Sportsmen hurdle against good living, give red card to administrators

Amodu Shuaibu

Amodu Shuaibu

In matter of days, two Nigerian great coaches died. First, it was ex-Super Eagle coach, Stephen Keshi who died at 54. Three days after, another former Super Eagle Coach, Shaibu Amodu passed on at the age of 58. There are media reports that Amodu died while waiting to be paid his salaries. This claim raises question about welfare of sportsmen and women in Nigeria. Was the circumstance of Amodu’s death remotely linked to his poor wellbeing? And does his case illustrate the worrisome condition of professional sports people in this country. AJIBOLA AMZAT (Features Editor) and VICTORIA OLISA report.

Two days to his death, Shaibu Amodu was in Benin. He came to submit a letter purportedly written to the Secretary to Edo State Government in respect of the salaries owed him and other coaches in his team.

According to the letter, the deceased coach was owed N25 million as a consultant/ technical adviser of Edo State Football Development Programme, a football academy set up by the government to nurture local talents.

In the letter titled: “Resignation of Appointment as Consultant/Technical Adviser. Re: Request for Payment of Outstanding Salaries”, Amodu Shaibu stated

“May I respectfully recall that I resigned my appointment as Consultant/Technical Adviser of Football Development in Edo State with effect from 30th September, 2015. The Resignation was as a result of my appointment as Technical Director of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF). The Governor graciously approved this resignation with effect from 30th September 2015.

“I humbly wish to inform the Governor that my monthly salary was stopped by the Accountant-General with effect from June 2015. As a result, I was not paid for the month of June, July, August and September, 2015. The reason the Accountant-General gave for withholding my salary for the period was that he expected the approval of the Governor extending my contract for the next year. Since I have resigned my appointment, there is no need now for such approval.

The non-payment of the agreed fees “brought hardship” to the late coach and his family, the letter noted.

“I think he died of frustration, his cousin,” Akuri Afegbua said. “He was not paid. He was complaining of not being paid and had no money to maintain himself and his immediate family. I think the purpose of him being in Benin was to put in a bill for his payment, both NFF (Nigerian Football Federation) and the state government.”

The Secretary-General of the Nigerian Football Coaches Association, Solomon Ogbeide reinforced the claim of Afegbua during an interview with The Guardian. According to him, Amodu was financially stressed so much that he had to park out of his former house in February because he could no longer pay the annual rent of N.12 million.

While NFF admitted owing Amodu, the Edo State government has denied the claim. Speaking to the Press on Wednesday, the Chief Press Secretary to Edo Governor, Peter Okhiria said Amodu was duly paid while his contract lasted.

Okhiria said the governor had already approved N8 million for Amodu on “compassionate ground” which he could not cash before he died last week.

He said that late Shaibu worked with the State Government “on a fixed-term contract basis, as Consultant/Technical Adviser of Edo State Football Development Programme, a Football Academy established by the State Government to tap the talents of Edo youths and turn them into world stars.

“I‎n deference to his pedigree, and having informed the Governor of how he was shabbily treated by the Nigerian Football Federation after the World Cup qualification he helped secure for the nation, and also admitting that the new job to manage the State’s Football Academy had lesser attraction than the National team Coach job he had, Amodu Shaibu was placed on a monthly salary of N2 million, which is hundred per cent better than what he was earning as Coach of the National Football team, and also making him the highest paid official of the Edo State Government.

We, therefore, make bold to state that the contents of a letter in circulation, purportedly written by the late Shaibu Amodu, is patently false. The letter contains claims that have no bearing with the financial transactions of Edo State Government. All workers, from lowest to the highest paid, including Committee Members are enrolled in our Oracle-based payment system and we do not owe anyone.”

Though the ex-coach is no longer around to defend his position, observers question the veracity of Edo government’ claim. “Why would you pay someone N8million on compassionate ground if you don’t actually owe him?” Ogbeide asked.

Notwithstanding, the death of the coach Amodu and his living condition while alive have again ignited the discussion around the welfare of the Nigerian coaches and players.

Until his death on Wednesday, 8th June, Stephen Keshi was being owed by NFF, almost a year after he was fired as the coach of Super Eagle. The NFF owes late Keshi and the Super Eagles players the bonuses for two matches (Sudan and South Africa). The Federation also owes bonuses
for the two international friendly matches against Mali and Luxembourg.

It is same for Amodu who is being owed two months salary by NFF – there are reports that he was owed for seven months though.

Another Super Eagle coach, Sunday Oliseh resigned in February after nine months of service, citing unpaid salaries and lack of cooperation among other reasons for his exit. He said he was owed a backlog of salaries before he resigned.

During training in Pretoria, South Africa, for CHAN 2016, Oliseh claimed he spent about $4000 of his money without being repaid.
When he was the coach, Samson Siasia’s team was owed match bonuses and allowances all the way to the final and won the 2015 FIFA U-17 World cup without being paid?

Also Emmanuel Amuneke won the World Cup in Chile without being paid. Others coached owed by NFF include Salisu Abubakar and Manu Garba, the coach of the Golden Eaglets.

The national U-20 team and the Flying Eagles are owed bonuses for the Africa Youth Championship (AYC), qualifying matches against Burundi, while the Super Falcons that qualified for the Cameroon 2016 African Nations Women’s Cup were decamped on arrival with a token of N10, 000 transports given to each player without their bonuses.

Speaking to The Guardian, the President of National Association of Nigerian Footballers (NANF), Harrison Jala said his association is being frustrated because of the attitude of NFF to keep the association perpetually stagnant. “I think it is a deliberate act.”

The House of Representatives on Tuesday has mandated its committee on sports to liaise with NFF and pay entitlements due to late former Super Eagles’ coaches and others affected, this decision may not have addressed the structural problem that is responsible for the poor treatment of career sportsmen and women in the country.

One of them is the politicization of sports administration in Nigeria, as association of professional coaches noted.

Ogbeide said the welfare of Nigerian coaches and players is pitiable because sports administrators are not career persons. Many of them have poor knowledge of football administration, he said.

Further, he noted that weak regulation and implementation of sports rules accounts for the manner coaches and players are treated.

“For instance, there are rules that players and officials must be paid regularly for the service rendered, but these rules are being flouted from time to time.”

In a press, the Nigeria Football Association Secretary General, Tijani Yusuf said it was unfortunate that sports administrators only pay lip service to the welfare of coaches.

In an interview granted to Nigeria soccernet, Odegbami who represented Nigeria and led his team to win the Africa Cup of Nations in 1980 described coaching as a pressure cooker job that puts managers’ health at risk.

Quoting the head of Nigerian Coaches Association, Odegbami said 75 percent of the association members are hypertensive.

He however, noted that football administrators are insensitive to the challenges of coaches, but rather the situation worse by failing to pay their wages
and threatening them with the sack.

Ogbeide seeks a reform that will allow NFF to be manned by administrators trained in sports management.

“Sports administrators should be chosen not only because of their passion or because they are close to politicians. They should be chosen because they have necessary skills required to administer sports.”

Meanwhile Asociation of Club owners have advised football stakeholders to embrace routine exercise and medical checkup.

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