By Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The House of Representatives yesterday condemned what it described as the unsavoury treatment of national female football team, the Super Falcons by the Federal Government after winning the African Women’s Cup of Nations for the eighth time in Cameroon a fortnight ago.
The Super Falcons had on Wednesday in Abuja publicly protested the non-payment of their allowances and entitlements by officials of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) and the Sports Ministry.
The House urged the government to urgently ensure the payment of the backlog of the allowances and entitlements.
This followed a motion sponsored by Hon. Ayo Omidiran (Osun APC) who recalled that the team defeated host nation, Cameroon on December 3, 2016 to bag the trophy for the eighth time.
“Also aware of the reported disclosure by the Hon. Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalung that the victory of the Super Falcons was unexpected, a mindset that may have led to the failure to make proper arrangements for the payment of the allowances of the players and the officials,” Omidiran said.
She added that the players refused to heed the pleas of NFF officials to vacate the hotel where they had stayed put in protest, due to past actions and failures to keep to promises and assurances in similar situations in the past.
“Has it become a crime to make your country proud? What makes it more painful is the fact that the Cameroonian girls, who finished second were celebrated by their President. What would have happened if the girls had refused to leave Cameroon and carry out the protests on the streets of that country?” Omidiran queried.
Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Chukwuka Onyeama said it would have been better if Nigeria had simply declined participation in the tournament, instead of the national disgrace.
He told the House that Nigeria would have been saved the disgrace caused by the non payment of their allowances by simply declining to participate in the championship.
“This a major disgrace and I don’t know how to explain it,” Onyeama said.
Hon. Mohammed Nur-Sheriff (Borno APC) lamented that Nigeria’s sports ministry contains more rot than is evident.
Nur-Sherrif who was a former president of Cycling Federation of Nigeria revealed that there was more rot in the sports ministry than Nigerians knew and noted that the sports velodrome built for the 8th All Africa Games in Abuja in 2003, gulped billions of Naira yet has been converted into a warehouse.
“The ministry now stores gas cylinders inside the velodrome. This facility is the biggest of its kind in Africa. Even the one in South Africa is not as big as what we have in Abuja. But, go there today, you will be alarmed. It is now a warehouse,” he said.
Meanwhile, the embattled NFF has expressed heartfelt appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for directing that players and officials of the Super Falcons be paid within days, following the team’s protest at the Three Arms Zone on Wednesday.
“We are grateful to the Presidency for the prompt action, and we believe this will put the minds of the players at rest. It has been a very difficult time for the NFF; no official of the Federation was happy that the players and officials could not be paid their entitlements immediately after the tournament.
“It is not as if the Federation did not plan to pay the players and officials their entitlements. The NFF expected some money from a number of sources but this did not work out. They are champions and deserve to be treated as such; there are no doubts about that,” NFF’s Director of Communications, Ademola Olajire, said in a press statement yesterday.
Olajire also stated that there was no time the NFF directed that the players should be ejected from their Agura Hotel, and decried claims that no official went to see the players at the hotel.
“Before the team played South Africa in the semi finals, the NFF reached out to some sources and raised money to pay each player the sum of N500,000. The NFF President was on the tarmac of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos to receive the team and celebrated with them on arrival, impressed it on NFF partner Emzor to host the ladies to lunch and the company gave the team the sum of N1.6million.
“On arrival in Abuja, the team was received by the NFF General Secretary, Head of Protocol, Head of Women’s Football and the CEO of Jedo (a private organization), Dr. Aliyu Oroje Wammako. The NFF impressed it on the management of Agura Hotel to ensure the comfort of the players and officials while the Federation went about trying to raise money to pay their entitlements.”