AFN’s jaw-dropping excuse for ‘missing $150,000’ IAAF money – is a sad joke!


Nigeria is, as it were, a comedian who tells the same joke, but with a different enough punchline that you cannot help but shake your head in amusement.

The latest drama involves, unsurprisingly, misappropriated funds. The world athletics governing body IAAF, have apparently had the princely sum of $135,000 taken from them.

Naturally, they want it back. Even more naturally, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) are unable to produce it. Classic.

Some backstory: IAAF’s 215 member federations, including AFN, receive an annual funding of $15,000. The money comes from the $22 million dividend IAAF received from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This is normal. 

Now, in 2017, someone must have punched in an extra zero, because the AFN received 10 times the usual amount. Upon discovering the error, the IAAF requested a refund. Again, standard procedure. What has followed that request is a comedy to rival the legendary ‘Papa Ajasco’.

First up to embarrass himself was the vice-president of the AFN, Olamide George, who pleaded ignorance of the payment, not only on his own behalf, but on behalf of the entire board. Instead, he blamed, in turn, the “past administration” and then “the AFN Secretary.”

“The secretary was transferred from AFN before, but the sports minister (Solomon Dalung) brought him back. They should tell Nigerians what happened to the IAAF money.” George told The Guardian.

If this seems familiar, it is a tactic as old as the Garden of Eden, with Mr George in the role of the abdicating Adam. In any case, his version of events was corroborated by AFN Technical Director, Sunday Adeleye, who said, “I can tell you categorically that since we came on board, not single money has been paid into the AFN account.”

Alright then. So what is clear is that neither man is saying there was no money paid; simply that it did not hit the AFN account. That should be easy enough to verify. The question then is: whose did it go to?

The Secretary General, Amechi Akawo, has been unreachable for the purposes of offering his own side of events.

With the news out in the public sphere, and impending disgrace the fate of not just the AFN or the Ministry of Sports, but of Nigeria, the Sports Minister responded in the most predictably Nigerian way imaginable: by setting up a committee.

“The only thing I know for now is that the sports minister has set up a committee to look into the issue. I am not a member of the committee, so I won’t know when and how the committee is carrying out its work. But I am sure members of the committee must have met with the AFN Secretary General, Amaechi Akawo,” an AFN board member said.

The setting up of committees is something of a running joke within the bureaucracy of the Civil Service. Invariably, if that committee ever arrives at any findings, another will be set up to look into the report the first provided.

It’s a bit like a Russian matryoshka doll, and is the same principle by which the country’s football authority (NFF) now appears to be sweeping the matter of fielding an ineligible player (Abdullahi Shehu) in a FIFA World Cup qualifier under the carpet.

Of course, in that case, there has already been a punishment applied to Nigeria (a fine and three points deduction), which is the extent of FIFA’s involvement. Quite how the AFN and Sports Ministry hope to get away with that approach here, with the IAAF waiting and what is likely to be a hefty sanction hanging over their heads, is hard to understand.

Indeed, how anyone at all conceived of this is laughable. Corruption and misappropriation of funds is now so ingrained in the national psyche that it is hardly remarkable anymore, but as the saying goes, even madness ought to have limits. The same damaging reality does not exist in global affairs, at least not as blatantly, and accountability is a big thing.

The assumption must surely have been that the error would never be discovered. This, of course, goes against one of the oldest tenets of sports, which is to know what you’re up against. Nigerians may have short memories; it is by no means a worldwide malaise.

It just seems that our propensity for embarrassing ourselves in public knows no bounds. Scandal seems just around the corner, and is predictable enough, but somehow Nigeria finds the new twist that keeps it funny every single time.

The XXI Commonwealth Games starts on 4 April in Australia and other competing nations are focusing on important logistics and the well-being of principle actors – athletes – to ensure success Down Under.

And Nigeria’s build-up to that event? The joke writes itself… and it is on us.

In this article:

No Comments yet