Nigerian sports minister Solomon Dalung is under pressure to refund a sum of $135,000 which the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) “mistakenly” paid in excess as a grant to the country in 2017 and has since been unsuccessful in retrieving.
In May 2017, instead of paying $15,000 as contribution to the African Championships, the global athletics body paid $150,000 to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and noticed the anomaly two months later.
Since then, the money has not been accounted for and Nigeria has failed to raise the amount after a promise by the minister who had initiated an investigation into the whereabouts of the $135,000, the IAAF responded in a mail posted online by journalists.
“Failure to receive the funds back within that period, we will have no alternative than to apply appropriate sanctions against your Federation,” the IAAF said in a letter sent to AFN President Ibrahim Gusau threatening to sanction Nigeria by the end of May if the money is not refunded.
An action the sports minister has condemned in a conversation with journalists on Saturday in Edo State where he distanced Nigeria from any wrongdoing stating that the country is being unfairly treated.
“I think Nigeria has been unfairly treated because the issue has been painted and promoted as if there was any wrongdoing on the part of Nigeria. Certainly not… Grants were released to Nigeria on the 17th of May 2017. IAAF on the 19th confirmed the transaction; those from IAAF after two months turned around and cried foul that it was a mistake,” said Dalung who was quoted by local media.
“I smell a rat in the whole thing and I believe that the whole thing has been orchestrated in an attempt to blackmail Nigeria… Why did it take IAAF two months to realise a mistake? An international organization, highly reputable?
“I think it is not about money erroneously credited to Nigeria, but there is a calculated attempt just to diminish and destroy Nigerian athletics, otherwise, I don’t see why they call it a mistake. We didn’t apply for a grant,” he added.
He called the bluff of the IAAF saying: “Ban us for what? What has Nigeria done? What is the crime? Did we steal money from them? Did we ask them to transfer money to us? They transferred money to us, they confirmed the transaction to us, then after two months, they woke up from slumber.”
“We are not even convinced that there is any mistake, the money was sent for the golden relays and it was done. Are they saying there were no golden relays? I think those promoting this are trying to cry blue murder; I think they are just enemies of this country and we should ask questions,” he added.
Nigerians have expressed shock at the sports minister’s reaction and condemned his action on social media. The IAAF said they understand the sports minister will be leaving office shortly hence their reminder for the refund before he leaves.
Here are reactions from a cross-section of Nigerians on social media.
Atink the money has been spent and the 30 day return policy has expired— Tómi Ọládipọ̀ (@Tomi_Oladipo) May 25, 2019
So that meins next time they should endeavour to hold on to their receipt— tyro (@DoubleEph) May 25, 2019
Their money has been used to pay tithe.— gidimeister (@gidimeister) May 25, 2019
It's actually $150,000 transferred instead of $15,000 as yearly grants given to atheletic body by IAAF. Return $135,000, money enter voicemail. Dalung is the most irresponsible and unguarded minister of sports I know. It's an embarrassment to Nigeria.— TJ Mohammed (@Teejay_Mohammed) May 25, 2019
Is this actually true?? Mehn, we're finished in this country. Accountability ZERO— Bashmantech™ (@Dis_z_Bash) May 25, 2019
This is called 'stealing with integrity'.— OyeAde? (@AdesinaOyedele) May 26, 2019
I know and believe their hypocrisy will still be exposed and they will all be disgraced.
Integrity La Scammer of a party. Evil party.
Party of poverty.
EFCC appears to be interested in a different kind of Yahoo Yahoo. ??♂️— The African Analyst (@AfrikaAnalyst) May 25, 2019
Classic Nigeria mentality— Alágbẹ̀dẹ (@owo_da) May 25, 2019