The president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Amaju Pinnick, has dismissed allegations of corruption and financial misappropriation leveled against him and his board members citing the $650,000 given by the former Governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio.
Speaking on a radio programme The Hangout on Metro FM and Bond FM in Lagos on Monday, Pinnick said that those who alleged that he diverted the sum of $650,000 originally meant for a friendly match against Bolivia in Uyo in 2015, for a game that never held, are simply misinformed.
The NFF boss noted that the money for the friendly didn’t come from FIFA or the Federal Government as had been alleged, but was personally sourced from the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio.
He explained that, the outbreak of the Ebola scourge at that time prevented Bolivia from traveling to Nigeria although they hinged their refusal to honour the international friendly on security concerns.
According to Pinnick, the NFF later got Uganda as a late replacement and at the end of the match which was played on the 25th of March at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium Uyo, a match the Ugandans won, the NFF did plus and minus and the balance was given to the Akwa Ibom State government.”
“We were meant to play Bolivia and it was captured. That money was not given to us by FIFA, it was given to us by the Akwa Ibom State government. I went to the Liaison office in Abuja to see Akpabio then the governor of Akwa Ibom State and he said let’s play Bolivia. But because there was Ebola in Nigeria, Bolivia didn’t want to come out to say it was Ebola, they cited security issues because it was the day after the national election that brought in President Buhari in 2015.
“After Bolivia turned down our request, we had about 4 days to work out something, that prompted our call to the Ugandans and they were very happy and they came to Akwa Ibom and they even defeated us there in Akwa Ibom. And we did plus and minus and the balance was given to the Akwa Ibom State government.”
Pinnick also spoke about uninformed incessant attacks on the finances of the NFF sponsored by some persons for reason best known to them. On this he stressed that, his tenure was the first on record to publish audited accounts in three national dailies as a testament of their commitment to transparency.
“Federal Government funding for the NFF amounts to only about N700m (government funding for the NFF was N1.3bn in 2016 and N1.1bn in 2017 according to the Ministry of Sports), and that the NFF is on the way to being completely self-sufficient.
“What do we get from the government? And if you look at it, we don’t even want government to give us money if we have the enabling environment to thrive because we believe football can fund itself and fund other associations. In England, for example, the government gives 25m pounds every year for youth and grassroots development.
“We have a budget of about N7bn in a year and if you look at our budget – it’s a public document – it’s less than a billion and the one that is backed by cash (for which the government releases money) is not more than sixty or seventy percent yearly, which means we get about N700m from government. And if the Super Eagles play three friendly matches, it consumes the money. Aside from the Eagles, we have the U-13, U-15, U-17, U-20, U-23 national teams, male and female.”
“To organize a friendly game for the Super Eagles, flight tickets alone costs about $200,000 (about N70m) for twenty-six players at between $6,000 to $10,000 per player excluding match bonuses and allowances taken into account.”
He debunked the false allegation that NFF board members are there for personal gains rather they are all passion driven and self-made individuals.
“For me as president, I forfeited my legitimate entitlements to housing which my predecessors had always collected as I am not interested in dipping my hands into the NFF finances.
“My predecessor (Aminu Maigari) got N12m to N13m every year for accommodation. In four years that is N48m. I have been president for five years, I have the same entitlements, I have not collected a dime for accommodation. The reason why I am doing that is not because I have too much money, but simply following my passion. So when I hear people say NFF board members are corrupt I wonder where the corruption is coming from.
“The Executive Members are driven by passion and are not there because of what to benefit; please these people should allow us run Nigerian football.
“From the start of my tenure till date, it’s been one induced crisis to the other. The distractions have remained our only impediment not to attain one hundred percent self-funding by now. What we tried to do is to build Nigerian football and allow corporate companies look at it as an entity they can partner not just for prominence or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but a relationship that will also be beneficial to them.
“The decision of some persons to constantly attack me and the board serves no good purpose and has been counterproductive because it ditches the drive to get more private sector partners to invest and help grow the game locally.”
“The protracted Chris Giwa crisis cost the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) from going back on television. The flag off of the La Liga / NPFL Under 15 tourney was also stopped.
“Obviously, people do not understand the magnitude of destruction which has plagued Nigerian football due to this crisis.
The CAF First vice president, also classified the rumors that he has made up his mind to run for the CAF presidency. “Why would I run against my president? We worked hard for his emergence and we have always been close.” Adding that, “discordant tunes are to be expected in any organization.
Pinnick, stated that, the sacking of the CAF Secretary General wasn’t unusual as it is the prerogative of the president to appoint and sack the General Secretary.