It is a war of words between the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung and the Nigeria Football Federation over accusations of fraud in the way the Dream Team was handled Rio 2016.
Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung has hinted at shady deals behind the country’s football team being stranded for several days at their training base in Atlanta, USA, before they finally made their way to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
It is expected that after the Rio Olympics a high-powered probe will be initiated by the minister to uncover the truth behind the drama, which caused Nigeria international shame.
The Dream Team only flew into Brazil barely seven hours before their opening match against Japan.
And Dalung said on a television interview on Thursday that the episode revealed “quiet dirty” details which those involved cannot defend themselves against when they are confronted with.
“The Atlanta event was quiet dirty and some of the actors (involved) cannot stand before Nigeria (to answer to these charges),” Dalung alleged.
“The event of Atlanta was another attempt to rip the country off.”
Dalung said he has a receipt from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for the charter flight that eventually flew the team from Atlanta to Manaus when he alleged that Delta Airlines confirmed to his officials that the flight was their own “contribution” to the country’s Olympic campaign.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), has replied describing the insinuations by the Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung in a television interview that the issue of the Dream Team being stranded in Atlanta, USA, prior to Rio 2016 as hoax.
Chairman of the NFF Media and Publicity Committee, Honourable Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande, who is a member of the House of Representatives, said the entire NFF board was shocked by the remarks of the Minister.
He stated that the NFF President, Mr Amaju Pinnick, had been giving members of the board updates of useful meetings he has been having with the Sports Minister since he arrived in Brazil.
“The NFF Board and Management are taken aback by these insinuations. The NFF President has been telling us of meeting between him and the Minister on how to avoid the kind of situation we got into in the USA in the future. So, the Minister’s latest statements are a bombshell.
“We are not openly challenging the Minister, but we must set the records straight. To start, we do not have any partnership with Delta Airlines, a company that we owe much gratitude for the way it came to the rescue to airlift our team to Brazil. The names of NFF’s partners and sponsors are known to the public.
“Secondly, the NFF is not aware of any receipt that was presented to the Minister for airlifting the U23 team from Atlanta to Manaus. I am aware that the Minister himself requested for the phone number of our FIFA Match Agent (Mr Jairo Pachon, who has been working with the NFF since 2009) when everybody became desperate about how the team would go to Brazil. The NFF President gave him the phone number, and the Minister himself asked Mr Pachon to go ahead and charter an aircraft, and Pachon reverted that the amount would be $174,000, as against the $300,000 that was bandied earlier.
However, the money did not reflect in the airline company’s bank account within the deadline it gave to us, so the service was cancelled. We insist that Mr. Pachon acted in the best interest of Nigeria.”
Yahaya-Kwande also defended Nigeria’s U-23 team’s list to Rio 2016.
“Which persons did we increase the team with? There were two alternate players, the team media officer, the team coordinator, the team’s equipment manager and the team’s technical officer, who have always been part of the team’s crew, and who by global standard are required by the team. When it was made clear that they would no longer be taken care of, we told them to return to Nigeria.
“As I speak with you, the only NFF top officials at the Olympics are the NFF Technical Director and the NFF President. I would like to be proved wrong on this.“The NFF Board has always displayed integrity in all its financial dealings and have always communicated to the Minister on every financial transaction and detail. On this too, we would like to be proved wrong,” he said.
Dalung, had on Friday said the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) lied over the claim of chartering a Delta Airline jet to convey the Dream Team VI to Brazil from Atlanta.
The team arrived Brazil a few hours to their first game in the competition as a result of logistical challenges.
But speaking in an interview with Channels TV, Dalung described the “theory of the Dream Team being stranded”as a hoax.
The minister said the federation lied to have paid Delta Airline to fly the U-23 team, whereas the airline did not collect a dime. According to him, the theory of the chartered flight was another attempt to rip the country off. All these are unsubstantiated allegations.
He said, “As I stand today, we have a receipt from an agent that NFF claimed to have chartered a flight from Atlanta to Manaus on the 4th of August.
“Yet, we had Delta airline which I have confirmed through the person I sent to Delta office that the flight from Atlanta to Manaus was their contribution to help the team get to Brazil.
“That they also air lifted them from Nigeria to Atlanta.
“It means that there was this existing partnership between Nigeria Football Federation and Delta Airline.”