Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Barr. Solomon Dalung has reacted to the threat of world Athletics governing body, IAAF, to ban Nigeria from athletics.
The threat was documented in a letter addressed to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), in which IAAF gave a two-week ultimatum for the AFN to refund the sum of $130,000 it was paid in error to support a competition hosted by Nigeria in 2017.
In the letter, IAAF said the AFN was contacted immediately the anomaly was noticed on March 18, 2017, to refund the sum, but instead of repaying the money, local officials have been trading blames and refusing to speak on the matter.
Speaking at the Okpekpe 10km Road Race on Saturday, Minister Dalung posited that the issue is being handled in a manner to paint Nigeria in a bad light.
“I think Nigeria has been unfairly treated because the issue has been painted and promoted as if there was any wrongdoing on the part of Nigeria,” Dalung said.
“Certainly not, grants were released to Nigeria on the 17th of May 2017. IAAF on the 19th confirmed the transaction; those from IAAF after two months turned round and cried foul that it was a mistake.
“I smell rat in the whole thing and I believe that the whole thing has been orchestrated in an attempt to blackmail Nigeria,” the minister told reporters.
He continued: “Even when we went into it, we were not even convinced what the mistake was, is it a mistake of Nigeria or that of IAAF?
“When did they realise they made a mistake when the transaction was confirmed? I made a mistake in transferring money… I realised within 10 minutes and I called my bank and I retrieved the money. Why did it take IAAF two months to realise a mistake? An international organization, highly reputable?
“I think it is not about money erroneously credited to Nigeria, but there is a calculated attempt just to diminish and destroy Nigerian athletics, otherwise, I don’t see why they call it a mistake. We didn’t apply for a grant.”
When asked what the country will do at least to save it from possible ban as threatened by the IAAF, Mr. Dalung stated:
“Ban us for what? What has Nigeria done? What is the crime? Did we steal money from them? Did we ask them to transfer money to us?
“They transferred money to us, they confirmed the transaction to us, then after two months, they woke up from slumber.
“Is IAAF telling us they are as much disorganised as that? Where Nigeria is wrong, Nigeria will be own up but you cannot wake up and just realise that they have something to hold on to. We are not even convinced that there is any mistake, the money was sent for the golden relays and it was done. Are they saying there was no golden relays.
“I think those promoting this are trying to cry blue murder; I think they are just enemies of this country and we should ask questions,” the minister concluded.
The deadline given to Nigeria is around the corner, and it is yet to be known what step the IAAF will take as regards the issue.