No condition, as the saying goes, is permanent in the lives of men. And so it is for millions of my countrymen and women who went to the polls a couple of months ago to effect a change of government. For millions of Nigerians the desired change has come with President Muhammadu Buhari now at the helm of affairs.
Nigeria’s new leader received the overwhelming mandate of his country men and women essentially because of his integrity and zero tolerance for corruption, and the belief that he can re-engineer an almost failed state. His government is on track and Nigerians are particularly elated with his reassuring messages and actions to tackle the hydra-headed monster called corruption, and other ills that have weighed down Africa’s most populous nation since his assumption of office in May. Of note is the fact that he has re-echoed the need to address the high level of corruption in our society, and this he took to the international arena during his recent visit to the United States and his earlier parley with the world’s most industrialized nations, under the aegis of G-8, in Germany. We certainly have no doubt that Nigerians, more than ever before, have the confidence that this government will slowly and steadily wipe away the tears and anguish of the needy citizens of this great country.
It is in line with this expectation that this writer would want, as a matter of expediency, bring to the attention of Mr President that one of the burning issues, which he has to address, bothers on corruption at the Glass House which took place under the last dispensation. Suffice to recall that in July 2010, about two months to the end of the tenure of Sani Lulu-led board, a kangaroo impeachment, believed to be initiated by the Ibrahim Bio-led National Sports Commission, NSC was carried out leaving more questions than answers for the administration of the game at the Glass House.
The NFF Congress unfortunately was cowed to endorse this illegal action. Not long after, precisely December 2010, this impeachment was vacated by the same NFF Congress, but was not implemented by the Board. Issa Hayatou, the CAF leader was made to intervene in the brewing crisis. Hayatou, we learnt, pleaded and requested Sani Lulu to withdraw his case with the Court of Arbitration for Sports, CAS. Lulu, like an obedient servant who loves his country and the beautiful game complied. All that happened is now history, but of relevance is that the NFF and the government then did not handle this case with deserved equity and fairness. Since their forceful removal from office, Nigerians have followed with keen interest publications and paid adverts by Sani Lulu in national dailies [26/8/12, 04/2014 and 4/2015] where he brought to public domain his ordeal and pathetic case in the hands of the powers-that-be. The need for the government to, therefore, take another look at his case becomes imperative.
It is on record for those who care that on assumption of leadership at the Glass House, his board inherited a debt of N300 million .The Sani-Lulu led Board left a landmark amount- [N2.8billion Naira] at the time he and his lieutenants were removed. The amount in question included $8m[or N 1,248,000,000] of the exchange rate at that time: which was an amount due from Nigeria’s participation in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa; $5.5m[N858,000,000] representing the marketing funds for the FIFA under-17 finals remitted to the NFF by FIFA which was lodged in NFF/LOC account in First Bank; while funds in the FIFA account was put at $1.65m[N257,400,000], and the NFF money available in UBA and Afribank was N430,000,000, among others.
This was a man that left indelible marks in the footprints of Nigerian soccer. At the time, he was in charge of the game, he had to his credit, the honour of steering the country’s soccer to number nine position on the FIFA monthly rankings for the earlier part of 2007; an attainment that remains the best since the number five spot Nigeria achieved in 1994. Among his numerous achievements, Mr President, the Kogi-born administrator ensured Nigeria participated in all the nine grades of FIFA- organised competitions within four years. This feat is only equalled by Brazil, in the entire world. Those close to him speak of how he also bailed the country’s soccer from financial embarrassment on several occasions including the country’s spectacular success at the Korea FIFA under-17 World Cup in 2007.
Nigeria, which eventually won the Cup, were about to exit the competition ignominiously as a result of cash squeeze, but the man had to intervene with his personal funds to save the situation. I don’t intend to bore you as his intervention saved the country the embarrassment of national disgrace as witnessed when Nigeria won the Cup of Nations in South Africa in 2013, as well as the odium in Brazil 2014 World Cup Finals when the players of the national team refused to play on account of unpaid bonuses and allowances.
As a man of his words with deep love for the country and its soccer, Lulu honoured Isa Hayatou, the President of the Confederation of African Football [CAF] by withdrawing his case with Court of Arbitration for Sports, CAS, in February 2011, while the NFF’s Congress decision of December 28, 2010 to vacate his impeachment and withdraw his court case, were not implemented or executed by the NFF Board. Instead, EFCC was used to detain, arraign and charge him and Amanze Uchegbulam, Taiwo Ogunjobi and Bolaji Ojioba to court.
We, therefore, wish to bring to the attention of Mr President, that this case requires an urgent re-investigation by EFCC to unveil the truth. This, sir, should be treated with utmost speed, to underscore the high level of professionalism under the leadership that has zero tolerance for corruption.
The need for an urgent probe becomes more expedient with the revelation by Amaju Pinnik, the current president of the NFF that he not only met an empty treasury but debts which have hampered the smooth running of the administration of the beautiful game. President Buhari, has been so unrelenting in addressing cases of injustice and corruption which he inherited from the last government. He is a man set to correct the ills of the society. In line with his commitment to ensuring justice, fairness and equity in the country, he should endeavour to bring the sad tales surrounding the missing N2.8billion at the NFF to an end, by instituting a board of inquiry as a matter of urgency. Good enough the wind of change blowing through the nation has seen the EFCC and even the military reviewing cases where injustice were seemed to have been done, especially in the last era. It is therefore not too late to revisit the Sani Lulu saga. The President should also ensure that the EFCC should be made to update the situation, taking into cognizance the popular yearning for justice.
Of course the Presidential Task Force [PTF] led by Chief Rotimi Amaechi, the immediate past governor of Rivers State should be made to publicly account for the more than N1Billion it realized ,particularly as it relates to the approved additional $5,000 winning bonuses for the Super Eagles’ players.
Finally, Sani Lulu Abdullahi, Amanze Uchegbulam and Taiwo Ogunjobi , if confirmed innocent by the court of law should be compensated and recognized as ambassadors for anti-corruption crusade.
Atom Terkula Orwuese is a Makurdi-based sports analyst and commentator