By Anthony Akaeze
AND so it turned out, from media accounts, that Super Eagles, Nigeria’s men soccer team, were also being owed money, and that contrary to the Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF’s) claims that all outstanding allowances or bonuses of the players currently slugging it out at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt, had been paid, it was not so. Ahmed Musa, the team’s vice captain, was reported in the media as saying, ahead of the team’s last group match against Madagascar last weekend, that he and his colleagues were still being owed money by the NFF.
Musa, amid rumours that the Super Eagles players had arrived late for training and shunned a pre-match press conference ahead of their second game against Guinea, as revealed in a Punch newspaper report, said: “We have put the disagreement about bonuses behind us, we spoke amongst ourselves. I don’t know what the NFF has planned, but we will do our job. They are yet to pay the team’s outstanding bonuses.”
Musa’s bombshell came days after the NFF claimed to have fully settled outstanding allowances of the Super Eagles players, and a week after the Super Falcons, Nigeria’s women’s soccer team’s claims about being owed money by NFF were rubbished by the soccer organising body. The NFF claimed to have fulfilled its obligations to the ladies and that what remained was the fund it was expecting from world’s soccer ruling body, FIFA for teams that participated in the women’s world cup, which is still ongoing in France, though the Super Falcons had been eliminated from it by Germany. The Super Falcons percentage from the FIFA largesse, NFF explained, would be paid once it receives the money.
Like I asked in my article, last week, with the same headline, what do we make of this claim by the Super Eagles? Is this also to be dismissed as bunkum? Perhaps not. For one, unlike the Super Falcons story, I haven’t read any rejoinder to Musa’s, or by implication, Super Eagles’ claim yet. What I read from the NFF, through its media office, was an analysis of the Super Eagles performance against Madagascar, a result that was nothing but disaster as the Eagles crashed 2-0 against its opponents, thus catapulting Madagascar, a soccer lilliputian, to the leadership of the group, as well as another report stating that corruption allegations in a suit against Amaju Pinnick, NFF president, and some of his colleagues by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP), had been adjourned to September 26. The report states that “The NFF officials have continued to deny any wrong-doing and have insisted the case brought by SPIP is baseless, mere persecution and an abuse of court process, as the Federation has a pending matter in the same court challenging SPIP’s jurisdiction.”
It was curious that Musa, rather than John Obi Mikel, the team’s captain, revealed information about outstanding allowances to the public. Was it a coincidence? Maybe. However, earlier press release by the NFF denouncing Super Falcons claims, had praised Mikel’s leadership qualities.
Seyi Akinwunmi, NFF first vice president, in the June 25 release, was reported to have “specially commended the maturity of the team and its leaders, including skipper Mikel John Obi and for their unflinching focus on the job at hand which is winning the Afcon Trophy.”
Mikel was, as I imagined it, the opposite of Desire Oparanozie, the Super Falcons captain, who had sought answers from the NFF about outstanding claims.
In this season of claims and counter claims, it is difficult to know who to really believe, even with NFF’s antecedence, predating Pinnick’s era, of owing players, coaches and officials of the country’s teams – men and women, senior and junior – and for which issues in that regard are well documented. Coaches Stephen Keshi, Shuaibu Amodu, (both now late) Sunday Oliseh, Godwin Izilien, to mention just a few, claimed to have been owed money by NFF or NFA, as it was once called, at different times. One has also lost count of the number of times, players, at senior and junior levels, complained of being owed money by the authorities. It says something about Nigerian government and its agencies promises, that Johannes Bonfrere, who led Nigeria to win the Olympic gold medal in 1996, and Clemens Westerhof, his Dutch counterpart, who spearheaded the Super Eagles Nations Cup win in 1994 and also qualified the country for its first FIFA World Cup that held in USA same year, received houses promised them by the authorities 25 and 22 years after.
However, available evidence suggests that Musa was not misquoted and that the disquiet in the Super Eagles camp over outstanding bonuses may have been suppressed before now. Simon Lalong, governor of Plateau State, told reporters after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja a couple of days ago, that the Eagles players complained about not receiving their entitlements. Lalong, who said he earlier travelled to Egypt to cheer the Eagles, a trip that, to me, is nothing short of jamboree and a possible waste of public funds in an era of change, as the ruling APC would have us believe, said issues of unpaid allowances was not strange to him.
“I came in to have a discussion with the President; of course many of you know I just came back from Egypt where we went to cheer the Super Eagles and I also brought him back the concerns of those players that are there. I think he promised to handle the matter immediately; football is a unifying factor in Nigeria; we shouldn’t joke with it; if we bring back the cup; it will cement our relationship and that is one of it. Some of the concerns they raised is that many of their allowances were not paid and the President expressed surprise that he signed these allowances and they are not paid to them,” the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, quotes Lalong as saying, adding also: “I was a footballer and it is not like before when you play football out of patriotism; now it is combined with the economic aspect… definitely you must ensure; especially from the ministry that they are paid their allowances.”
– July 3, 2018 @ 17:57 GMT |