ATHLETICS: Nigeria Risk Ban From IAAF Over Missing $130,000

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has given the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) a two-week deadline to refund the balance of $130,000 wrongfully credited to it or face “appropriate sanctions” which may include a worldwide ban from all athletics activities.

The IAAF had on May 17, 2017, erroneously transferred the sum of $150,000 to the accounts of the AFN rather than the statutory $20,000 due all national federations affiliated to it. The disparity in payments was discovered on March 14, 2018 with the IAAF promptly drawing the attention of the AFN to the error and requesting a reimbursement of the outstanding balance.

The AFN has however failed to give account of how the sum was expended and despite numerous assurances to the IAAF, failed to return the balance of $130,000 to the world athletics governing body till date. Numerous reasons have been adduced as to how the balance was expended with an unnamed source telling The Guardian last year that the money was spent on “certain projects” allegedly under the direction of the sports minister Solomon Dalung and executed by the AFN’s former general secretary Amaechi Akawo.

It isn’t clear why the AFN then under the de facto leadership of Akawo following the dissolution of the former board led by Solomon Ogba, failed to notify the IAAF of the overpayment and without seeking clarity from the IAAF proceeded to commit the funds to other unexplained uses.

Following the huge uproar that greeted the shocking revelations of the AFN’s misconduct, the sports ministry and the Federal House of Representatives at different times, announced the setting up of investigatory panels tasked with unearthing the truth behind the misappropriation of the IAAF funds. Nothing has, however, come out of the processes till date although several reports suggested that Sports Minister Solomon Dalung had agreed to repay half of the money to the IAAF following a meeting with the president of the IAAF, Sebastien Coe in August at the 2018 Africa Athletics Championships in Asaba.

It appears that the IAAF has finally run out of patience with both the AFN and the ministry of sports and apprehensive of the possible imminent departure of the Sports Minister Solomon Dalung, have in a letter sent to the president of the AFN, Ibrahim Gusau and signed by Jee Isram, Senior Manager, Governance, Member & International Relations, threatened to “apply appropriate sanctions” against the AFN if the full $130,000 isn’t paid in two weeks.

Outlining the sequence of events since the discovery of the overpayment to the AFN and the lengths the IAAF has gone to ensure the recovery of the $130,000 balance, Mr. Isram noted in the letter that: “You were informed on 14 March 2018 by our CEO of a payment made by the IAAF to the bank account of your federation on 17 May 2017. A sum of 150,000 US Dollars was transferred by the IAAF of which 130,000 US Dollars were wrongfully credited.”

He continued: “We promptly notified you of this over-payment and followed up several written correspondences as well as a meeting with you in November 2017, requesting that you reverse the bank transfer for the overpaid amount to no avail.

“On 28 June 2018, you informed us that the Ministry of Sports was ready to refund 50 percent of that amount and despite several telephone conversations, the amount was still no paid. While in Asaba in August 2018 during the African Senior Championships we met with the minister of sport and his permanent secretary. We discussed about the return of the funds to the IAAF and until today we have not heard anything.

“We understand that the Minister of Sports will be stepping down soon and it is imperative that you arrange for the return of the full amount within two weeks, at the latest. Failure to receive the funds back within that period, we will have no alternative than to apply appropriate sanctions against your Federation.”

However, in a telephone chat with, the secretary general of the AFN, Elijah Adamu denied knowledge of any such correspondence from the IAAF although he acknowledged that the AFN had “monies that are supposed to be refunded” to the IAAF and said the federation is “working on it to refund them”.

A ban for Nigeria could see athletes affiliated with the AFN prevented from competing at international meets including the World Championships and the African Games later in the year.