A bright light shines tomorrow on how one of world football’s bosses does business. Amos Adamu, a member of FIFA’s 24-man executive committee, will be in a Nigerian courtroom demanding a stupendous £2.3 million damages from a newspaper that published allegations about what happened to a fistful of sponsors’ money.
The reporter who wrote the story is promising fireworks. Olukayode ‘Kay’ Thomas, who specialises in unearthing stories that embarrass Nigeria’s sports officials, says he’ll dig into how Adamu runs Nigerian sport – and examine how he became so wealthy during two decades of controlling budgets for major sports events.
Hopefully, England’s FA boss Lord David Triesman is sending an observer to learn about the ways of Dr Adamu (he’s got a PhD in PE) whose vote must be solicited in the campaign to stage the 2018 World Cup.
When Adamu launched his libel action 15 months ago he was the all-powerful Director General of Nigeria’s National Sports Commission. Then Nigerian President Yar'Adua took an interest in how Adamu has run sport for the last two decades.
He’d had a letter from his new sports minister complaining that sport was ‘moribund,’ sponsors wouldn’t part with money because of the ‘perception of corruption’ and it was all the fault of the ‘incompetent’ individuals who’ve held sport ‘in a stranglehold.’
The recommendation? Sack Dr Adamu. And that wasn’t all. Nigeria will stage FIFA’s Under-17 championships later this year and Adamu was overseeing the organising committee. As the axe hovered Adamu placed some calls and his friend FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, controller of youth tournaments, trumpeted ‘There cannot be changes in the committee now.’
Warner was ignored. When President Yar'Adua heard that Dr Adamu wanted $300 million of taxpayer’s money for the Under-17 tournament he exploded. Adamu hurriedly reduced the budget to $70 million but on November 7 last year it was full time and a red card for the FIFA man. President Yar'Adua dismissed him.
Now Amos Adamu, unwanted in his own country, has more time to spend on FIFA activities. But with little track record in football he’s been sidelined onto the women’s, technical and stadium committees, and is available to be courted by countries seeking his vote to host the World Cup.
Adamu can look forward to being wooed by billionaire shopping-mall operator Frank Lowy who is vigorously pushing Australia’s bid. In the queue trying to find out how to make Amos amiable will be England, Spain and Portugal, Holland and Belgium, Qatar, Japan and maybe a few Russian oligarchs. They’ll be studying what puts a smile on Adamu’s face. He’s little-known outside West Africa but in the Great World Cup Race, his vote matters as much as those of fellow executive committee members like Michel Platini, Franz Beckenbauer and Jack Warner.
Adamu was in charge in the 1990s when Nigeria hoped to stage FIFA’s World Youth Championship. Nigeria’s style of doing business was set by dictator General Sani Abacha who stole the government, then billions and would have taken more if his mixing of Viagra and his harem of foreign prostitutes, resulting in cardiac arrest, hadn’t terminated his cruel reign in 1998.
According to local media the 1999 FIFA youth tournament was awash with corruption. What hasn’t been disclosed until today is that FIFA got their share. In late 1998 they sent a ‘fact finding’ mission to Nigeria.
I was tipped off that as they left Nigeria their hosts pressed bundles of money on them. I’d heard that a number of junior blazers, including press spokesman Markus Siegler trousered $30,000 apiece.
Not true, squeaked Markus. He assured me that he and the other bag carriers had only got $10,000 and they’d donated it to charity. The delegation was led by FIFA chiefs Jack Warner from Trinidad and African football boss Issa Hayatou. What had they got? Markus said he didn’t know. Last week I emailed questions to Warner and Hayatou. They haven’t replied.
The Nigerian media claims millions vanished from Nigeria’s next big-ticket sports budget; the 2003 All-African Games. Amos Adamu was in charge and reporters say there’s never been a final audited set of accounts. One veteran recalled last week, ‘it was an event that delivered more medals in fraud than sport!’
Asked about that budget, Adamu emailed to me, ‘I would like you to see the audited books.’ But a Government spokesman said there had been an investigation following public complaints and he wasn’t aware that a final audit had been approved.
Nigerian civil servants are not permitted to have foreign bank accounts. But every member of FIFA’s ExCo has one in Zurich, managed by officials. Into it goes their $100,000 a year fees plus the $500 a day they get every time they leave home. That’s topped up with generous expenses. Members don’t have to produce receipts; they whack in whatever sum they can think of - and Blatter authorises payment.
Some members are reluctant to tell their own tax inspectors about this secret income. Some withdraw the money in cash and ship it home, tucked in their girlfriends’ knickers.
Has Dr Adamu told his taxman back in Nigeria? I emailed him a short list of questions – 254 words. Hours later Adamu replied with 368 words telling me he couldn’t reply for another 10 days because he wasn’t at home. In fact he was in Zurich for the World Player of the Year awards. I emailed him a second time about the FIFA money but he’s not responded.
There’re also concerns about who paid for Adamu’s bundle of World Cup tickets in 2006. Did he pay? FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren revealed, ‘we do not consider it an irregularity that the FA of the country that the association official is from pays for his tickets as this is a common procedure with other associations.’ Dr Adamu is adamant he paid for his tickets.
When Adamu joined FIFA’s elite powerbrokers in 2006 a cheeky BBC reporter in Lagos asked him, ‘How will you convince a sceptical public that you didn’t bribe your way onto FIFA?”
Magisterially, Adamu responded, ‘Corrupt people go to jail, not FIFA.’ He added, ‘FIFA does not condone corruption.’