German sportswear manufacturing giant, PUMA plans to sue the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports.
The development comes as the sportswear manufacturer terminated a four-year contract it had with Nigeria in a letter dated Wednesday, August 4, 2021, and signed by the company’s director, Manuel Edlheimb.
According to reports, the AFN under the leadership of Ibrahim Gusau had entered into a controversial $2.76 million deal with PUMA on July 24, 2019, in Doha, Qatar.
The deal reportedly led to a major crisis that split the athletics body into two factions, with Gusau and AFN First Vice President, Sunday Adeleye accused of sidelining other members of the board during the signing of the deal.
The deal, signed by the Gusau-led AFN, was due to expire in 2022, Punch reports.
Part of the contract is that PUMA will supply apparel to all age categories to Nigeria’s Athletics team for four years at no cost.
In addition, gold medalists at the Olympic Games will earn $15,000 (N6 million), silver medalists will get $5,000 (N2 million) while a bronze medal will fetch athletes wearing the PUMA apparel at the games $3,000 (N1.2 million).
In the latest development, PUMA officials have got in touch with officials of Gusau-led AFN informing them of an intention to sue.
According to a source quoted by Punch, the sports ministry would be made a party to the suit “because they issued a memo granting AFN permission to seek sponsorship. PUMA sees AFN as a representative of Nigeria with that memo. It gave them confidence that AFN had approval. They also claimed that as of the time of signing the contract, the parties involved are recognised by law and FG, and there was no faction to warrant suspicion. They believe an administration is a continuum and the agreement has government backing..”
This was confirmed by the AFN First Vice President, Adeleye while appearing on Arise TV as a guest on Thursday.
While displaying evidence and documents showing the FG’s approval for the federation to seek a sponsor, Adeleye said, “The contract is a non-disclosure one. It is between PUMA and AFN with FMYSD’s permission. We warned that this may lead to litigation and wrote to all parties involved, including finance and justice ministries.
“We are sure that PUMA will go to court on this matter. Their officials have called that they are sending documents from their legal department. We wrote the minister on the implications for Nigeria. This won’t make other companies deal with Nigeria.”
He also argued that Gusau-led AFN did everything possible to ensure that the image of the country is protected.
On why the kits were kept in a store, he said, “Our AFN has been barred from using the facility in the stadium and we needed to run the activities of the association. We have a store and office that we run. The constitution didn’t say our office should be in the stadium.”
Asked if he would take responsibility for the termination of the contract, Adeleye said, “We should be awarded because we are patriotic. The Federal Government asked federations to look for sponsors (before Sunday Dare). This contract precedes him. They are aware of the contract.
“We worked with instruction. We looked for a sponsor so that the burden can be taken off the Federal Government. The sports ministry should be sanctioned. We need a shake-up in the sports ministry.
“The problem is the minister and sports ministry under his administration. Our problems have never been this worse. Federations have issues but not to this extend. Despite a court order, the minister is resolute in destroying some people. We gave the kits out, the ministry said they were not going to use the kits.”
The sports ministry’s had insisted that Nigerian athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will not wear PUMA because of the leadership tussle between the Gusau-led AFN board and the one being championed by the sports minister, Dare.
It was learnt that several efforts were made to give the athletes the PUMA kits, including shipping bags of kits with 40 items each to Tokyo through the Nigerian Embassy in Japan but to no avail.
Meanwhile, the Department of State Services (DSS) last year cleared Gusau and his vice president, Adeleye over corruption allegations levelled against them by the sports ministry.
The sports ministry in 2020 petitioned the DSS over the AFN’s partnership deal with PUMA to kit Nigeria’s track and field teams until 2023.
The DSS' response to the sports ministry’s petition, titled “Re: Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development (FMYSD), Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and Alhaji Shehu Gusau”, dated September 3, 2020, and signed on behalf of the Director-General of the DSS by Bello Mustapha, was received on September 4, 2020, by the sports ministry.
In the letter, the DSS stated, “This Service (DSS) has thoroughly investigated the matter regarding the Puma deal. The under-listed findings were established:
“Athletics Federation of Nigeria entered into a valid contract with Dynamic Sports Solution Nigeria Limited.
“The AFN gave Dynamic Sports Solution Nigeria Limited the mandate to source for sponsors for Nigeria’s track and field teams on her behalf in a letter dated September 4, 2018, signed by Ademu A. Elijah, Secretary-General of the AFN.
“The AFN duly authorised Dynamic Sports Solution Nigeria Limited to deal with Puma on behalf of the federation in a letter dated June 23, 2019, signed by Patrick Estate, Head Marketing; and there is no evidence that Dynamic Sports Solution Nigeria Limited received money meant for AFN from Puma.
“In view, therefore, it is reiterated that the FMYSD and the AFN board should employ an internal mechanism to resolve the lingering dispute between them.”
The contract termination comes a few hours after a trending video showed Nigeria’s shot put medal hopeful, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, washing his jersey ahead of his final game at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The caption in the video indicated that the athlete was given one jersey for the competition.
“When you made the Olympic Finals, but you only have one jersey,” he wrote.