The immediate past minister of youth and sports development, Barrister Solomon Selcap Dalung has revealed what led to the crisis between him as the minister of sports and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
Dalung during an exclusive interview with bsnsports.com.ng in Abuja said that his refusal to hand over funds collected to pay the backlogs of bonuses and allowance of the Nigeria Olympic football team in Senegal in 2015, to the federation was the beginning of the crisis between him and the Nigeria Football Federation.
His words: ” I came in as minister when Nigeria was in the heat of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. Immediately I took over I received a report from Senegal where Nigeria team was playing for the 2016 Olympics qualification, that the team had boycotted training, even when they have qualified to the next stage because they have not been paid.”
“While I was trying to handle the matter and understand what was happening, I received another report from Senegal indicating the team may likely going to embarrass the country by not showing up for their next games and played in the finals because of lack of attention to their welfare.
“So, I called the president of NFF, Amaju Pinnick and he came and affirmed to me that they have financial challenges and that was why the team have not been paid.
“I called the coach, Samson Siasia but he was reluctant to speak to me on the issue. So, I called him again, yet he was not opening up. Then I was advised by one of my aid that the way they operate in football if the coach should open up to me, he might lose his job and nobody will be able to tell me the truth.
“I mounted serious pressure on Siasia and he ended open up that they have not been paid for seven months since they have been in camp.
Then, we asked for some money from the National Sports Commission. So, the then DG of the Commission then borrowed us Four hundred million Naira (N400,000,000)
After receiving the money, Dalung wanted to pay the money directly into the coaches and player’s accounts but the NFF officials insisted that the money should be given to them.
“NFF wanted me to hand over the money to them but I was reluctant because if they had not been able to pay them for a very long time since their resumption in camp what guaranteed that if I had handed over the money to hem they would pay.
”Even though I was new in office, my instinct was guiding me, so I declined and invited NFF to come with the record of players and their bank accounts. So that the ministry can pay them directly.
“The president of NFF came and told me that they don’t have their accounts and insisted that I should give him the money but I said ‘no, I am not going to release the money’.
The NFF officials led by the president, Amaju Pinnick saw the refusal to hand the money and pay the players and officials from its secretariat as a vote of no confidence in them.
“Then he said to me that, not releasing the money to them means passing a vote of no confidence on them because if I pay the players directly I would have eroded their confidence.
“And I told him that it is not about the vote of confidence but saving Nigeria from the mess which we need to tackle before it became an international embarrassment.
Dalung also revealed how struggled to get the account details of the team’s officials and players.
“After he left without handing the money to him, I tried to get the accounts of players and coaches but it was difficult, so, I called the coach again and mounted serious pressure around 2:00 am and after one hour he agreed to send the players and officials names and account details into my email.
“And, I immediately directed the Permanent Secretary to pay the money into their accounts and immediately the money was paid the Nigeria ambassador in Senegal who was afraid that Nigeria may be disgraced because the players may boycott the match saw the players jumping and smiling to the pitch.
”The remaining part of the money was taken to them because they qualified for the final, so it was paid directly to them and qualified for the 2016 Olympics.
The former minister stressed that the action he took by paying the players their entitlements was the beginning of his faceoff with the NFF.
“The beginning of my crisis with NFF as the minister stated in this issue, they wanted me to release the money to them but my refusal to do so means a passing vote of no confidence on them.” He concluded.
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