As the wind of discontent blows from north to south, it’s not farfetched to assert that Nigerian football has seen better days. From the national teams to the various leagues, the state of affairs fails to inspire confidence in fans and stakeholders. As it is prevalent in several parastatals, mismanagement, allegations of corruption, lack of transparency and accountability have dogged Nigeria’s football industry – particularly in recent years.
Since the Amaju Pinnick era began in 2014, financial discrepancies, misappropriation and series of anomalies have been the order of the day in the operations of the Nigeria Football Federation so much so that stakeholders and even members of the NFF have written several petitions to FIFA but these actions have failed to change much.
KOLAPO OLAPOJU takes a deep dive into the reckless use of funds and wanton disregard for due process that have tainted the NFF.
MISUSE OF FIFA DEVELOPMENT FUNDS
In 2015, FIFA released a $2.5m grant to Nigeria as part of its FIFA Assistance Programme. The money was to be dedicated to football development programmes in the country.
The use of the grant, which was disbursed in five tranches between May and October 2015, raised eyebrows at FIFA. The football governing body expressed concerns over a lack of transparency, noting that the NFF leadership was unable to prove that the funds were not fraudulently expended. FIFA also bemoaned the fact that the funds were not used for the approved programmes.
Consequently, PwC carried out a review and presented its findings to FIFA in October 2016. In its findings, PwC said it “detected circumstances which may indicate or lead to a misuse of funds” and also noted that in several cases, the use of FIFA development funds could not be traced to supporting documentation or failed to align with FIFA prescribed purposes.
“We detected a misuse of funds or other non-compliance with FIFA regulations. These findings require immediate action,” the report added.
According to the report, the NFF made disbursements in cash, and as such, it could not be determined if the final recipient actually received the funds. Furthermore, the report noted that “nine cases totalling $801, 929 were identified where there was no supporting documentation to substantiate the subsequent disbursements”.
In conclusion, PwC stated that as a result of the lack of transparency, the FIFA development funds may have been misused or misappropriated. It also noted that the NFF management was unable to demonstrate that there was no fraudulent use of the funds.
BDC OVER CBN
Days later, the NFF issued an official response to the report through a letter addressed to the FIFA secretary-general by Sanusi Mohammed, NFF general secretary.
In a bid to defend the cash withdrawals, Sanusi wrongly informed FIFA that because Nigerian banks transactions are not denominated in dollars, the NFF had no choice but to “make cash withdrawals and exchange to naira to make payments”.
Sanusi went on to note that cash disbursements were rampant because FIFA sent the funds in dollars and since payments are made in naira to person/entities who maintain naira accounts, the NFF “needs to withdraw cash in dollars, exchange it into naira for onward payments to their various beneficiaries”.
But contrary to that argument, Nigerian banks are known to provide the option of paying an account holder in naira, even if the money received is in a foreign currency.
Another point made by Sanusi to justify the cash withdrawal is that the NFF chose to exchange the dollars paid by FIFA at the parallel market – popularly known as Bureau De Change – so as to get a higher rate than the official rate of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
This course of action is however frowned upon by the CBN, with the governor of the apex bank, Godwin Emefiele, recently describing the practice as illegal. According to Emefiele, “the parallel market is a tainted market in Nigeria where people who desire to deal in illegal foreign exchange transactions” operate. So, it begs the question as to why a government agency would be carrying out forex transactions in the parallel market.
When contacted over the issue, Demola Olajire, NFF spokesman, noted that “FIFA Development Funds are not paid to NFF”.
CURIOUS CASH PAYMENTS
In May 2018, Harrison Jalla, former president of National Association of Nigerian Footballers, petitioned the ethics committee of FIFA to investigate Sanusi, secretary general of the NFF, on allegations of unethical and corrupt practices which he claimed violated the FIFA code of ethics.
Providing documentary evidence, Jalla accused Sanusi of misappropriating funds, embezzlement and abuse of position. He alleged that Sanusi colluded with Pinnick, NFF president, and Shehu Dikko, NFF second VP, to perpetrate these acts.
Citing the $8,400,000 World Cup participation fee paid to NFF by FIFA in 2014, Jalla said there was “massive misappropriation”, “embezzlement”, and “diversion” of the money for personal gains by the aforementioned trio. He alleged that “imaginary items of financial transactions” were listed in the retirement of funds and statement of expenditure.
In the NFF statement of expenditure released to defend the disbursement of the World Cup fund, a constant red flag is the repeated listing of “cash payments” even in the cases of high amounts.