By Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick, has lamented that the leadership of the federation was harassed like bunch of criminals following accusation that it failed to account for the N1. 6 billion 2018 World Cup budget.
Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, a week ago, threatened that government would not release more funds to the Pinnick-led NFF until it duly accounts for the money granted it for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
But in what appeared to be a riposte to the minister’s threat, Pinnick, who spoke yesterday on Channel TV, said himself, the NFF Vice President Shehu Dikko, General Secretary Dr Sanusi Mohammed and Director of Finance and Administration (DFA) Dr Mohammed Salihu, were portrayed as bunch of criminals over the money.
A document released by NFF during the Yuletide puts the summary of the World Cup expenses at about N1. 5 billion. But some of the retired items were not related to the FIFA World Cup campaign.
NFF said it ‘borrowed’ about $448,000 from the money for the U-20 women team, to prosecute Super Eagles versus Seychelles Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Victoria in September last year and for the U-17 male team continental campaign in Niger Republic. It said the money would be returned.
Pinnick described the allegation of misapplication of the World Cup money as unfortunate, saying that the Sports Minister was listening to too many people.
´”I don’t know where this is coming from, but I pray to God to open our eyes for us to know who are our friends and enemies. I pray every day to God not to destroy our enemies but to let change them,” Pinnick said.
The NFF president, who is also the CAF Vice President, admitted that many of the Russia 2018 World Cup activities were funded outside the government’s approved budget.
He disclosed that the federation used money it sourced from its sponsors to organise all World Cup warm up matches for the Super Eagles.
These high profile friendly matches were against Argentina, Serbia, Poland and Congo Democratic Republic.
He also claimed that they sourced about $800,000 from Coca Cola and some other corporate sponsors. Pinnick said they used the realised money to reimburse the former Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh, the players and other coaches that participated in the World Cup qualifying campaign.
“But looking beyond that, the situation was not about the World Cup. For the first time, our World Cup preparation was faultless. Nobody talked about the money $2.8 million that was given to the Super Eagles as bonuses. Nobody talked scandal, nobody talked about retirement. And the friendly matches before the World Cup. Where did the fund come from? Admit we got $1.5m from FIFA to ensure that we did not just participate but have a decent and flawless preparation,” Pinnick said.
He also revealed that the national team travelled aboard the same charter flight that took Liverpool to the final of the UEFA Champions League. The flight lifted the national team from Lagos-London-Austria- Russia.
The NFF president said the federation would not join words with Dalung but were particular about their integrity and the bond with their sponsors.
“There is nothing anyone can do, to our sponsors that will discourage them from sponsoring us. They conducted their own security and integrity test on the principals and management of NFF before doing business with us. If detractors think they are trying to discourage our sponsors by this innuendoes, falsehood -it is unfortunate because there is nothing you will tell FIFA about Pinnick or Dikko on our integrity,” Pinnick restated.