Our Reform Committee Will Be Different From Previous Committees Akinwunmi Vows

1st Vice President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and chairman of the Reform Committee set up by the Executive Committee of the NFF, Seyi Akinwunmi has sought to bolster public trust in the Reform Committee by saying that the transparent, collaborative, and public participatory nature of the committee would ensure its outcomes are different from previous such committees whose recommendations were never implemented.

Akinwunmi who was a guest on Sports Zone on the Lagos based radio station Lagos Talks on Monday, said that the committee was set up because the present NFF board were “clear in our minds that Nigerian football needs reform” because certain current practices cannot be “justified only with the fact that they have been doing this for twenty or thirty years and that’s the way it’s always been done”.

“If you want to compare Nigerian football with global standards then you must reform, adjust [and] shift ground to best practices in the world so we need to, first of all, identify the fact that we really need to reform,” he said.

Akinwunmi who is also the chairman of the Lagos State FA said the general scepticism that greeted the announcement of yet another Reform Committee was because previous “attempts at reform have not been open” with recommendations left to gather dust, there was, therefore, a general feeling that this is yet another cosmetic exercise designed to provide a red herring while things carry on as usual. He, however, says things would be different this time around.

“It will be different because you and I will have a part to play in the reform process this time,” he told the show’s hosts.

“What we’ve done is that we have set-up a website it’s like a community website where everybody in here and out there can log on to join like Facebook.

“You will then comment and give your opinion and also raise issues for us to discuss and what we discussing in that committee will also be open to the world to see.

“And then we are going to have weekly topics, weekly issues after we have gotten memoranda from the public we are also going to have all our meetings recorded.

“We are also going to go from zone to zone and also send our correspondence to various individuals to record them and give us their opinions so all of this will also be on that website.

“So it is going to be open and I think that really is the problem that we have had the fact that our attempts at reform have not been open.”

According to Akinwunmi, the website would become operative by the second week of January 2019 and the committee would have Abuja as their base although there would be meetings across different zones in the country.

On the makeup of the committee which has a total of 27 members including longstanding football stakeholders like Taiwo Ogunjobi, Shuaib Gara-Gombe and Poubeni Ogun who in the words of a host on the show “had put us where we are today” Akinwunmi said the size of the committee was “really a small number compared to the number of issues that require to be addressed” and that the presence of certain individuals on the committee was necessitated by the need to “manage the intricacies of Nigerian football” whilst also tapping into their “knowledge” “goodwill” and “connections”.

“We looked at the pros and cons and we came up with this,” he said.

Akinwunmi also explained why the Reform Committee has not looked to intervene in the ongoing impasse between the Nigeria Professional Football League and the Nigeria National League which has prevented a new league season from kicking off.

“The job of the Reform Committee is all-encompassing, our job is not to resolve particular issues as they go along, we need to look into the future. There are so many issues going on today which is the essence of establishing the reform committee in the first place we acknowledge there’s a lot to be done in Nigeria football.

“The NFF job is to administer, [the NPFL, NNL standoff] is an NFF issue,” he said.

The 1st Vice President of the NFF also spoke on a few other topics;

On Beach Soccer, where the national beach soccer team secured World Cup qualification by coming second at the CAF Beach Soccer Cup of Nations in Egypt despite horrible preparations and poor remuneration, Akinwunmi explained why the national team the Sand Eagles always seemed to be in a state of neglect.

“I accept that we are short in the Beach Soccer department. We need to prioritize and be honest about it, we have a beach soccer committee and they take care of this. It’s been tough; we have been trying to have a beach soccer league for the past 10 years.

“I truly don’t understand why it’s been so difficult but we are short in that department and a lot of it also has to do with funds and because we need to allocate funds in terms of priority.

“These corporate bodies think you are Nigeria you are NFF [therefore] you have money. Getting sponsorship for the Super Eagles and Super Falcons is hard enough. It’s even more difficult for Beach Soccer.”

Akinwunmi also spoke about the challenge of getting state governments to relinquish ownership of football club sides.

“As an individual, I agree with that and as a board at the NFF I know that that is our view, we believe that state involvement should be minimal.

“For example in Lagos State, you would see that we don’t have any state owned clubs and it is deliberate because that is what we believe would benefit Nigerian football as a whole.

“We have worked very hard, we have gone round, we have gone to individuals, we have gone to corporate bodies in a bid to get them to take over a lot of shareholdings in the clubs but there’s been various impediments.

“We can’t discard the fact that even in some states there is genuine interest in not letting go by maybe not the governor himself but by civil service so it’s not as easy and that is one of the things I think we will need as a body of reformers and I’m talking of Nigerian stakeholders, not just the NFF to look at and disscus at length.”