Amaju Pinnick was furious with the Editor-in-Chief of a top and respected football website who had published an interview of a certain Otunba Dele Ajayi who laid several accusations against the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and several other top officials of the federation.
Ajayi had gone on radio to brazenly accuse the NFF boss and his top officials of financial fraud and misappropriation.
“There is a lot of mismanagement in the Nigeria Football Federation under Amaju Pinnick and I can tell you that for more than three years, there was no approval,” Ajayi said in an interview on Orange 94.5 FM.
“The board members were not aware of all the funds flying about, you can only talk of three or four people who are aware of those funds, there is no transparency.”
These accusations also didn’t come from just anyway, it came from Ajayi who was an important member of Pinnick’s cabinet during his first tenure as president of the NFF.
Ajayi held the important position of Chairman of the Finance and Appropriations Committee and currently, he is the Chairman of the Ondo State Football Association. His allegations could not be viewed with levity so Pinnick and the whole NFF kicked.
“I thought your platform was responsible,” Pinnick texted the editor of the football website that first published Ajayi’s interview.
“My lawyers are preparing a response,” Pinnick added.
The NFF swiftly responded with a statement that called Ajayi’s rant ‘bundles of lies and misleading information’. In a long statement, the NFF address some of Ajayi allegations, listing each of them and presenting their own side to falsify them.
The accusations range from financial mismanagement, abuse of power and lack of transparency. But the NFF denied them all.
They went ahead to discredit Ajayi, claiming that he was just a disgruntled ex-member who is ‘consumed by envy, bitterness and animosity’.
The claims from Ajayi were just one of the allegations Pinnick and the NFF have had to deal with since October 2018. In fact, that statement the NFF released to deny Ajayi’s allegations was the third response to claims of similar nature in January alone.
The first was a statement to deny that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed NFF boss Pinnick to be prosecuted and placed on a travel ban over cases of financial mismanagement. “The report is completely unfounded and is only a product of the writer’s imagination,” the statement reads.
“The NFF President, who is also the 1st Vice President of the Confederation of African Football, has not received any such message from any of the agencies mentioned by the writer and has also never been placed on a travel ban.”
Pinnick himself in a series of tweets called into question, the report. “It is quite laughable whenever these stories come out. And they come out, without fail, regularly, and from the same sources. Well, I'll be talking to my lawyers to see what legal redress I can get, but it would be nice if our media houses investigated these things before publishing,” one of the tweets reads.
NFF-House of Corruption
Just on Tuesday, February 5, the NFF released another statement to gainsay a documentary titled 'NFF-House of Corruption' that had surfaced online which narrates in details, the alleged corrupt practices in the federation.
“The Nigeria Football Federation, the house of corruption, steals more than N10B in four years," are the first words of the narrator in the documentary.
“The NFF are a den of thieves , looters and pen robbers, money launderers, forgers and fraudsters,” the narrator also says with a collage of photos of Pinnick, Seyi Akinwunmi, first Vice-President, Shehu Dikko, Second Vice-President, Mohammed Sanusi, Secretary-General and Ahmed Yusuf Fresh, a member of the Executive Committee.
The documentary gives a detailed narration, accusing NFF top brass of disregard for “proper accounting procedures as well as judicious use of public funds, sponsorship money, grants from FIFA and CAF”.
The allegations are damaging; accusing NFF leaders of siphoning and diversion of the federation's money, failure to properly account for money from sponsors, FIFA, Confederation of African Football (CAF) and donations from state governments
But the NFF maintain their position that they have done nothing wrong.
“So many outlandish claims were made in the video, including the fact that more than the sum of N10 Billion had been misappropriated in the NFF over the past three-and-half years! For a Federation whose total revenue income in a year comes to about N3.5Billion (including Government allocation, FIFA and CAF grants and sponsorship fees), and with 10 National Teams to run with most of them always engaged in one competition or the other, ‘stealing’ the sum of N10 Billion from the coffers in three-and-half years could only have been possible and executed in the imagination of the scandal mongers,” the statement from the NFF reads.
EFCC, SPIP wade in
The allegations from Ajayi and the documentary are similar. They both accused NFF bosses of misappropriating $8.4m the federation received from FIFA for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
And just like Ajayi’s allegations, the claims from the documentary are too brazen to be ignored and the obligatory agencies have since sprung to action.
All of the six names mentioned in the documentary have all been interrogated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC). And despite Pinnick’s denial of being prosecuted and placed on a flight ban, the Special Presidential Investigatory Panel (SPIP) on the recovery of public property indeed recommended that the NFF boss and members of his committee be placed on flight ban.
“We have concluded our investigation and established what is called prima facie case against them,” Okoi Obono-Obla who is the chairman of the SPIP on the recovery of public property, said at a press conference in Abuja in January.
“We shall charge them to court whether they are here or not.”
The SPIP in October 2018 had also questioned Pinnick, Akinwunmi and Dikko for several hours in connection with conspiracy and alleged cases of diversion of public funds at the NFF.
Despite the continued accusations and claims, the Pinnick-led NFF have still not been found guilty of any corrupt practices and none of the accusations has been substantiated.
Three NFF officials-Christopher Andekin, Jafaru Fadanari Mamza and Rajan Zaka- were indeed charged with fraud in October 2018 after allegedly diverting $9.5m in FIFA grants for personal use in 2015. Yet the hammer that fell on the NFF were not on Pinnick and the top NFF officials.
Sports Minister Solomon Dalung who has been a voracious critic of Pinnick still has the oversight authority over the NFF while the Accountant and Internal Auditor of the NFF are both employees from the Office of the Accountant General and Auditor General. So why have these external figures failed to validate these allegations which have been laid against Pinnick’s NFF over the past three years.
Dalung is known to have reviled Pinnick and has made and backed some of the allegations against the NFF boss but the sound out to those accusations remains the fact that he is in the right position to investigate any financial impropriety in the NFF. So instead of the public defamation from all corners,- including Dalung- why has he not yet requested for an internal audit of the federation which is well within his authority?
Pinnick’s NFF also enjoy the backing of FIFA and CAF where the federation's boss is the first Vice-President. The documentary claims FIFA have concerns over how the NFF spent funds provided for the FIFA Development Funds. A document is shown in the clip where FIFA expressed their worries. “NFF is unable to demonstrate that there has not been fraudulent use of FIFA development funds,” FIFA said in a letter to the federation according to the documentary.
This has however never been communicated publicly and FIFA president Gianni Infantino has continued to be a fierce supporter of Pinnick.
Infantino backed Pinnick during Chris Giwa’s chaotic take over of NFF in July 2018. The chaos reached a tipping point when FIFA threatened to ban Nigeria from all football activities before the presidency waded in to resolve the issue, ordering Giwa out of the office to reinstate Pinnick.
The battles continues
Despite a conflict-free and successful re-election bid to the NFF presidency in September 2018, Pinnick still fears that these lingering allegations could hamper him again in his second tenure as NFF boss-the incessant legal battle, disturbances in 2018 that led to the shutdown of football activities in Nigeria and other unpleasant development.
Pinnick’s camp believes the allegations and attacks are works of detractors whose aim is to bring hue and cry in the federation. In NFF’s response to Ajayi’s claims, they waved off the allegations as "mob action from people who have lost out in the political processes of the NFF."
“Why is he saying these things now that he is no longer a member of the NFF Executive Committee,” a Pulse Sports source inside the federation asked. Indeed, Ajayi is now an ally of Giwa who remains aggrieved.
The allegations won’t stop-either through the said forces fighting against Pinnick’s NFF or through continued suspicion of their financial dealings-but it's up to the federation to continue to prove their innocence and run football in the country. It’s an uphill task for Pinnick and his executive but they should get in a fit state and face the challenges.