By Amaechi Agbo
The war of words between the immediate past minister of youth and sports development, Barrister Solomon Dalung and the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF over the none inclusion of the Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON funds into the 2019 national budget appears not yet to subside
The war of words started when report emanated from the Super Eagles camp over uneasy calm concerning the federation’s inability to pay the players their camp allowances and other entitlements ahead of the 2019 AFCON, due to commence on Thursday.
Reports have indicated that with less than 72 hours to the kick off of the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Egypt, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is still battling to secure the funding it needs to push the Super Eagles’ campaign in the competition.
The Egypt 2019 African Cup of Nations will hold from June 25 to July 21, 2019 with Nigeria among the countries tipped to win the competition.
The Guardian reported that Nigeria’s ambition of winning its fourth title is being hampered by paucity of funds, as the Ministry of Sports did not capture NFF’s expenditure in international competitions in the 2019 budget it submitted to the Federal Government.
“An NFF official, who pleaded anonymity, said the federation has been trying to raise funds from its partners to settle some of its bills, adding, however, there is a “reluctance by some of these firms to come to our aid.”
“Unlike the World Cup in which FIFA provides funding for every team’s preparation and participation in the competition, teams in the African Nations Cup take care of their contingent’s logistics except team’s accommodation, internal transportation and feeding, which is the responsibility of the host country,” the paper said
Reacting to the allegation of the ministry not submitting the AFCON funds along with the 2019 budget, the immediate past minister of youth and sports, Solomon Dalung through his Special Assistant on Media, Nneka Anibeze distanced the minister from the negligence and cautioned the NFF to take full responsibility over its obvious ineptitude
In a release titled “NFF omitted AFCON in their 2019 budget- ministry,” the SA further said that the e past minister of Youth and Sports Barrister Solomon Dalung debunked the statement saying that it is false and intended to portray the Ministry, particularly himself in bad light.
“They were asked to submit their plans for 2019 to the office of Budget and National Planning, directly. They did not include AFCON in what they submitted to the Budget office. When the budget process was already advanced, I think it was already at the National Assembly when they discovered that they did not make provisions for AFCON.
“They approached the Ministry of Youth and Sports and I directed that they should write, so that we can apply for intervention from the office of the President. This happened towards the terminal date of the tenure of this administration.
“I also took it up personally with the President as requested, for his special intervention to save the situation but of course, the process, as we all know is slow. It has to go to the office of the President to the Ministry of Finance for advice before it will now go to Budget Office and back for approval.
“It is a cumbersome process; therefore, it is yet to materialize. Based on the time they initiated the process, it is not the fault of anybody but the fault of the Nigeria Football Federation which completely failed to include AFCON when they were invited by the office of Budget and National Planning to submit their programme and budget for the year.”
Barrister Dalung further stated that the Office of Budget and National Planning demanded that NFF send their programs for 2019 directly to its office because Sports had in the past three years taken the better chunk of Intervention Funds meant for other unforeseen events.
“The Budget Office told them to present all their activities for 2019 so that it can be captured in the budget instead of asking for intervention funds always.
“Every self-accounting Parastatal submits its budget directly to the Budget Office because it defends its budget. NFF has Capital and Recurrent Expenditure. It also receives monthly Overhead from government so, it also submits its programmes and budget to the Budget Office and defends same. The omission is from the NFF and not the Ministry.
“For NFF to state that ‘It will be a big shame if we failed to succeed at the Nations Cup simply because one individual wanted to punish the leadership of the NFF by not submitting our budget to the Federal Government,’ is false and malicious and an attempt to pin their oversight on the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
“The NFF President came back from France on Thursday and was pushing for me to put more pressure on the government. I went looking for the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance to give them any form of assistance. If they are writing stories to curry public sympathy, Nigerians need to get the correct picture of what happened.
“There was no reason for this to have happened in the first place except for NFF’s campaign and claim that they can do without government’s funding and it backfired so they should own up to their mistake,” Dalung stated in the statment.
Responding the NFF in a release captioned “NFF sets record straight over AFCON 2019 budget” denied the minister’s stand and exonerated themselves from the embarrassment.
“The Nigeria Football Federation has dismissed as misleading, statements by former Youth and Sports Minister Solomon Dalung at the weekend that the Federation omitted the budget for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations from its 2019 programmes sent to the Ministry.
“There is no truth to the claim that the NFF omitted the AFCON from its budget,” the federation said through its Media and Publicity Committee head Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande on Sunday.
“The truth is that major competitions are never part of the regular budgets since, in most cases, qualification campaigns are still on course while budgets are being prepared for the following year. Thus, they are always sourced from intervention funds.
“We qualified for the 2019 AFCON in November 2018, after the 1-1 draw with South Africa in Johannesburg. That was too late to include in the budget for 2019, which we had submitted around September/October 2018. So, we knew the grace would be for the AFCON fund to be sourced from special intervention, and not from the proposal that had been submitted earlier as regular programme.
“For instance, the 2018 FIFA World Cup budget was also sourced from intervention fund. We qualified for that competition in October 2017 and we could not have included it in the regular programme for the year 2018.”
“For the regular annual budgets, we put together our budget for every competition and send to the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports, which then puts a covering note and recommends to the Presidency, from where the document heads to the Finance Ministry and then onwards to the Budget Office. Since this NFF administration came into office, as was the case for some time before it, the Federation usually received what is called an ‘envelope’. So, the only way to prosecute major competitions is to depend on the grace of intervention funds.
“Few weeks after we qualified for the AFCON 2019, we sent a budget to the Ministry. We sent this same budget about three times as we were always being told to re-submit.
“Mr. Dalung was Minister of Sports for three-and-half years and not once did the NFF bypass the Ministry to submit a budget to the Presidency or the Finance Ministry.”