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EFCC set to probe ministry over IAAF’s ‘missing’ $135,000

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PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

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After several months of ‘silence,’ the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is set to launch an investigation into the ‘disappearance’ of $135,000, which the world athletics governing body, IAAF mistakenly paid into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the Sports Ministry two years ago.

The amount was paid by IAAF as part of its $15,000 annual grant to member federations for the year 2017. But instead of the $15,000, the IAAF mistakenly paid $150, 000 into the Sports Ministry’s TSA. The transaction allegedly took place at a time when the boards of the various sports federations were dissolved.

Last week, the IAAF gave Nigeria a two-week deadline to refund the money or face sanctions, which could see the nation’s athletes missing the fast approaching African Games in Morocco, the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha as well as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games.

Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, the spokesman of EFCC, Tony Orilade said the commission would look into the issue. “I will look into it and give you a feedback tomorrow (today).

When The Guardian contacted the sports ministry yesterday, the Special Assistant to the Minister, Nneka Ikem Anibeze said: “He is attending the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, but you can direct your questions to the Permanent Secretary.”

However, several telephone calls by The Guardian to the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Adesola Olusade yesterday were not answered.

On his part, the AFN Secretary General, Ademu Elijah Ameh said: “I am not talking on it. The only person that can talk on it is either the AFN president or the sports minister.”

Speaking on the issue yesterday, former AFN president, Dan Ngerem pleaded with the Presidency to wade into the issue and save the country from further embarrassment.

Ngerem said the case has become the talking point in the international community, adding the country’s image is the worse for it.

He said: “We are talking about the image of the country in the comity of nations. It is annoying, shameless and the way the minister tried to handle it is like a hatchet job.

“He had no business promising to refund 50 per cent of the money; and even the 50 per cent he has not paid.

“When he was confronted, he said he gave it to the federation and that the federation mismanaged the money.

“We will be looked at as a pariah nation and a nation of shameless people. What we should have done was to quickly and promptly return the money. Now they write you again over two years and when confronted he said he budgeted 50 per cent and they mismanaged it.

“Yet he did not arrest those that mismanaged the money.”

Ngerem said the case explained the shabby treatment the Nigerian contingent got at the just concluded world relays in Japan, adding that the mistake should be corrected immediately.

“The president of the IAAF is one of the top men in the NOC and he must have discussed this shame with his colleagues. We are damaging our reputation not only in athletics but also in every other sport.

“Nigeria should pay that money immediately and then come back home to do some house cleaning because this is a government that preaches against corruption.”

To the former Secretary General of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Elias Gora, the way the country has treated this issue has shown the international community that “we are not trust worthy.”

He asked: “How would the international federations support their affiliates if this is the kind of things they hear about the affiliates? How did the federation secretary allow this to happen?

“What is happening today with the appointment of members of federations is a shame. Everybody that has happened to be in a state assembly or national assembly wants to be in federations. These characters are now running the federations.

“The country is steadily collapsing day by day from the federal level to the local council and the world is laughing at us because we are in a global village. We should refund this money immediately.”

The Guardian recalls that a letter to the AFN President, Ibrahim Gusau, on May 13, and signed by the IAAF Senior Manager, Governance, Jee Isram, said the AFN was contacted immediately the anomaly was noticed on March 18, 2018, to refund the sum of $135,000 that was wrongly credited to Nigeria.

Giving details of the correspondences between both federations and even the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, Mr. Isram noted: “You were informed on March 18 2018 by our CEO of a payment made by the IAAF to the bank account of your federation on May 17, 2017. A sum of 150,000 US Dollars was transferred by the IAAF of which 130,000 US Dollars were wrongfully credited.

“We promptly notified you of this over-payment and followed up several written correspondences as well as a meeting with you in November 2017, requesting that you reverse the bank transfer for the overpaid amount to no avail.

“On June 28 2018, you informed us that the Ministry of sports was ready to refund 50 per cent of that amount and despite several telephone conversations, the amount was still not paid.

“While we were in Asaba in August 2018 during the African Senior Championships, we met with the minister of sports and his permanent secretary. We discussed about the return of the funds to the IAAF and until today we have not heard anything.

“We understand that the Minister of Sports will be stepping down soon and it is imperative that you arrange for the return of the full amount within two weeks, at the latest. Failure to receive the funds back within that period, we will have no alternative than to apply appropriate sanctions against your Federation.”


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