Probes corruption in sports sector
WITH a dispiriting verdict that the raging agitation for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) is an invitation to anarchy, the Senate left no one in doubt yesterday that it would not yield to the clamour.
The Senate, which is riled by the perennial failures of the handlers of the nation’s sports, has also begun an investigation into the corruption in the sector.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Enyinnaya H. Abaribe, disclosed the position of the upper chamber at a press conference in Abuja yesterday.
Abaribe also debunked claims that the Senate was afraid that an SNC would adversely affect the status of the National Assembly. According to him, the lawmakers believe that the procedures stipulated in the nation’s constitution towards its amendment should be strictly adhered to.
“What the National Assembly feels is that we are all working under the 1999 Constitution and when you work under it, necessarily, you must follow stipulations in that constitution and method of amendment as stated therein.
“What we are saying actually is that if you say you want to have people somewhere to decide on a sovereign national conference, it means they don’t have confidence in the democratic system and anyone who says that seeks anarchy,” he said.
Senate President David Mark, who lamented over the confusion in the Sports Ministry, especially the lingering power tussle between the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) and the Nigerian Football Association (NFA), described the sports’ bodies as “truly the centres of corruption in Nigeria.”
Mark, who maintained that the selection of players should be based on merit as against a federal character system, added that the corruption in the administration of football was not limited to financial misappropriation but also in selection of players.
“The corruption in football is not just financial corruption but also in the selection of players. We need to catch them young. The confusion between the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) and the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) is not helping matters. The truth is that as we speak today, Nigeria is at the bottom of sporting activities worldwide whereas these were the things we were known for in those days.
“There is no way you will go to a sporting event without seeing Nigeria on the medal board. Football is the strongest uniting factor in the world today. If we do well in that sport, we will be much better. I also don’t think we should bring federal character into football. We should go for merit rather than federal character”, Mark said.
As the world prepares for the Olympic Games in London, Mark worried about Nigeria’s readiness.
“We are playing Rwanda today and we are worried, that tells you the state we are. That we are not there in the Nations’ Cup is bad enough but the fact that we are jittery over playing Rwanda is another issue entirely”, he said.
In a motion entitled: “The dwindling state of Nigerian football – the need for a decisive action to reclaim its lost glory,” Adamu I. Gumba (Bauchi South), who was supported by 15 others, regretted that over the years, the nation’s football had continued to slide despite the huge resources that the Federal Government invested in the game.
Gumba decried the disorganised state of local premier leagues, which have been running with no definite football calendar. “Fixtures are constantly altered on the excuse that there are clubs playing continental matches as if other African countries don’t have teams on the same assignment,” he said.
He based his argument on the country’s inability to qualify for the African Championship, noting that “that those two editions have gone without Nigeria qualifying is a pointer to the depth that the game has sunk into.”
The motion attracted a lot of contributions from the members of the Senate. The lawmakers unanimously called for the overhaul of the sports’ bodies as a way of checking inept officials. They also called for intervention in the cases between NFA and NFF.
“We need an NFA that is properly constituted. Even though it was legally constituted, its officials are NFF. Another problem is that those, who are managing sports today, are members of Lulu’s Exco. So, there is no way we can make meaningful progress with the present Excos.
“The first problem to solve is to get qualified people to manage our football. If we want to get football right, we must bring the right people to manage the sector. No nation is half as corrupt as NFA. Any time one tries to bring them to book, they try to blackmail the person. The second thing is to see how to check the high level of corruption.”
Other problems facing sports in the country include lack of sponsorship of the local football league as well as the falsification of age by players.
On the petrol subsidy probe, which the Senate started after the House of Representatives had begun its own on the heels of the petrol subsidy removal crisis, Abaribe said there was no conflict as both Houses were pursuing distinct mandates. According to him, the time spent by the Senate on the probe would be justified by the outcome, which he believed would be in the interest of the public.
“I feel that what we do complements each other. I don’t know the mandate they have but ours is specifically to investigate the management of fuel subsidy from N240 billion to N1.3 trillion and which has gone up to N2 trilliion today”, he said.
Speaking on the London Court case, where the former Governor of Delta State, James O. Ibori, pleaded guilty, he said it had nothing to do with Nigeria’s legal system. He said that it was rather an indictment of the individual judge, who did not find any case against Ibori in his earlier judgment.
“If Ibori decides to plead guilty in London, it is not the problem of Nigeria. We should not denigrate our legal system, our investigative system is also working well. We have to talk about individual legal officers, who did not see anything wrong with Ibori,” he said.