ATHLETICS: AFN President Resigns Over Allegations Of Financial Misappropriation As IAAF Hammer Looms

President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Shehu Ibrahim Gusau on Tuesday, resigned his position with immediate effect after board members accused him of “intimidation”, “gross misconduct and misappropriation of funds” in a petition filed against him yesterday at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Abuja.

The petition, seen by and signed by most of the AFN board members, urged the outgone Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung to “take action” against Gusau who has been president since June 2017, on the basis of the allegations contained in the letter. However, it is not clear if Dalung played any part in Gusau’s decision to resign having relinquished his position as Minister following the expiration of his appointment on Tuesday, 28 May 2019.

Gusau’s misdeeds according to the petition include, unilaterally appropriating funds “without the approval of the board” for athletic meets including the Africa Athletics Championships in Asaba last August and the African U18 and U20 Athletics Championships in Abidjan, in April of this year. broke the news about Nigerian athletes having to embark on a 20-hour, two-day road trip to the championship in Abidjan for which they received no allowances after Gusau and the federation’s Technical Director, Sunday Adeleye informed them that funds weren’t released by the Sports Ministry.

The board members in the petition also highlighted Gusau’s predilection for “intimidation and suspension of athletes” in flagrant disregard for established procedures and processes. learned that 2018 Commonwealth Games 4x400m silver medalist was recently suspended by the AFN.

Gusau, a former member of the Federal House of Representatives, was alleged to have singlehandedly selected teams and procured kits for international competitions including the Asaba championships and the Youth Olympics in Argentina. Other allegations refer to him requesting for funds from the Sports Ministry while keeping the board in the dark as well as “operating a calendar of programs for the year” without the backing of the board.

The AFN has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons in the past few weeks after the world athletics governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), issued the country a two-week ultimatum to return the balance of $130,000 from a sum of $150,000 erroneously transferred to it in May of 2017 or face a global ban from all athletics activities.

That ultimatum has now expired without the funds being repaid and with Dalung – who had pledged in 2018 to repay the money only to turn back and accuse the IAAF of a “calculated attempt” to tarnish Nigeria’s image – having vacated office, Nigeria awaits the decision of the IAAF although the petition makes no mention of the missing funds which were transferred to the AFN’s accounts before the present board of the AFN was constituted.

The Vanguard however reported that at a meeting of the IAAF board called by the Sports Ministry last Thursday to resolve the IAAF missing funds imbroglio, Gusau was said to be the one “owing the IAAF” after he allegedly “collected the money and instead of paying the IAAF, allegedly spent N39m on buying kits for Nigerian athletes at the African Championships in Asaba” even after he had collected $5,000 for the same purpose from the LOC of the competition.

The allegations against Gusau, a Zamfara native who twice ran for the presidency of the AFN before succeeding on the third try, does not come as a surprise following months of infighting between board members almost from the inception of their tenure in June 2017.

There is no love lost between him and the federation’s vice-president Olamide George and Gusau has been accused at various times in the past of running the AFN like a “fiefdom”. His appointment in 2018 of Adeleye as Technical Director over Brown Ebewele,  and Marcus Amanze as Chairman, Media and Publicity over Dare Esan who already occupied that position, caused a very public row with other board members who accused him of highhandedness and of running the federation like a “private property”.

The petition against him marks the latest turn in the long-running clash of personalities and his resignation will be viewed as a victory for his opponents who had long sought his ouster.