Minister of Sports Barrister Solomon Dalung last week announced the commencement of a probe into the activities of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). This was against the backdrop of reports that the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) had halted their annual $1.1million grant to Nigeria as a result of the failure of NFF to properly account for the use of the money. The minister wants a fresh audit of NFF finances in the wake of this development.
Barrister Dalung, who disclosed this at the NFF’s Annual General Meeting in Lagos last Sunday said, “This is a very serious issue that must be given urgent attention to avoid another international embarrassment. Even more so that the present administration under the leadership of Mr. President, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari has zero tolerance for any act of misappropriation , misapplication, embezzlement or fraud in any guise. To this end, the NFF is directed to immediately provide my office with detailed information of receipt, disbursement and application of the FIFA development grant accordingly. In addition, a reputable audit firm should be appointed urgently to check the account books of the Federation to ensure that funds are judiciously expended.”
Defending the football house, NFF President Amaju Pinnick absolved the Federation’s leadership of culpability in the unfolding scandal. Pinnick referred to the issue in question as a “simply FIFA query”. He further argued that the matter is between “the FIFA-approved auditor and NFF but it has been blown beyond proportion and people are even saying that NFF embezzled money. It’s ridiculous because all FIFA is asking for is clarification on why we have to lump their monies with other monies and the issue of receipting of cash transactions.”
Although the NFF chief would exult at actually informing the sports minister about the audit matter in line with the tradition of always keeping the sports authorities informed of developments in the NFF, the issue goes beyond a mere FIFA query. Reports suggested that NFF received the damning letter from the world’s football governing body last week stopping their grant after they found “traces of corruption” in how previous monies have been spent by it.
We believe that for FIFA to withhold all development funds for Nigeria due to lack of proper documentation of $802,000 out of $1.1m is shameful, unsettling and nauseating. This development will definitely deal yet another huge financial blow to the cash strapped NFF and a final warning to the football house to strengthen its financial records. And for the players of our female national football team, the Super Falcons, to embark on protest before they were paid their bonuses and allowances says much about football administration in Nigeria.
Thus, we applaud the sports minister’s decision to audit the NFF financial records and the government is now expected to quickly step into this latest international embarrassment to ensure a proper scrutiny and review of the Federation’s accounts. No stone should be left unturned. The audit report must be made public so as to promote transparency, build credibility and enhance accountability as well as punishing the culprits.
Our football authorities must fall in line with the Federal Government’s Change Agenda and imbibe proper planning and financial prudence. There’s a need to shape football in this country positively to meet our aspiration of the essence of sports. This requires robust action and commitment.