By Patrick Omorodion
Today being Christmas, a day set aside by the Christian world to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, one wouldn’t want to spoil your day with the ugly scenarios which our sports at all levels portray each passing day. All the same I wish you all Merry Christmas but appeal that we must not sweep the rot in our sports under the carpet even while we celebrate.
An adage has it that those who live in glass houses are not supposed to throw stones. It is also said that if you point a finger at somebody, the rest four will point back at you.
Last week Sunday in Lagos, the minister of youth and sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung while delivering his opening remark at the Annual General Assembly of the Nigeria Football Federation, accused them of mismanaging funds they got from FIFA and called on them to present to his office, an audited account of the federation.
Many people have queried the rationale behind the minister’s order, adding that since the money didn’t come from the government, he had no right to query how it was spent.
The NFF followed up with a release on how the FIFA money was actually spent, prompting one to ask, if they explained this to FIFA, why would the world body want an explanation again. Why also have they not received further disbursement of funds to carry on with the FIFA Goal Project that seem stagnated when other neighbouring countries have gone far ahead with theirs.
This piece is actually not to defend or castigate the NFF as their case will be kept till another day because no matter how hard they try to dodge the minister’s question and pretend their books are in order with regards to the FIFA funds, the explanation given by FIFA shows they are guilty.
Back to Dalung. If the sports minister has been up and doing is his duty as the overseer of all sports federations, sports would not be in the mess it is in Nigeria today.
I will want to restrict myself to football because the minister accused the NFF directly. He said if the NFF did their job, the Super Falcons would not have protested and embarrassed the entire country. Mr Sports Minister, I want to tell you that rather than accuse the NFF, search your heart and ask yourself if you too have lived up to the expectation of President Muhammadu Buhari who appointed you.
Are you aware that the NFF have direct funding from the federation account which is passed through the sports ministry? This money cannot be assessed without your signature. The NFF is entitled to some amount, totalling about N170m every month from the government to run its activities. Since you arrived as sports minister, how many times have you approved this money for the federation? Except you are telling us that the APC government of Muhammadu Buhari has scrapped it.
If you are able to prove that the NFF has constantly received this subvention then you have the right to query them on how they spent it and why they keep owing their coaches and the various national teams.
Again, the government has what is called Special Intervention fund which sports also benefits from. Your predecessors were able to assess this fund to bail out sports teams. A case in point is when your immediate predecessor, Dr. Tammy Danagogo was despatched to Brazil with funds for the protesting Super Eagles to save the country from embarrassment during the 2014 World Cup.
Why were you not able to do same in the case of the Super Falcons? Why did you leave the situation to get out of hand before government came to rescue the NFF? I also gathered on good authority that because of your inability to penetrate the government and make funds available for the Super Falcons, you accused the Chief of Staff to the president of sabotaging you. The shows that you are working at cross purposes with the presidency.
One thing that keeps running in my mind is your anti corruption stance since you were appointed. You told Nigerians of a story of how you were cheated out of your ‘legitimate’ ecstacode by the sports ministry as a member of the Federal Government delegation in 2002. You saw it as a right but didn’t know it was a mere privilege. You didn’t also know that the money approved for you was squeezed out of the meagre fund for the Super Eagles participation at the 2002 Africa Nations Cup in Mali.
So since you started fighting corruption in the sports ministry, how many cases have you exposed? Rather you came and told the sports federation that they must source for funds to run their programmes including sponsoring national teams to competitions including the last Olympic Games in Brazil. You didn’t know and your aides, who should know, also didn’t tell you that once a team qualifies to represent the country, that team becomes the responsibility of the government.
Most of all Mr sports minister, you said you never met any money on ground when you assumed office, that the former Director General of the defunct National Sports Commission, NSC, Mallam Alhassan Yakmut, your kinsman from Plateau state, never handed over to you.
It is on record that your claim as been debunked by Mallam Yakmut who is still very much in the system, though in a different ministry now. Yakmut also claimed that after prosecuting the All Africa Games in Congo, sponsoring some teams in their Olympic qualifiers and making some payment for Team Nigeria’s participation at the Rio Olympics, he still had about N640 million left in the coffers of the NSC from the over N2 billion President Buhari approved and released to the NSC. Even though the fund could have been swept into the Treasury Single Account, TSA which most government ministries and agencies now blame for their ineptitude, including the ministry that you run, why are you not pursuing its release.
Since Yakmut made that disclosure, what effort have you made to invite him to reconcile it with what you have in the hand over note he left behind which you denied he didn’t give you. Why have you not written to the EFCC to unravel the disappearance or otherwise of the huge sum that would have gone a long way to solve some of the embarrassing problems sports was faced with in recent months.
Until you do this, it is the opinion of SportsGuard that you have no moral right to query the NFF over funds you did not give them in the first place. We therefore call on the presidency to look into Yakmut’s claim of leaving N640 million which Barrister Solomon Dalung has denied knowledge of.