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Sports ministry denies sharing athletes relief fund fraudulently

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The Youth and Sports Development Ministry has denied reports that the Athlete Relief Fund was shared without transparency and fairness to athletes.

It will be recalled that the sum of N11 million reportedly doled out by Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, as a relief fund for Nigerian athletes to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown 

The ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr. Gabriel Aduda, in a statement yesterday said, “There were certain criteria put into consideration in selecting beneficiaries of the Athletes Relief Fund. What we did was to look at the entire gamut of those that have qualified for the Olympics, but have not been adopted.

“Next we also considered athletes that would have competed at the postponed National Sports Festival in Edo and those that have represented us in the past. Since their source of earnings had ceased due to the suspension of sporting activities, we felt this was the best way of assisting them. “It is an on going process as more athletes who met the set down criteria have been penciled down to benefit.”

Aduda explained that the fund was not Athletics Federation of Nigeria’s money, nor that of the Nigerian Olympics Committee (NOC), adding, “Rather, it is a private initiative based on the Ministry’s PPP model.

“Over 170 athletes were listed to benefit. It is an on going process until the N10m, which is domiciled in the Ministry’s CBN account, is exhausted. With payment being strictly electronic, the disbursement process is fully transparent such that every kobo is accounted for.”

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He disclosed that the exercise would “span two to three weeks and every donation that comes goes to the account with the CBN.”

It will be recalled that the sharing of the money may have sparked a major controversy among stakeholders in the AFN family.

Former hurdler, Moses Orodo Oyiki, who represented Nigeria at Atlanta ’96 Olympics, alleged yesterday that some athletes, who should not have benefited from the Minister’s Relief Fund, did, while those, who should have benefited purely by performance, did not.

“What was a fantastic and commendable exercise from the Honourable Minister for Youth & Sports Development is receiving opprobrious remarks from some quarters because of the secrecy that shrouded the list of beneficiaries, the number of beneficiaries, and how these beneficiaries were selected,” Oyiki said in a message made available to The Guardian.

Oyiki, a London-based lawyer, added: “I understand 50 athletes benefited. Himah Charles (Athletes Representative on the board of AFN) and Mary Onyali (Special Assistant to the Sports Minister) unfortunately allowed their human flaws and frailties to influence the list with such a disastrous consequence.

Oyiki continued: “I understand that two well-meaning Nigerians donated N1 million and N10 million respectively as Covid-19 palliatives to the ‘supposed 2020 Tokyo Olympics bound athletes.’ The minister’s relief fund was therefore not meant for ‘all-comers’. This was why it is still imperative that a list of those athletes is published.

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“It would appear Himah Charles had knowledge of the list and the donations. He said more than 40 athletes benefited and they were paid N50,000 each. This is about N2 million from the N11 million pot. I understand Onyali played a major role in the compilation and the AFN board members, especially the president, were involved at the last minute with minimal or no contribution at all.”

About Olusola 'Jide

I'm an avid and seasoned sports/ multimedia journalist. I have a biased love for Real Madrid and passionate advocate for the overall growth of the Nigeria Sports Project. I can be reached on 09077894123 or/and 'info@thesportsbay.com'

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