Nigeria Football Federation denies alleged fraud charges

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has dismissed reports that the Federal Government has filed fraud charges against its leadership (in the persons of Amaju Melvin Pinnick, Seyi Akinwunmi, Shehu Dikko, Ahmed Fresh and Mohammed Sanusi).

The Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property led by Okoi Obono-Obla, had on Tuesday filed a suit at the federal High Court in Abuja, over an alleged misappropriation of $8,400 said to have been paid by FIFA to the NFF amongst others.

In a 17-count charge, marked, FHC/ABJ/CR/93/2019, filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday, the money was said to have been paid by FIFA to the NFF as appearance fees in the group stage of the Russia 2018 World Cup.

But in a swift reaction on Wednesday, the NFF in a statement issued by the Chairman, NFF Media and Publicity Committee, Suleman Yahaya Kwade described the action of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel (SPIP) as malicious and desperate efforts to bring down the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation. The NFF drew the attention of the public to a pending court case filled by the football body against the SPIP.

The statement added, “NFF states that the orchestrated media blitz about the existence of such charges is nothing but the desperate and malicious efforts of the Chief Okoi Obono-Obla led Special Presidential Investigative Panel (SPIP) to lend itself as an instrument of cheap blackmail in the fight for the political leadership of NFF. Currently pending before the Federal High Court, Abuja is Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/17/2019 filed by NFF against SPIP and 3 others, including Chief Obono-Obla himself. NFF in the suit is challenging the competence of SPIP under the law to purport to investigate or prosecute NFF or its leadership. When the matter came up for hearing on April 20, 2019, Barrister Celsus Ukpong, the lawyer representing SPIP wrote a letter applying for an adjournment of the matter, as he could not appear in court for official reasons. The suit was accordingly adjourned to May 13, 2019 for definite hearing.

“It is an issue that must befuddle the mind and be of great concern to all Nigerians that the same SPIP should, against the foregoing background then proceed to allegedly file charges in the name of the FGN before the same Federal High Court while the pending suit filed by NFF against it is yet to be determined.

“It should now be clear to all that the SPIP under Chief Obono-Obla is acting in contempt of the laws and Courts of Nigeria. Even more deplorable is the fact that its legal representatives will employ deception in dealing with the Court of law regarding a suit to which it is a party and fully represented in court.

“The determination of SPIP and Chief Okono-Obla to act unlawfully and in undisguised bias against NFF and its leadership is well documented and forms the basis of NFF’s petition to the Hon. Attorney-General and Minister of Justice since January 2019, as well joining the office of the Hon. Attorney-General in all the suits we have filed against SPIP. We are confident that this regrettable matter will be appropriately dealt with in the due course.”

Kwade also noted that the case filled by SPIP is frivolous and totally baseless which is aimed at deceiving the public, stating that the NFF has always shown transparency in its financial dealings.

“We wish to state categorically that the charges filed by SPIP are frivolous and totally baseless.  They are aimed only at scandalising the NFF and its leadership and nothing more, in order to mislead the unwary and uninformed.  This is evident from the great facility with which the news of the charges which were registered at the court’s registry today, May 7, 2019, have been widely disseminated by SPIP and its collaborators.

“For instance, SPIP alleges that the leadership of NFF moved N4Billion (Four Billion Naira) from NFF on 3 November 2018. The maliciousness and falsity of this charge is established by the fact that the alleged sum is about four times the 2018 NFF Appropriation in the FGN budget as approved by the National Assembly, which in total was N1.14 Billion (One Billion, One Hundred and Fourteen Million Naira), out of which only about N700m (Seven Hundred Million Naira) was cash-backed for the entire 2018 financial year. It is also on record that since June 2018 till date NFF has only received N110m (One Hundred and Ten Million Naira only) from FGN (which was received only in February, 2019). This is in spite of the fact that NFF has prosecuted about 30 international matches involving the various national teams, (Super Eagles, Falcons, U23 Men Team, U20 Boys, U17 Eaglets, U20 Girls (Falconets), Supersand Eagles etc), requiring the NFF to raise funds independently to supplement the funds from the FGN.

“Another example of the desperation and wickedness motivating these false allegations is the SPIP allegation that, in 2014 “during the FIFA World Cup at Abuja”, FIFA appearance fees paid by FIFA was converted to personal use. This is despite the fact that there was no FIFA World Cup in Abuja in 2014, a naked fact known to the whole world. The consuming determination to achieve the goal of slandering the NFF and smearing the reputation of its leadership has made these elements blind to simple facts and reckless.

 “We wish to state that none of the persons in the leadership of NFF or Executive Committee are signatories or in control of NFF accounts as those roles are exclusively reserved and performed by directors and personnel appointed by FGN from the offices of the Accountant-General of the Federation and Auditor-General of the Federation.

“Also, NFF under Amaju Pinnick, has since 2014, kept true financial records of NFF Funds as audited by its external auditors PwC (PrieceWaterHouseCoopers) and has taken the extra step of publishing the audited accounts in national newspapers for public consumption and records.

“Furthermore, FIFA has consistently given a clean bill of health to NFF regarding its management of FIFA funds. FIFA has never alleged any fraud or misappropriation of its resources or funds made available to NFF and have continued to engage the NFF in its normal operational transactions.”

The NFF then assures the general public that the legal team is well prepared to engage SPIP in court.

“We wish to assure that our legal team is fully engaged with this matter in order to defeat these baseless and politically motivated attacks on the NFF and its leadership. We are confident that at the end of the day the truth will prevail, this mission of destruction will fail and Nigeria football will triumph over this conspiracy.”