IN May 2017, the International Association of Athletics Federations, IAAF, mistakenly remitted $150, 000 in the process of paying $15, 000 to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, being its financial obligations to all member federations. Upon the discovery of the error a few days later, IAAF requested Nigeria to refund $135, 000.
In a country to which airport cleaners (Josephine Agwu and Charity Bassey) had brought good name by voluntarily returning millions of naira forgotten in toilets, the AFN and Sports Ministry officials decided to spend with brazen impunity the $135, 000 that did not belong to them.
The former Minister of Sports, Mr Solomon Dalung, left office in May 2019 without repaying the money.
Angered by AFN’s refusal to refund the money, IAAF issued a threat to Nigeria to pay back within two weeks from May 14, 2019 or face appropriate sanctions which may include being banned from participating in the All African Games in Morocco in August 2019, the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, UAE, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games.
On Tuesday, May 21, 2019, former Sports Minister Dalung and 11 AFN board members met in Abuja to find ways to escape the IAAF hammer. A source at the meeting revealed that Dalung was angry that AFN deliberately leaked IAAF’s letter to the media to ensure he (Dalung) did not return as a minister.
Narrating how he allegedly spent the money, Dalung reportedly claimed he had approved N39.9 million (about $108,000) for the AFN to procure kits and N13 million for Nigeria’s participation at the last African U-18/U-20 Athletics Championships in Cote d’Ivoire.
The Technical Director of AFN, Sunday Adeleye, later denied that the issue of how the IAAF money was spent was ever discussed at the Abuja meeting on that day.
We are not thrilled by the loose-handed manner with which this scandal has been handled, particularly by a government that prides itself on zero-tolerance for corruption. In view of the shame it has exposed the country’s image to and the possibility of being banned from participation in international athletics championships, we had expected the Federal Government to have immediately mobilised its relevant anti-graft agencies to tackle the scandal and quickly bring the culprits to book to show Nigeria’s abhorrence to such official malfeasance.
That this scandal was allowed to fester from March 18, 2017, when the IAAF Senior Manager for Governance, Jee Isram, called the attention of the AFN to the overpayment till date without anyone being sanctioned is a great embarrassment.
Since the probe launched by the eighth House of Representatives has expired, we hope that the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, which announced it was stepping into the matter will expedite action. Meanwhile, the Sports Ministry must immediately refund the money.