Nigeria’s soccer team players run with balls during a training session AFP/Getty Images/ JEWEL SAMAD
FG has no money to pay them now, says Lai Mohammed
Members of the victorious Super Falcons held back their plan of taking their protest to the doorsteps of President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, following the intervention of the Senate Committee on Sports. But for the fifth day, the players refused to vacate their rooms at Agura Hotel in Abuja in protest over non-payment of their camp allowances, match bonuses and nine months salaries for their coaches.
However, the players’ dream of getting any positive result from the Presidency was dashed yesterday when the Minister for Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, said the government has no money to pay the players and their officials.
The minister, who fielded questions from State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting (FEC) on why government has yet to settle the footballers, attributed the development to the current economic recession in the country.
The Guardian learnt that the players had planned to storm the Presidential villa with various placards yesterday morning to register their grievances to President Buhari, but were prevented from carrying out the plan by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Sports, Senator Obinna Ogba.
The players claim they are being owned over N238.05 accumulated bonuses. Camp allowances and match bonuses for the 23 players, excluding coaches and other backroom officials throughout the duration of the 10th African Women Nations Cup in Cameroon is said to be in the range of $25,000 (about N11.25 million).
One of the players, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday from the Agura Hotel in Abuja said: “On Tuesday evening, Senator Obinna Ogba called us to say that he was already aware of what we are passing through. He told us to be patient and that he will hold a meeting with other key members of the Senate Committee on Sports on Wednesday and get back to us in the evening. We have to respect him and that was why we decided to hold back our plan of taking the protest to the Presidential Villa.”
Another player claimed yesterday that they heard the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, has ‘abandoned’ them for a trip to London.“You can see that these people don’t really care about us. We just heard now that Amaju has travelled to London. To do what when we are suffering here?”
Lai Muhammaed said yesterday: ”Over time, it has become tradition to reward victorious athletes of sports persons but I think this is caused by the biting economic situation.”
The minister, however, noted that the girls’ demand for payment of their bonuses was germane, just as he disclosed that the matter was raised by the Minister for Sports, Solomon Dalung, for consideration at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The issue was raised by the Minister of Youths and Sport today and I think its being looked into. You see over time, this thing has become a tradition to reward our victorious athletes and sport persons.
“But I think its the biting economic situation, but I am sure it is being looked into by the Ministry of Sports… so truly it was reported under other matters at the council meeting,” he said.