Two female athletes have told SaharaReporters that both the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation (NTF) and the National Sports Commission (NSC) have failed to investigate or act on their allegations that their coach, Chika Chukwumerije,physically abused them during the All Africa Games (AAG) Camp 2015.
One of the athletes, Fatimah Abdullahi, said the Taekwondo training camp became “a sad experience” because of the assault “by one of our coaching crew Mr. Chika Chukwumerije.”
According to Ms. Abdullahi, the abusive coach “used a rope tied with paper to beat” athletes “if you did not do certain things correct.” She stated that the abuse reached a more disturbing stage when Mr. Chukwumerije “wanted to use a tiny iron rod to beat us.” She also alleged that there were instances where the coach slapped her for not performing the way he expected.
The athlete told a correspondent of SaharaReporters that she reported the abuse to the NTF. Another female athlete, who asked not to be identified, corroborated the account of abuse.
Speaking to SaharaReporters by phone, NTF President, George Ashiru, acknowledged the allegations. He explained that an investigation could not take place for two months because the 11-member NTF board was scheduled to meet late last year.
In a letter dated October 5, 2015 and addressed to Mr. Ashiru, a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Delateur Foundation expressed its concerns about the NTF’s failure to investigate the alleged abuse. The foundation stated that there was a possible case of conflict of interest in the way the NTF treated the issue.
The Delateur Foundation noted that “Mr. Chika Chukwumerije is [a] Board member of the NTF, Assistant National Technical Adviser, and Athletes’ Representative, all at the same time.” The NGO’s protest letter added that there was the appearance that Mr. Chukwumerije could “do anything with regard to these athletes and get away with it, because he can victimize them and influence them not been picked for future tournaments.”
When asked whether the NTF Board investigated the abuse allegations, Mr. Ashiru answered, “No.” He added: “It was difficult to investigate the matter and move forward on anything because there was a leadership crisis.”
He said the crisis arose from an impeachment motion thatremoved the leadership of the NTF at the time. However, a member of the board, speaking to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, alleged that the impeachment was a ruse used by Mr. Chukwumerije to deflect aninvestigation into allegations of his abuses.
The chairman of the Lagos State Taekwondo Association, Jimmy Ogunnowo, wrote a protest letter on behalf of the abused athletes to the Minister of Youth and Sports. In it,Mr. Ogunnowo stated that, “we are deeply embittered as the assaulted ladies feel cheated and the silence of both the ‘accused’ and NTF gives the impression that the issue has been swept under the carpet.”
Mr. Ashiru told SaharaReporters that the National Sports Commission should be responsible for investigating the allegations against Mr. Chukwumerije, citing the leadership crisis within the NTF.
The chairman of Delateur Foundation, Yemi Adeyemi Enilari, confirmed that the current Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, was aware of the abuse. He added that Mr. Dalung had promised to investigate the matter.
Mr. Enilari told a correspondent of SaharaReporters, “Even if there is a leadership crisis, when the minister says he is looking into something people should defer to him.”
Ms. Abdullahi disclosed that the Nigeria Sports Commission had not contacted her since she disclosed the abuse that took place in August of 2015. She said it was unfortunate that she had received neither a hearing nor justice.