Minister of Youth and Sports Sunday Dare has announced that Nigeria’s $65,000 debt to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will be repaid “in a few days”.
“I have approved the release of funds to refund the IAAF overpayment wrongly credited to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria. In a few days from now the funds should hit the account of the IAAF baring any interbank delays. With this Nigeria’s reputation is regained,” Dare announced on his official Twitter handle.
Dare’s announcement on his Twitter page on Wednesday brings to a close one of the most sordid and incredible episodes in Nigerian sporting history.
It all started when the IAAF on May 17, 2017, erroneously transferred the sum of $150,000 to the accounts of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) rather than the statutory $15,000 due to all national federations affiliated to it. An additional $5,000 was allowed the AFN to meet certain obligations.
Upon receipt of the funds, the AFN failed to notify the IAAF of the overpayment nor return the balance of $130,000 to the world athletics governing body till date.
What transpired instead is still a subject of conjecture and shrouded in secrecy exacerbated by the fact that the current board of the AFN hadn’t been inaugurated at that point and the running of the AFN was directly under the Ministry of Sports.
What is certain is that the funds were moved from the AFN accounts but despite the sports ministry and the Federal House of Representatives setting up investigatory panels to unearth the truth behind the misappropriation of the IAAF funds, the identities of the persons who approved and then expended the money were never revealed.
However, The Guardian reported last year quoting an unnamed source 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.
The fallout from the whole sorry affair nearly claimed the head of the AFN president Shehu Ibrahim Gusau and caused a schism in the Federation with accusations and counter-accusations flying about.
Despite several accounts and reports painting former Sports Minister Solomon Dalung as a person of interest under whose auspices the funds were misappropriated, Dalung deflected questions about his involvement and on numerous occasions appeared to question the authenticity of the IAAF claims of having overpaid the AFN by $130,000.
Dalung, however, ensured $65,000 was repaid to the IAAF keeping a promise to the president of the IAAF, Sebastien Coe in August at the 2018 Africa Athletics Championships in Asaba to repay part of the outstanding balance. But, prior to leaving office, Dalung failed to provide any explanations as to what truly happened to the original IAAF funds.
Dare with his announcement on Wednesday, has now taken on the mantle to restore Nigeria’s severely impugned reputation although it remains to be seen if he will pursue investigations into what truly transpired and how the funds were misappropriated in the first instance.