Following remarks by a former board member of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Otunba Sunday Dele-Ajayi that the current board’s chieftains lack integrity, the NFF has risen to counter the allegations.

In a press release on Friday, the NFF berated the Chairman of the Ondo State Football Association “for unguarded, misleading and deliberate falsehood, and out rightly libellous statements made in an interview published by a website on Thursday.”

Otunba Ajayi, had on Sunday Night Sports on Orange 94.5 FM Akure remarked that the current board of the NFF lacks transparency in its operation and that he would be presenting himself “as a crown witness in the EFCC investigation of the Amaju Pinnick administration of the football governing body.”

He was a member of the NFF board from September 30, 2014 till June 2015 when at first he shifted allegiance to the then Chris Giwa camp as a vice president and later lost at the September 20, 2018 election in the bid to become the first vice president of the current board.

The comments he made on Sunday were carried by a website four days later, on Thursday.

The NFF dismissed the allegations by the former member and remarked that Otunba Ajayi was fond of making allegations he could not substantiate.

Among other issues, the former NFF member said money from FIFA and CAF were not declared and that three states’ governments of Lagos, Rivers and Delta paid N100 million each to the NFF for the purpose of Russia 2018 World Cup, but such monies including another N200 million by the Senate President, were not declared to the board members.

The NFF has dismissed such claims and challenged Otunba Ajayi to provide his evidences. His allegations on the radio programme also indicted NFF auditors, PriceWaterCoop which he accused of ‘cooking books’ for the NFF.

The remarks: “We take very strong exceptions to the puerile allegation that one of the most reputable auditing firms in the world, PwC ‘cook books’ for the NFF. This issue would however, be properly addressed from other quarters, including but not limited to legal angles.”

The full text of the NFF reaction reads:

The attention of the NFF has been drawn to some statements made by Otunba Dele-Ajayi, a former Member of the NFF Executive Committee and Chairman of the Ondo State FA, in an interview originally granted a radio station in Ondo State but published by a website on Thursday, 24th January 2019.

In as much as the NFF is not interested in joining issues with such a man of shifty personality, granted his activities since the summer of last year, it is important we address some of his comments as they are already in the public space and can be accessed by persons in football and other sectors.

He grandly claimed there was mismanagement at the NFF without being able to substantiate any with documents. This is the same pattern that we have seen over the months with the mob action and media trial all over the place, especially from persons and groups who lost out in the NFF elections. We insist there is no mismanagement under the administration of Amaju Pinnick but absolute transparency in the way and manner it puts out all its activities in the open for the good of the game.

Dele-Ajayi claimed there were no approvals for three years while he was a Member of the NFF Executive Committee under the Pinnick presidency. Yet, he remained on the Board! For purpose of clarity, every financial expenditure was based on the NFF Budget as approved by the Congress and was brought to the Board for approval and it is on record that during the first term of Pinnick, there were 20 meetings of the Executive Committee. We doubt if any other Board in living memory had as many meetings. The NFF has kept accurate records of all finances as audited by PwC and approved by the Congress. Indeed, the NFF has for the first time, published its annual Audited Accounts in major national dailies to deepen its transparency mantra.

We take very strong exceptions to the puerile allegation that one of the most reputable auditing firms in the world, PwC ‘cook books’ for the NFF. This issue would however, be properly addressed from other quarters, including but not limited to legal angles.

With regards to money released to the NFF (not the person of Amaju Pinnick) by the Ministry of Youth and Sports from the funds approved and released by the Federal Government for the FIFA World Cup, we have done our retirement as required and these funds will be duly audited and reported in the NFF 2018 Accounts to be published soon. Perhaps, Otunba Dele-Ajayi expects the NFF to make the retirement of the funds to him?

The biggest shock was his claim that FIFA released the sum of three million dollars to the NFF and it did not get to the NFF account! That is a new one on us. We never knew that world football –ruling body, FIFA can pay even once cent (not to talk of three million dollars) meant for a Member Association to an individual’s private account. For a man who has spent so many years in Association Football, spent eight years as the Chairman of a State FA and four years as a Member of the NFF Board to make such a claim is beyond comprehension. What tenets of Association Football did he imbibe in all those years? Perhaps he was obsessed with other things?

There was another claim that CAF gave the NFF the sum of $1million before the World Cup. This is a man who claim to have documents? The whole world is aware that FIFA, on request by CAF, gave each of the five African representative MAs to the World Cup the sum of $2million to settle the entitlements of players in order to avoid rumpus/players’ protests at the finals, as had been the case at previous championships. This money was the bulk of the $2.8million the NFF utilized in settling our players and officials. CAF gave each of its five representative Member Associations the sum of $500,000, specifically for technical equipment and personnel to enhance performance at the World Cup. Any other funds NFF received from CAF are funds statutorily meant for the NFF.

Indeed, it is on record that all funds received from CAF and FIFA goes straight to NFF Accounts at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and neither Mr. Pinnick nor any Member of the Executive Committee for that matter is a signatory to those Accounts (or any NFF Accounts for that matter), but the NFF Finance Directorate headed by the NFF Finance Director who is an appointee of the FGN from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. Likewise, all releases by the FGN to the NFF goes to the NFF Account at the CBN. So, it is shocking and misleading in the first place for Otunba to allege that Mr. Pinnick collected monies from FGN and FIFA as if the monies were paid to Mr. Pinnick’s personal bank accounts. Perhaps, this is how Otunba runs his Ondo State FA?

In fact, in its transparency drive, the NFF has ensured over the years that every money received from FIFA, CAF or sponsors are detailed in a memo and sent to the Government through the Minister of Sports to inform Government of the money and what it would be utilized for. The records are there in this regard.

Otunba Dele-Ajayi made further wild allegations of some States giving the NFF N100million each for the World Cup! We express appreciation to the Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Sports Council, Dr. Kweku Tandoh, who swiftly denied such claim. He also claimed in his ranting that the Senate President gave the NFF N200million for the competition, when it was well –reported that the Senate President promised the players the sum of $50,000 for every goal, which was promptly redeemed right there in Russia for the two goals the team scored against Iceland. The money was handed over to the team captain, Mikel Obi, in the full glare of the entire team before it departed its hotel in Saint Petersburg for the match against Argentina.

We want to make it clear that no State donated any N100million to the NFF for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Rather, the NFF received donations from few States, including Rivers State, which made payment in two tranches of N50million and N10million to the NFF Remita Account. Abia State, which Otunba did not even mention, donated N15million. The funds were paid to the NFF either through its funds manager or direct to the NFF’s CBN Account. The NFF submitted a detailed document to the Minister of Sports on all donations received and the Accounts through which they were received. A couple of companies, Sahara Energy and Prime Atlantic (whose CEOs are personal friends of Mr. Pinnick) donated $50,000 each and paid to the NFF through the same Accounts.

We also received the sum of N100million from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the sum of N50million from the Central Bank of Nigeria. Indeed, the NFF Budget for the 2018 FIFA World Cup (for both preparation and tournament proper) approved by the Government included the sum of $1.5million and N300million to be the contribution of the NFF, before support from the Government. Thus, NFF utilized some of these donations as part of its contribution to the Budget.

Otunba Dele-Ajayi also made a wild allegation against Rivers State which hosted and co-sponsored the international friendy match between the Super Eagles and the Senior Team of DR Congo in Port Harcourt before the World Cup. Rivers State made cash available which was for the cost of charter flight that brought the Congolese delegation to and from Nigeria, as well as participation fees and allowances for both teams.

We know integrity, consistency and principled stand on any issue are alien words to Otunba Dele-Ajayi. He claimed to have kept away from the Board six months after it was sworn in, when in fact, he was part and parcel of all decisions and travelled to the FIFA World Cup in Russia with the Board, stayed in the same hotel with other Board Members, dined with them and received his entitlements like every other Board Member.

After the World Cup, he gravitated to the opposition camp to work to bring down the NFF Board. When that venture caved in, he retraced his steps back to the Board to fill form to contest election as First Vice President, where he secured only two (2) of 44 votes. Thereafter, he disappeared for so many months, only to come out with these misleading and false statements.

We are not entirely surprised as Otunba Dele-Ajayi is one of those who have been going from one agency to the other recycling baseless petitions against the NFF. From EFCC to ICPC to SPIP, et cetera, they have been brandishing outlandish figures as funds mismanaged or stolen from the NFF. We wish to put on record that annual subvention from the FGN to the NFF has been on the average of N1.2billion (with perhaps 80% cash backing) in the last four years while sponsors’ income averaged between N900million and N1.9billion, with Development Funds of about N500million. These give the NFF a total of about N3.6billion average guaranteed revenue annually. It it thus shocking to see persons like Otunba Dele-Ajayi and his cohorts bandying figures of N3.4billion, N5.5billion, N6.7billion, N10.5billion, N16billion and $16million as funds misappropriated from the NFF. We wonder where these monies are coming from and from which sources. However, we understand these desperate and shameless persons do this to arouse the interest of the public and the security agencies to their claims.

Indeed, the NFF’s recently published Audited Account showed total gross revenue of N4.6billion, from all sources including special intervention funds.

Certainly, we will take this issue beyond merely responding to his statements. We have had enough of libellous and senseless comments and allegations by persons who are supposed to be stakeholders and elders but are rather consumed by envy, bitterness and animosity. We have briefed our lawyers and we will also use football processes to seek redress.

We use this opportunity to alert the general public to disregard these statements of Otunba Dele-Ajayi and his cohorts who, having lost out in the political processes of the NFF, have now resorted to mob action methods of spreading falsehood against the NFF and its leaders, with the objective of destroying the NFF brand since they feel they are no longer part of it.

We equally enjoin members of the media to weigh very critically information or statements they receive from the likes of Otunba Dele-Ajayi and his ilk at this period, in order to avoid unnecessary litigation that may impact negatively on their personal and corporate reputation.   

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