January 7 – Reports that Nigerian FA chief Amaju Pinnick, a strong ally of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, has been arrested over allegations of fraud have been strongly denied by the office of the country’s President Muhammadu Buhari.
A section of the sporting media in Nigeria reported at the weekend that Buhari had directed security agencies to detain Pinnick, who is also a Confederation of African Football (CAF) vice-president.
But Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President, (Media & Publicity) described the claims as fake news and said anyone familiar with the president’s commitment to due processes of the law would not make such assumptions.
“It is not in the nature of President Buhari to say go and arrest that man or woman,” a statement said.
“Rather, he allows all allegations of this nature to be addressed using the mechanism of the rule of law. Nobody should drop names to seek to influence the course of those investigations.”
“The position of the President that allegations of criminal nature should be addressed only by investigation and law enforcement agencies, within the framework of the law has not changed. It is not in the nature of President Buhari to say go and arrest that man or woman as formed the practice in the past.
“Rather, he allows all allegations of this nature to be addressed using the mechanism of the rule of law even as law enforcement and investigation agencies should not in any way be hampered in performing their duties.”
Pinnick has been embroiled in legitimacy issues throughout his first term in office. In August Nigeria narrowly avoided being thrown out of international football after agreeing to recognise him as the FIFA-approved head of its federation following a bitter internal row.
The NFF dismissed claims that a travel ban had been imposed on its leader.
“The attention of the Nigeria Football Federation has been drawn to a news item circulating in a section of the media saying a directive has been issued by President Muhammadu Buhari that the President of NFF, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick be prosecuted and that Pinnick has also been issued with a travel ban,” it said. “The report is completely unfounded and is only a product of the writer’s imagination.”
“Mr. Pinnick was in Accra, Ghana on Friday, 4th January 2019 for a meeting with NFF and CAF partners AITEO and returned to Nigeria the same day. He has been going about his lawful official and private activities unhindered.”
“All incomes into the NFF from the Federal Government, FIFA and CAF from 2014 till now have been correctly recorded and reflected in our accounts.”
“Our lawyers will take up the matter of the fake news item with the newspaper company that first published it in its online edition. We urge other media companies and outlets to be painstaking in verification of their news items.
“We also urge our sponsors and partners, football stakeholders in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large, and other media institutions to disregard the said news report as it’s another attempt by the mob against the NFF to tarnish the image of the Federation and its leadership for whatever gains.”
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