By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Attempts to drag the Presidency to rubbish the lofty gains made by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) under the watch of Amaju Pinnick fell flat yesterday as the Presidency in Abuja denied any directive for the arrest and prosecution of the NFF chief.
A section of the sporting media had reported at the weekend that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed security agencies to arrest and prosecute Pinnick on allegations of bogus fraud at the Glass House running into billions of Naira.
But in a swift response to the spurious news in circulation, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, insisted last night that it was nothing but fake news.
A statement by the Presidency warned those dropping the name of President Buhari in the allegation to desist from such.
The statement read, “A press release in circulation in the last 24 hours, to the effect that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the arrest and prosecution of Amaju Pinnick, the NFF Chairman, is fake news because anyone familiar with the President’s unmitigated and unshakable commitment to the due processes of the law will not make such assumptions of the President.
“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.
He warned those who are seeking to influence any investigation (if ever there is any) to desist from such.
“At the same time, nobody should drop names to seek to influence the course of those investigations.”
Earlier on Saturday, the NFF has described the news as outright falsehood, stressing that there was no such order from the Presidency.
It also dismissed the so-called travel ban on Pinnick as part of the fake news from those who do not wish Nigeria football well.
“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.
“The report is completely unfounded and is only a product of the writer’s imagination. The NFF President, who is also the 1st Vice President of the Confederation of African Football, has not received any such message from any of the agencies mentioned by the writer and has also never been placed on travel ban.
“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. The NFF published its audited account in two major national newspapers (THISDAY and Daily Trust) on Thursday, 20th December 2018 and in another major newspaper (Vanguard) on Tuesday, 25th December 2018. Anyone interested in the Federation’s financial transactions can refer to those pages.
“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. The NFF received nothing like the N59 Billion that the fake news reporters have been hawking. It is laughable.
“Before appointment into FIFA committees, Mr. Amaju and the two Nigerians in there passed rigorous integrity and eligibility tests. FIFA and CAF have not reported to anyone that their money is missing, and both organizations have been doing auditing of monies given to the NFF. Two years ago, FIFA handed the NFF a clean bill of health on financial management. Our accounts are audited by the same company that audits FIFA-PriceWaterHouse Coopers.
“Our lawyers will take up the matter of the fake news item with the newspaper company that first published it in its online edition. But 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 its another attempt by the mob against the NFF to tarnish the image of the Federation and its leadership for whatever gains,” concludes the statement.