Saturday, 1 March 2014
Appeal For Intervention In The Administration Of Nigerian Football
Dear Sir: Preamble: We are a group of stakeholders in Nigerian Football. Our membership cuts across all strata of the society including footballers, bona fide members of the Nigeria Football Association family, distinguished Football administrators, coaches, Referees, club owners, media practitioners and concerned Nigerians from all walks of life.
Our common concern is the rapid decline of Nigeria’s football fortunes in recent times which have been the result of glaring successive administrative blunders. Naturally, this unfortunate scenario has brought odium and embarrassment to our nation and has set off alarm bells in the minds of all patriotic Nigerians. It is instructive that our dear late President had to intervene at a critical time when the country was not almost qualifying for the World Cup by setting up the Presidential Task Force led by Governor Rotimi Amaechi to rescue the situation. The current overwhelming public sentiment is that Nigerians can no longer simply sit back and watch the decline of their beloved sport. Driven purely by patriotism, we have, therefore, chosen, (on behalf of the millions of long-suffering Nigerians, ardent followers of the game we all love), to do something about the appalling state of affairs.
WHY NOW? The 2010 World Cup in South Africa kicks off in a few days time. Rather than concentrate all their energies on ensuring that Nigeria puts up a good performance at the championship the present board of the NFA has created a major distraction by fixing the process leading to the election into the next board of the NFA for the World Cup period with the elections scheduled to hold immediately after in August this year. In a matter of hours, all key participants in the elections will be heading to South Africa guests of the NFA. The implication of this is that any contestants will not have access to them for the required processing. This is unfair, partial and contrary to the rule of law that the present federal government has made its mantra. They will probably only return at the middle of July, just a few weeks to the crucial elections, when the scheme to perpetuate the present board in power would have been successfully executed through this clever manipulation. We must, therefore, act NOW to avert this situation! OUR AIM Our aim is to arrest the free-fall of our football fortunes by promoting good governance and zero-tolerance for corruption and mediocrity in the administration of Nigerian Football. What we have now is INEPT and tainted with allegations of CORRUPTION. Unfortunately, the present board has perfected strategies to maintain their strangle-hold on the jugular of Nigerian football. Their ploy is to perpetuate themselves in power even in spite of dismal results from the football pitch. We wish to buttress our stand with the following facts which are easily verifiable:
THE ILLEGALITY OF THE NAME 'NFF'
Till date the leadership of the Football House have failed to justify the need for the change of the body 3 years ago. The name in the country's law books is 'Nigeria Football Association'. This has created a bottle-neck for legal appropriation of funds by the national assembly for Nigerian football. Closely linked to this is the fact that NFA Act Cap. N110 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, which gives the football house legal backing is still in force till date. Therefore, by law, government, through its sports supervisory agency, can still give the NFA directives of specific or general nature and they are bound to obey them.
ADMINISTRATIVE INCOMPETENCE AND FINANCIAL RECKLESSNESS Despite the avowed zero tolerance of the present Federal Administration to financial mismanagement and due process, this is an area the present NFF has been very guilty. The attempt to cut corners in the infamous Hampshire Hotel deal in South Africa as it concerns our World Cup base camp is a classic example. The failed matter of air-craft charter of the team to South Africa is another case. There are others.
COMPOSITION OF ELECTORAL COMMITTEE The electoral committee set up by the NFA is not properly constituted. The Chairman of the Committee is a client of the NFA as well as personal lawyer of the Chairman of the federation. He defended the NFA Chairman in a suit at the start of his tenure that challenged his election success in 2006. In accordance with the amended but yet to be ratified statutes he is not a bonafide member of the Association and is, therefore, unfit to arbitrate.
NIGERIA VS COLOMBIA FRIENDLY MATCH It is on record that the friendly match played last week-end in the UK rather than be a source of attracting some revenue and enhance our national pride turned out to be a major disaster because as a result of poor arrangements it is the only friendly match amongst qualified countries of the World Cup to be played behind closed doors without an audience. On television it looked ridiculous!
The NFA ended up spending a whooping and un-budgeted sum of over $400,000 to prosecute the game due to the incompetence of their hired agent.
THE AIRCRAFT CHARTER FIASCO In defiance of earlier directives from the Federal Government, the NFA once again chose to place financial gains above the safety of the country's World Cup players. As well as the damage to the image of the entire country, the resultant international embarrassment caused by their inexcusable administrative ineptitude to charter an aircraft (where they have no such competency) that was later found to have technical faults, unnecessarily endangered the lives of the players, and brought about loss of funds and ridicule to the government, players, Nigeria’s diplomatic staff and hundreds of Nigerians that had to wait for two days in Johannesburg to welcome their national team.
FIFA FLIGHT TICKETS As a matter of routine, FIFA defrays the travel costs of all teams that qualify for the final rounds of ALL their competitions. For the FIFA World Cup, the number usually taken care of is fifty (50), plus the cost of accommodation and local transportation. The begging questions are: What happened to the tickets meant for the Nigerian team? Were the cost of tickets not provided for also by the Federal Government? Or have the tickets been converted for the use of the 'army' of 115 made up of Association Chairmen and others that the NFA is sponsoring to the World Cup?
MISSING $236,OOO The disappearance of this huge sum from a 'drawer' in the office of NFA last year is still as mind-boggling as is their attempt to sweep the issue under the carpet. Luckily an administrative panel report on the matter has unearthed a position that should be made available to the sports ministry and other relevant government agencies for further action. We call for the immediate release of the government White Paper on the matter and the immediate prosecution of all those indicted. A most interesting dimension that has been added to this is the fact that the trial magistrate is allegedly being compromised to rule in the favour of the NFA. We have it on good authority that judgment may not be given till after the NFA elections in August and, even at that, the charges will be thrown out for lack of merit. The magistrate is allegedly being sponsored to the World Cup in South Africa with all expenses paid for by NFA officials.
BRIBERY, KICK-BACKS AND FINANCIAL INDUCEMENTS This is another area that calls for forensic investigation. The recent scam that beclouded the appointment of the new Technical adviser is a good case in point. The matter was officially reported by an agent, Mr. John Shittu and is presently under investigation by the EFFC.
Closely linked to the above is the interview granted by Mr. Sven Goran Erikkson last week to an international newspaper known as Fotbollskanalen in which he regretted ever applying to coach Nigeria’s National team. He clearly averred that he was approached by some Nigerian officials for kick-backs and he referred them to his agent. This is how he described the saga in his own words: "Then I called some people in FIFA that I know and they told me to take the next available flight and come back home immediately and I did just that. It was a mistake applying for the Nigerian job”. There is a disgrace if true. It calls for a thorough investigation.
PERSONS UNFIT TO HOLD PUBLIC OFFICES IN NFA There are allegations and some documents that make some members of the current NFA board unfit to hold public office. Some of them have been dismissed from public office, indicted of financial offences by administrative panels, involved in certificate forgery, impersonation and have been under recent EFCC investigation.
NFA OFFICIALS WITHOUT MEANS OF LIVELIHOOD The present Board of the Nigerian Football Association is made up of some persons with no visible means of livelihood. They have, therefore, turned their part-time board assignment into a full time job. This is eating deep into the resources of the Football House. Or how else can the Association President, who is a serving deputy Director in the FCT, explain the leave of absence he obtained on becoming Chairman of the board in 2006? The NFA offices have thus become an extension of their private office, and five-star hotels their permanent abode—all at tax payers expense.
ACCOUNT OF MONIES RECEIVED FROM FIFA/CAF AND SPONSORS Since the coming to office of the present board of the NFA the income and expenditure pattern of the Football House has been a huge secret. Annual grants from FIFA and CAF running into hundreds of thousands of dollars remain unaccounted for. The same can be said of all marketing and sponsorship royalties obtained from major partners such as Adidas, Globacom, Afribank, Peak Milk and a host of others. In fact, the revelation is that all sponsorship monies first go directly into the private account of a Nigerian marketer from where disbursements are made at will.
WORLD CUP GRANTS
FIFA released $1million dollars to each of the qualified countries of the 2010 World Cup for training and purposes of adequately preparing their teams. In the case of Nigeria, no costed programme of activity in this respect exists. Another eerie silence has accompanied the additional $200,000 FIFA recently released to every National Federation.
Why have certain board members attempted to impeach the leadership of the board at least twice in the life of the board. It speaks volumes about the reckless expenditure pattern of the Association leadership. Greek gifts in the form of hastily arranged international trips and monetary inducements have been successfully employed at every occasion to thwart the moves. The last attempt early this year led to an alledged N5million pay-out for every board member.
ROMANCE WITH STATE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATIONS In a bid to perpetrate itself in power, the leadership of the NFA has worked out a plan to beat all the 37 state FAs into line. The first was the alleged unwarranted and unearned N5 Million Greek gift to each state football association as well as the sponsorship of all State FA chairmen to Angola last January.
PLANS FOR TENURE ELONGATION Another ploy which is being used to ensure the return to office of the NFA board members is the illegal elongation of the tenure of State Football Associations. The last time elections held at the state level is between 4 and 5 years ago. Yet, the NFA have fraudulently amended their statutes to postpone state election until after the completion of national elections later in the year. This gives state associations terms that range between 5-6 years (a misnomer for officials who contested elections on the basis of a 4-year tenure!) .
THE FIFA BAN BLACKMAIL CARD Despite the fact that the government of Nigeria is the biggest financial supporter of Nigerian Football, the officials of the NFA(most of whom are still government officials themselves) have continued to openly invoked fear into the fabric of Nigerian football and rendered any meaningful dialogue impossible by their continuous recourse to the old refrain of 'FIFA will ban Nigeria' whenever any questions of their stewardship are asked them. FIFA and CAF can afford to scream about independence because they are not funded by any government neither do they have any national interests to protect through any team. FIFA recognise and appreciate the role of governments in third world and communist countries and make appreciate the intervention and not the interference in the affairs of national associations.
OUTSTANDING SCANDAL FROM THE HOSTING OF NIGERIA ’09 It is common knowledge that Nigeria hosted the FIFA U-17 Youth Tournament in Nigeria last year. What is not common knowledge is the level of tales and allegations of financial misappropriation that trailed the organization of that tournament by the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) headed by the NFA Chairman whose Director of Organisation was the Secretary-General of the NFA. Till date, the books of the LOC have not been reconciled because of massive discrepancies in figures. One major example is the current disagreement with FIFA on the $5 million marketing proceeds which the NFA is insisting should benefit a local marketer who was also a member of the organizing committee!
AGE CHEAT SCANDALS Nigeria is blessed with young talents, yet she has consistently featured on the list of nations suspected and often accused of using over-aged players to prosecute International tournaments. Even our U-17 players to the last FIFA U-17 championship held in Nigeria were not spared this accusation. Only last month, South Africa protested to FIFA that Nigeria’s Female youth team (The Falconets) used players that were not eligible to play in the qualifying series. FIFA is currently investigating. On three previous occasions, we have been banned or sanctioned by FIFA on account of this malady.
UNPAID SALARIES AND ALLOWANCES The present NFA Board is notorious for not fulfilling its financial obligations to contractors. Hotels are owed huge sums across the country while players and coaches groan under unredeemed pledges. FIFA recently ordered Nigeria to pay one of its former coaches, Berti Vogts of Germany an outstanding huge sum while its immediate past coach, Shuaibu Amodu is still in the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Lusanne ,Switzerland, battling to have his unpaid salaries settled.
THE SALE OF NFA GUEST HOUSE It has been discovered that a guest house bought by the NFA has been bought over by the Association Chairman. The house in question was used to quarter the Chairman while his personal house was demolished for renovations with the federation’s funds. The intriguing thing is that after the renovation, the property changed ownership and the file used for the processing and the entire transaction has been declared missing in the NFA secretariat. The entire transaction is shrouded in secrecy and needs to be investigated.
2 FAIRLY-USED BUSES PURCHASED BY NFF Last year the NFA unveiled two buses it bought for the use of national teams but as with all their transactions, the deal was shrouded in secrecy and possible fraud. The two luxury buses cost a princely sum of N96 million Naira and were purchased for the association through Chief Mike Umeh, the chairman of one of the State Football Associations. But it has come to the fore that the vehicles are not new but fairly-used ones passed off as mint new. It has now become a drain pipe as they now guzzle funds of the Association on daily basis for all manner of repairs. The procurement of the buses did not follow due process as there was no tender, no call for bids and no advertisement for a transaction of that magnitude. This issue needs to be looked into.
CONCLUSION: Honourable Minister, sir, in the light of the above allegations and others not mentioned here, we are convinced that the strangle-hold of Nigerian football by a select group must be broken through a concerted and relentless effort. We, therefore, wish to humbly call on all men and women of goodwill, lovers of football from every strata of the Nigeria society to join us in this noble cause to re-position Nigerian football for greatness, to the glory of our dear nation and the boundless joy of all Nigerians. We have decided to approach you for support because of the key position you occupy in the development of our country and it is our humble wish to kindly request that you accede to a clarion call that will add fillip to our common cause. PRAYERS We, therefore, hereby request that the following prayers be granted: 1. The leadership of the NFA be called upon to revert to the original name of the Association until such a time that the law is amended or abrogated by the National Assembly. 2. The NFA should submit a detailed account of all monies received from government since coming to office in 2006. 3. The NFA should reconstitute the Electoral Committee and ensure that its membership is made up of competent, neutral and unbiased persons of impeccable character and integrity. 4. New dates for the electoral process should be fixed to allow for return of all delegates from South Africa and submission of completed forms for all intending candidates for the forth-coming elections to at least the 9th of August 2010. This will ensure an all-inclusive and credible electoral process. 5. The Electoral guidelines should allow for the State Football Associations whose tenure have expired to hold their elections by the end of July 2010. Local Government and State elections should come up before the Federation election. 6. Government should, as a matter of urgency, release the White Paper on the NFA missing dollars and adequately deal with all those indicted. 7. All pending financial fraud investigation at the NFA by various agencies should be acted upon in the interest of tax-payers. 8. Credible Nigerians should be encouraged to support the cause of positive change in our nation’s football administration and to be part of the forth-coming elections. SIGNED
For: Movement for Change in Nigeria Football.
TO: The Chairman of the NSC and Honourable Minister of Sports Federal Secretariat, Maitama - Abuja