The Nigerian Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, has accused the International Association of Athletics Federations, IAAF, of ‘blackmail’ after the body gave Nigeria an ultimatum to refund the money it was paid in error.
The federation said Nigeria was overpaid by $130,000 in 2017 but the country’s officials have rebuffed all efforts to get the money back.
Nigeria must now pay back within days or be sanctioned, the IAAF said.
In a letter sent to the president of the AFN, Ibrahim Gusau, and signed by the IAAF Senior Manager, Governance, Jee Isram, the body said the AFN was contacted immediately the anomaly was noticed on March 18, 2017, to refund the sum of $130,000 that was wrongly credited.
“Failure to receive the funds back within that period, we will have no alternative than to apply appropriate sanctions against your Federation,” it said.
Analysts have expressed outrage at the delayed refund, and have accused the sports ministry of denting the nation’s image.
Instead of repaying the money and ending the embarrassment, officials have been trading blames and refusing to speak on the matter.
A former member of the board of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria told PREMIUM TIMES the sports minister, Mr Dalung, authorised the disbursement of the money.
Speaking at the 2019 Okpekpe Road Race held on Saturday in Edo State, Mr Dalung questioned the claims made by IAAF, claiming that Nigeria did nothing wrong.
“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,” Mr Dalung said.
“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 round and cried foul that it was a mistake.
“I smell rat in the whole thing and I believe that the whole thing has been orchestrated in an attempt to blackmail Nigeria,” the minister told journalists at Saturday’s race.
He continued: “Even when we went into it, we were not even convinced what the mistake was, is it a mistake of Nigeria or that of IAAF?
“When did they realise they made a mistake when the transaction was confirmed? I made a mistake in transferring money… I realised within 10 minutes and I called my bank and I retrieved the money. 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.”
When asked what the country will do at least to save it from possible ban as threatened by the IAAF, Mr. Dalung stated:
“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.
“Is IAAF telling us they are as much disorganised as that? Where Nigeria is wrong, Nigeria will be own up but you cannot wake up and just realise that they have something to hold on to. 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 was 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,” the minister concluded.