be paid immediately.
“Those who win World Cup are usually happy, they are celebrated but not so with us. We have not been encouraged and it is unfortunate,” one of the players who won the cup in Chile said during the week.Their coaches who have families equally have sad commentaries.
“I feel for them,” one football official said, adding “the NFF has been battling with funds and this has affected payment of salaries and allowances of coaches.” But one observer maintained that the NFF did not take the youth teams seriously, otherwise they would have sourced funds to cater for their welfare, the way they do to the senior team, the Eagles.“I don’t think they respect the coaches of the youth teams,” one source close to the sports ministry said, adding “that’s why Amuneke has refused to assist the Under 20 coach, Manu Garba as suggested by the federation.”
The source fumed: “You have not even sat with Amuneke to discuss terms for his continuation as Under 17 coach and payment of his salaries and allowances and you want to saddle him with more responsibilities. You have not paid for the job he did and you want to give him more. Amuneke and his crew have not been treated fairly and they are disappointed.”
The news of the sports minister’s intervention raised hopes in football circles but he needs to do more than verbal instructions that may not have effect if the funds are not there.
We gathered that the recent TSA policy of government which directed all their bodies to operate only one account has also affected NFF’s liquidity.