The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) says it bought business class tickets for its officials who attended the Confederation of African Football (CAF) congress which was held in Egypt in 2015.
TheCable had reported how NFF spent millions on the all-expense trip paid for by CAF.
CAF in its response to an enquiry from the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the recovery of Public Property (SPIP) had explained that “participation of all the national associations in the congress is free and requires no contribution from the latter to the holding of these general assemblies and the expenses are borne by the CAF for all the representatives of the participating federations at these congresses.”
But in a right of reply made available to TheCable on Friday, NFF said CAF sent economy class tickets for Amaju Pinnick, NFF president with his general secretary, and when the tickets could not be upgraded, NFF had to buy fresh business class tickets.
“The Federation duly purchased fresh business class tickets for the NFF President and General Secretary, as well as the Chairman of its Medical Committee. The officials were also paid estacode allowances, as CAF did not offset that, as well as local transportation and movement of the officials,” NFF said.
Okoi Obono-Obla, before he was suspended as chairman of the SPIP, however, had told TheCable that NFF’s action “is fraudulent”, wondering why such amount was spent on an all-expense paid congress.
“It is well known fact that CAF caters for its member associations to attend its congress. CAF pays for business class tickets for the association’s representatives, accommodates and feeds them in a 5-star hotel, gives them a car for local runs as well as pay them estacode,” he had told TheCable in an interview.
Sources also told TheCable that CAF issued business class tickets for all association presidents and the standing committee members, and local transportation were also provided for.
Below is the right of reply from the NFF:
The attention of the Nigeria Football Federation has been drawn to a story published by TheCable on Thursday, 15th August 2019 and written by one Femi Owolabi, with the caption ‘Exposed: How NFF spent millions on an all-expense trip paid for by CAF’.
We wish to state unequivocally that the assertions, assumptions and presuppositions in the story are far from the truth and totally misleading.
First and foremost, the reporter incorrectly assumed the present while reporting about the past. The CAF Congress which he referred to, took place in April 2015, about four-and-half years ago, when policies and principles in place at CAF were a stark difference from what presently obtain.
As at April 2015, the Confederation of African Football paid the way of only TWO Delegates per National Association to its Congress, whether ordinary or extraordinary. A National Association had the responsibility to pay the way of any other Delegates that it desired to attend the Congress. For the Congress in focus, CAF sent economy class tickets for the NFF President and the General Secretary. These economy class tickets could not be upgraded, and this fact can be confirmed.
The Federation duly purchased fresh business class tickets for the NFF President and General Secretary, as well as the Chairman of its Medical Committee. The officials were also paid estacode allowances, as CAF did not offset that, as well as local transportation and movement of the officials.
This expenditure accounted for the sum of $19,269 referred to by the reporter.
It is true to his character that the now suspended chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel, Okoi Obono-Obla, would frivolously, mischievously and maliciously claim that NFF officials went ‘underground’ when he received CAF’s reply to his dubious letter and wanted to ‘confront’ them with the letter. He, perhaps, was living in a different planet and was not aware that at that period, the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations, at which our Super Eagles was one of 24 participating teams and in which the team eventually finished in third place and with the bronze medals, was ongoing in Egypt, and the said officials were on official duty with the team in Egypt.
He also conveniently forgot to tell your reporter that his letter to CAF actually accused the NFF of spending the sum of $565,471 on the said Congress, and seeking clarification from CAF if NFF paid CAF that amount of money!
It was the NFF’s response to CAF which disputed and duly clarified to CAF this baseless claim by Obono-Obla as false and mischievous and provided detail to show that only $19,269 was spent in attending the CAF Congress in April 2015 and NOT the $565,471 claimed by Obono-Obla.
Furthermore, it is on record and a FACT that the NFF has never submitted any document to SPIP to claim to have spent $565,471 on CAF Congress in 2015, and neither did Obono-Obla ever request for NFF to clarify any matter of such before going ahead to clandestinely write a letter to CAF dated 10th June, 2019 seeking for CAF clarification. This is, in spite of the FACT that the same man claimed in a radio interview on 6th January, 2019 that he had concluded investigation of NFF and he had established a prima facie case against the NFF, and would be charging the matter to court by 8th January, 2019. This never happened (which prompted the NFF to petition the AGF Office for this unethical act, and to sue him and SPIP to the Federal High Court).
It emerged from court records in May 2019 when SPIP went to court, the SPIP internal investigation report was only concluded on 30th April, 2019 (which also did not carry any specific indictment on NFF but, on the contrary, found all the allegations they investigated based on the petition as baseless and having no collaboration/justification with the purported charges filed by SPIP on 7th May, 2019). It is outrageous that Obono-Obla and his SPIP went ahead to file court charges against the NFF on 7th May, 2019 but by 10th June, 2019 he was writing directly to CAF asking for clarification and looking for evidence against the NFF. Nothing better underlined the malicious nature of the so-called investigation against the NFF and fact that all the allegations and charges he claimed to file in court were fabricated, as clarified in the NFF public statement of 7th May, 2019.
Surprisingly, Obono-Obla has suddenly turned around, before his suspension, to be talking about $19,269, and no longer $565,471 paid to CAF by NFF in 2015. Perhaps, he had realized that the world had seen through his mischief and that the sum of $565,471 was meant for 5 different services, as clearly specified in the retirement paper, and NOT for the CAF Congress only. It would also be of help if the reporter can name the anonymous “executive member of CAF” who informed him that as at April 2015, every Delegate to the CAF Congress made “nothing less than $300 per day” for attending the CAF Congress.
Your reporter also incorrectly presupposed that the NFF President and Members of the Board of the Nigeria Football Federation were ‘NFF staff members’.
While we no doubt hold TheCable in high esteem, the publication in question falls far short of your usual standards and is considered by the NFF as being in bad taste.