‘Why we suspended Gusau as AFN president’
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has been embroiled in a leadership crisis, which stems from the corruption and underhand practices allegedly perpetuated by its president, Shehu Ibrahim Gusau, who has been suspended by the federation’s board. Although Gusau insists that he is still the president of the federation, flaunting a vote of confidence passed on him by a faction of the body in Awka last week, some elected members of the board have since named Olamide George, a former lawmaker from Ondo State, as the body’s acting president.
Apart from majority of the board members, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports also recognizes George as the de facto AFN leader. Prior to the crisis that engulfed the federation before and after the African Senior Championships in Asaba last year, George was among the board members allegedly sidelined from the activities of the body by Gusau and the former technical director, Sunday Adeleye. On assumption of office as AFN’s acting vice president, George set up a committee to investigate the allegations against Gusau with a view to getting the federation back on track.
While fielding questions from The Guardian at the weekend, George insisted that Gusau has a case to answer and must submit himself for probe by the investigative panel. He also allayed fears that World Athletics would sanction Nigeria because of the crisis in the athletics’ house. George also explained the current state of affairs at the federation, insisting that there is no crisis in AFN.
He added: “Majority of board members have only asked the president to answer some questions that bother on violation of the constitution of the federation, misappropriation and misapplication of funds, his penchant for taking unilateral decisions without the board’s approval and non-payment of athletes’ allowances in full or none at all in some cases.
“This is not a new case. In April or May this year, the board met and suspended him for an investigative panel to look into some of these allegations, but the NOC president and the permanent secretary in the Sports Ministry stepped in and the investigation was suspended. Mr. Gusau did not fulfill the terms of the agreement and has gone on to commit more infractions, especially constitutional infractions.
“The AFN constitution gives a 60-day notice before a congress can be convened by the president. Article 6.1.4 of the constitution was unambiguous about this. It was for all congresses, as it did not specify whether it is annual or extraordinary. The notice of meeting sent to all state associations said Annual Congress but it was changed to Extraordinary Congress after it was pointed out to him that he had breached provisions of the constitution.
“Gusau should tell us the provisions of the constitution that made him bigger than the constitution. The suspended president also entered into an agreement with sportswear manufacturer, PUMA, without the knowledge and consent of the board. He also prepared budget for the various competitions the federation attended without the knowledge and consent of the board.”
George also alleged that Gusau obtained N35 million (about $92,000) for the IAAF World Championships in Doha in September and October without the board’s knowledge, adding that he gave $38, 000 to the Secretary General to pay athletes allowances.
“The money was not enough as the 25 athletes are owed $300 each as they were only able to get $1000 out of the $1,300 agreed on for each member of the team,” he said. “The coaches are also owed $300 each. Gusau should come and tell us what he did with the balance of $54,000, especially when you take into cognizance that World Athletics (IAAF) took care of all 25 athletes’ travel and accommodation 100 per cent.” George also alleged that Gusau collected N13 million for the African Youth and Junior Championships in Abidjan in April, adding that the money was released by the sports ministry after the event.
“The young athletes who travelled by road for three days to the event and three days on their return are yet to be paid a dime,” George continued. “We heard Mr. Gusau said he used the money to pay for Nigeria’s participation in the World Relays in Yokohama, Japan, in May this year. This is clearly a case of misapplication of fund. “Do you know that our participation in the World Relays was partly funded by World Athletics? Mr. Gusau had also deprived the Secretary General of his constitutional function as the custodian of the federation’s records, documents and properties by changing the password of the federation’s email server with World Athletics since April this year.”
On the vote of confidence on Gusau at the Awka congress and the declaration of autonomy from the sports ministry by Gusau’s AFN, George said it was the biggest joke of 2019. “You are just telling me there was a congress in Awka,” he noted. “In the eyes of the law, the constitution of the AFN which Mr. Gusau swore an oath to protect, there was no congress as there are laid down procedures for this. So, what happened in Awka was an assembly of impostors, who paraded themselves as state associations chairmen. “Many of them have called the Secretary General, Prince Adisa Adeniyi Beyioku, to disassociate themselves from the illegal congress and the federation is taking steps to sanction the very few who attended despite notice of postponement sent by the Secretary General.
“Let Mr. Gusau publish the names of the chairmen, who attended the illegal congress. We are taking note of some coaches they used as chairmen with a view to sanctioning them.”George said it was unfortunate that some people were still talking about government interference in the affairs of the AFN, insisting, “The supervising ministry of sports has never interfered in the day-to-day running of AFN despite the fact that the federation is fully funded by it.
“Those crying interference were appointed as state associations’ chairmen by government at state levels. Ask Mr. Gusau if he contested any election to emerge as chairman of Zamfara State Athletics Association, which gave him the opportunity to get into the board of AFN. “Even Mr. Solomon Ogba, who also talked about interference, was a product of the same government. Who put him on the board as a government nominee?
“By the way, the AFN constitution recognises the roles of the sports ministry and the code of governance booklet handed over to us upon our inauguration in July 2017. The AFN constitution gives the sports ministry the power to appoint the Secretary General. It also gives the ministry the power to dissolve the board after the expiration of its term. The interesting thing is that Mr. Gusau, without inputs from majority of the board members, midwifed this constitution in 2017.” On the way forward, George said AFN would set up a committee to investigate Gusau, adding that if he was not found guilty, he would return as president and if otherwise, the board would decide his fate. “We are busy with preparations for the Olympics and we won’t be distracted by the actions of a disgruntled few,” he concluded.
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