The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) may have come under the siege of the anti-graft agency, Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) once again.
The Guardian learned yesterday that some top officials of the NFF, including the President, Amaju Pinnick, second vice president, Shehu Dikko and Secretary-General, Mohammed Sanusi, were being drilled by EFCC officials at different locations in Lagos and Abuja.
It was gathered that the latest siege by the EFCC followed fresh petitions by some aggrieved Nigerians, including the owner of a private Radio station in Abuja.
However, some of the board members, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, alleged that the trio of Pinnick, Dikko, and Sanusi were being persecuted politically. “Nigerian football is facing another round of ‘political persecution’ because there is no basis for this latest round of investigation by the EFCC,” one of the board members said. “On November 5 last year, the Federal High Court in Abuja struck out the case of fraud brought against Pinnick and other NFF officials, who were accused of mismanaging money gotten from the FIFA.
“Where is this fresh investigation coming from? How can Nigerian football move forward? Our national teams suffered a lot last year, and we couldn’t qualify for some major events, including the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. We thought we will have a breathing space this year to re-organise our football and these people have started again. This siege has been on for over three weeks now and we can’t continue this way. Nigerians should act fast,” he stated.
Another NFF board member described the latest EFCC investigation against the three top officials as a move to halt their election campaigns into various executive positions in CAF this year.
He said: “These people may have gotten information that Pinnick is warming up to contest for the CAF presidency this month, and the only way to distract him is to come up with some fresh allegations. This is not good for our country and our sports.”
The Guardian recalls that a Federal High Court in Abuja struck out the case against the NFF top officials in November following an application by the Federal Government to withdraw its case against Pinnick and others accused of mismanaging money gotten from FIFA.
The Federal Government had in May 2019 arraigned Pinnick and four others on 18 counts for allegedly diverting the money, which was given to the NFF as fees for appearing at Russia 2018 World Cup. The five officials, including the NFF Secretary, Sunusi; 1st Vice-President, Seyi Akinwumi; the 2nd Vice-President, Dikko and Executive member, Yusuff Fresh, were accused of misappropriating N4 billion without the approval of the NFF.
They were also alleged to have contravened the law by failing to declare their assets.
Efforts to speak with the EFCC yesterday were unsuccessful.