SOLOMON Dalung, Nigeria’s Minister of Sports, has described those asking Nigeria to refund $130,000 to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as “enemies of this country”.
The IAAF says it erroneously overpaid Nigeria to the sum of $130,000 in grants in 2017 and wants the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) to refund the surplus funds, but Dalung is having none of it.
According to a letter addressed to Ibrahim Gusau, the AFN President, by the IAAF, Nigeria would be sanctioned if the said funds were not refunded within a given period of time.
“Failure to receive the funds back within that period, we will have no alternative than to apply appropriate sanctions against your Federation,” the letter read in part.
However, in a chat with journalists during Saturday’s Okpekpe Road Race in Edo State, Dalung wondered why Nigeria should refund the money when it did not force the IAAF into releasing it in the first place.
“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. Certainly not,” he said.
“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 around and cried foul that it was a mistake.
“I smell a rat in the whole thing and I believe that the whole thing has been orchestrated in an attempt to blackmail Nigeria. 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.”
On the possibility of Nigeria being banned from taking part in world athletics, Dalung waved that aside.
“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?” he queried
“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 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 were 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.”