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Chaotic Olympics outing, Bash Ali vs Sunday Dare — 9 major sports controversies of 2021

Chaotic Olympics outing, Bash Ali vs Sunday Dare — 9 major sports controversies of 2021
December 20
11:59 2021

Nigerian sports have it all: awe-striking talents, intriguing performances and nauseating controversies. The year 2021 had it all — and more. 

Nigeria sports can be likened to a pendulum that swings between two extremes too often that it’s almost shocking there are achievements at all from the athletes.

While athletes are stretching their muscles to abnormal lengths to bring the country glory on the world stage, administrators engage in leadership tussles for ego and power, consequently derailing the achievement of these young patriots.

This year has not been any different, and here are nine major controversies of 2021.


Edo’s threat to shut down the National Sports Festival

Barely two days into the 20th National Sports Festival (NSF) in Edo, the state government dropped a shocking memo.

The local organising committee (LOC) threatened a shutdown of the festival due to the federal government’s refusal to provide the state with funds.

Phillip Shuaibu, Edo deputy governor, ordered the closure of offices belonging to the LOC and main organising committee (MOC) to signal that the threat was not empty.


The threat was not lifted until the federal government intervened. TheCable reported that before the event was allowed to continue, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to make available the sum of N500 million to the Edo state government.

The sporting showpiece held till the end, and Delta emerged the winner for the sixth consecutive time.

D’Tigers jersey seizure by Nigerian customs

The drama began with the Olympics a few weeks away. TheCable reported that D’Tigers kits for the Games were being held by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

The seized merchandise was shipped into the country by Peak, the teams’ kits sponsor with whom the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) has a four-year contract, but NCS withheld it at the Apapa seaport in Lagos.


A board member of the NBBF revealed to TheCable that the failure to get the kits out of the port was due to “a lack of documentation and miscommunication between the ministry of finance and the ministry of sports.”

He added that the sports ministry had failed to communicate the federation’s need for a “waiver” to its sister ministry, hence the logistical logjam.

The kits were not released until July 16 — a few days till D’Tigers were billed to play their first game in Tokyo.

AFN leadership tussle

On June 14, the protracted leadership tussle within the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) reached a tipping point as two presidents were elected to oversee the federation’s activities.


Tony Okowa was elected AFN president at the 2021 elective congress held at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.

In a parallel election held in Kebbi state, Ibrahim Shehu-Gusau was also elected as the federation’s president.


The tussle and its ripple effects contributed to the abysmal outing that the country suffered at the Tokyo Olympics.

World Athletics has since confirmed that it only recognises the Okowa-led board and has established communication with the administration.


Disqualification of Nigerian athletes at the Olympics

On July 28, barely a few days into the Olympics, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) disqualified 10 Nigerian track and field athletes for failing to comply with the out-of-competition testing (OCT) requirement.

AIU said Nigeria is among countries deemed to have the highest doping risk, and the athletes were expected to undergo “at least three no-notice out-of-competition tests (urine and blood) conducted no less than three weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event”.


The 10 disqualified athletes fell short of the required number of tests and were thereby disqualified.

The affected athletes — Knowledge Omovoh, Ruth Usoro, Favor Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma, Glory Patrick, Yinka Ajayi, Tima Godbless, Chidi Okezie, Chioma Onyekwere and Annette Echikunwoke — later took to the streets of Tokyo to protest the disqualification caused by the incompetence of Nigerian authorities.

Samsung saga

There was further drama at the Tokyo Olympics when officials of the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC) refused to give the disqualified athletes the Samsung phones due to them. The Samsung S20+ 5G was a souvenir for all athletes that took part in the Olympics.

Officials of the NOC were said to have collected the phones for Team Nigeria but refused to distribute them to some of the athletes.

The phones were later given to the affected athletes after the alarm was raised and an outcry ensued.

Explaining the situation, Femi Adetula, NOC spokesman, said the body was only following the terms and conditions for the phones as stipulated by International Olympics Committee (IOC).

He said the athletes were later given the phones because IOC permitted them waivers.

“The International Olympic Committee has finally granted the request of Team Nigeria for her 10 athletes who were declared ineligible to partake in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to receive Samsung Galaxy S21 5G given to all athletes who qualified and are resident at the Olympic Village,” he said.


On the eve of the final shot put event at the Tokyo Olympics, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi posted a video on Instagram.

In the short footage that would later go viral, he was seen washing his jersey ahead of the shot put final that was just a few hours away. “When you qualify for Olympic Finals, but you have only one jersey,” he captioned the post.

The development exposed the detrimental effect of the prolonged power tussle between a factional board of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and the sports ministry.

In 2019, the AFN board under Ibrahim Gusau signed a four-year kits sponsorship contract with Puma.

A section of the deal stated that Puma would supply Nigeria’s athletics team kits for four years.

The contract also included monetary rewards for Nigerian athletes who wear the sportswear during medal presentations at the Olympic games — with gold medalists earning $15,000, silver medalists getting 5,000, while a bronze medal will attract $3,000.

However, the contract resulted in a legal battle between the sports ministry and the factional board of AFN.

In addition, Gusau, alongside Sunday Adeleye, technical director of the body, was dragged to court by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) for the alleged diversion of over $75,000.

Consequently, the ministry failed to allow Nigerian athletes to wear the Puma-branded apparel at Tokyo Olympics, arguing that it’s “a subject of a criminal investigation”.

The developments culminated in Puma prematurely terminating the deal with the federation for alleged breach of contract.

Bash Ali versus Sunday Dare

In October, Bash Ali, former world cruiserweight champion, released a video wherein he accused Sunday Dare, minister of youths and sports development, of extorting “millions of naira” from him as part of the process to organise a world boxing title fight for him.

The 63-year-old boxer said he had proposed a Guinness World Record boxing fight to President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to him, the president inaugurated a committee on October 15, 2019, adding that the minister was saddled with the responsibility of hosting the fight.

The accusations didn’t stop until a high court in Abuja slammed an order restraining Bash Ali from making defamatory publications against the minister.

D’Tigress protest unpaid allowances

Just days after D’Tigress won their third consecutive Afrobasket championship, some members of the team released a video expressing their discontent over unpaid allowances and bonuses.

In the viral video, they threatened to boycott call-ups to represent Nigeria for the 2022 World Cup qualification series if their demands were not met.

There were also claims that the players’ money had been diverted to the personal accounts of some top members of the ministry of sports. The ministry immediately denied the allegation and said the money was intact in NBBF’s account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The ministry said the delay in disbursing the funds was because some members of the team were yet to provide their account numbers “so that the processing of payments can be one-off as requested by the CBN”.

The D’Tigress have since been paid their outstanding allowances and are expected to represent Nigeria at the 2022 World Cup qualification.

Super Eagles unpaid allowances

In the buildup to the double-headed friendly encounter against Cameroon in June, several players from Gernot Rohr’s 24-man list asked to be excused from the game, citing injuries.

The spate of withdrawals resulted in allegations that some players deliberately declined the call ups due to a backlog of unpaid allowances from previous games — and not because they are injured.

Amaju Pinnick, president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), subsequently confirmed that the Super Eagles were being owed allowances.

He added that COVID-19 was the biggest reason the federation was short of funding as its sponsors were still reeling from the economic impact of the pandemic.

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