The embattled President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Ibrahim-Shehu Gusau, has said that the recent call by the federation at its congress in Awka, Anambra State, for autonomy from the Ministry of Youth and Sports was not made in bad taste.
Mr Gusau while speaking with journalists in Lagos on Sunday, noted that his board since inauguration has been faced with different problems but has been able to make some gains.
The AFN boss said he is positive that with the requested autonomy, more gains will be achieved.
He said: “Let me make it abundantly clear that everything we have done has been with the best interests of athletes in mind and an innate desire to develop athletics in Nigeria.
“We believe that without athletes, there will be no sports and without sports, there will be no Sports Federation.”
The AFN boss said though President Muhammadu Buhari has been doing everything possible to attract foreign investments, securing alternative means of funding the federation will ease the pressure on the government.
“This is part of the reasons we seek autonomy to enable us to increase the funding base of the federation. The sponsorship deal signed with Puma attests to the capacity of this board to attract private funding for sports from within and outside the country.
“The autonomy we are talking about is in so far as administering the federation is concerned and had always been in existence in the statutes of the AFN, the CAA and the WA.
“We have always borne all expenses associated with the administration of the federation.
“This does not, however, preclude the government, through the FMYSD, from meeting its obligations to the athletes.
“If athletes are representing Nigeria in a competition, it behoves on the government to take care of them because they are representing the country, not the federation,” Mr Gusau said.
He warned that if the crisis rocking the AFN is not quickly nipped in the bud, it may be a clog in the wheel of progress ahead of the Olympic Games.
He said: “The world is fast moving towards the independence of sports federations.
“We must join or risk being left behind. The Olympic Games is barely 6 months away.
“While other countries are consolidating on their plans to excel at the Games, our administrators are busy hounding the Federations.”
Two parallel congresses of the AFN were held last week with one controversially suspending Mr Gusau as the president of the Athletics body in Nigeria. The other congress announced the autonomy from the sports ministry.
The sports ministry has since recognised the congress that suspended Mr Gusau.