May 30 – Just days before he takes his place among the great and the good (and not so good) of African football – if he turns up, that is – Nigerian FA chief Amaju Pinnick, a strong ally of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and a constant figure of controversy, has been ordered to appear in court on July 1 along with four colleagues to answer charges of alleged misappropriation of funds.
Prosecution lawyer Celsius Ukpong, from Nigeria’s Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) for the recovery of public property, named the defendants as Pinnick, NFF vice presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko along with general secretary Mohammed Sanusi and executive committee member Ahmed Yusuf, all of whom have all been ordered to appear.
The court order comes a few weeks after the quintet were charged and suspended, according to local reports, for alleged mismanagement of an $8,400 grant from FIFA. They defendants were also accused of “moving dishonestly and intentionally the sum of about N4bn” belonging to the NFF without the consent of the federation.
The NFF has been blighted by accusations of corruption for decades, but the Nigerian government has always backed off taking action within the federation over fear of Nigeria being banned by FIFA and a public backlash.
Pinnick, whose federation is due to attend a Confederation of African Football Congress in Paris on Tuesday ahead of the FIFA Congress, was absent when the court order to appear was made in Abuja when a 17-count charge was read out.
The charges include failure to declare their assets, the alleged disappearance of $8.4 million paid by FIFA to Nigeria for participation in the 2014 World Cup and arranging international friendly matches that do not take place. But the NFF has denounced the allegations as “frivolous and totally baseless”.
In a statement, the head of the NFF’s media committee Dr Yahaya Kwade added: “They are aimed only at scandalising the NFF and its leadership and nothing more, in order to mislead the unwary and uninformed.
“The SPIP alleges that the leadership of the NFF moved N4bn from the NFF on November 3, 2018. The maliciousness and falsity of this charge is established by the fact that the alleged sum is about four times the 2018 NFF Appropriation in the FGN budget as approved by the National Assembly, which in total was N1.14bn, out of which only about N700m was cash-backed for the entire 2018 financial year.”
Lawyer to SPIP, Celcius Ukpong, said he had not yet been able to serve the defendants with the copies of the charges.
“The defendants are evading service. We have been to their offices. They are on what we call administrative bail. But have been calling them to come to pick up the copies to their charges and we have been to their offices to serve them, all to no avail.
“We are expecting the accused persons, the defendants, to come to court and take their plea,” Ukpong said.
With the hearing set to resume in the middle of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, the NFF has played down speculation it could affect the team.
“Our lawyer is handling the matter and the NFF will only make a statement at the appropriate time,” NFF director of communications Ademola Olajire told the BBC.
“The NFF is focused on important football matters and the priority is to ensure all our teams succeed.”
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