Dark clouds have swirled around how the N244m television broadcast rights money was handled by some officials of Nigerian football.
The broadcast rights money, which was meant for clubs in the topflight league for three seasons – 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15 – was lodged with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission by the rights holder, Total Promotions Limited, on June 23, 2016, after a players’ union, the National Association of Nigerian Footballers, petitioned the EFCC, claiming that the money had been looted by Total Promotions.
Our findings show that the money was paid into the Nigeria Football League Limited Zenith Bank Wuse Zone 3, Abuja account number 1011040216 by the EFCC in November 2016.
But Esther Adesuyi, ex-NFLL accounts clerk and Signatory B to the league body’s account, told our correspondent at the NFLL headquarters in Garki II, Abuja, on January 19, that the money was transferred to the account of the Club Owners Association, a body not mentioned in the Articles and Memorandum of the NFLL, by she and ex-NFLL secretary, Tunji Babalola, who is also Signatory A to the NFLL account.
“What I know is that Babalola is one of the signatories to the NFLL (account). I know that Total Promotions owes us some money; N344m and the man (Chief Niyi Alonge, Total Promotions MD) paid N244m. And Tunji with some others, Rumson Baribote, Harrison Jalla and Danladi Isaac were in Lagos to discuss how to collect the money. I was not there when the money was paid until Babalola came with the Zenith Bank draft and said I should assist him in paying the money into the account and we used his name as the depositor,” Adesuyi stated.
“Later, Tunji said we had to move the money from our (NFLL) account to the club owners’ account because they are the only people existing right now. There is no (NFLL) board, no chairman. They (EFCC) asked Tunji, ‘who are the beneficiaries? Is it the Nigeria Football League? And who are we going to pay the money to?’ They said it should be paid to NFLL but the people that will oversee the money are the club owners. That’s why we had to transfer the money to the club owners’ account.”
When our correspondent asked Adesuyi who were the members of the club owners involved in the transfer, she added, “Isaac Danladi (Nasarawa United chairman), Aloy Chukwuemeka (ABS FC general manager), Jude (Anyadufu) and Dominic Iorfa.”
Baribote was elected the NFLL chairman on September 14, 2011. But the congress of the NFLL clubs impeached his board on December 11, 2012 and mandated the Nigeria Football Federation to set up a committee to manage the league in the interim pending new elections, which led to the emergence of a 13-man League Management Committee to supervise the league. Ever since, the LMC (now known as the League Management Company) has been in charge of the affairs of the league.
Babalola, a member of Baribote’s impeached board, admitted that he had ceased to be the secretary of the NFLL after the emergence of the LMC.
He said, “There was crisis before now and the league is presently managed by the LMC, so how can I say I’m in charge of the league? Which league am I running? I can’t claim to be secretary now.”
The new manager of the league, LMC, has an account, but when our correspondent quizzed Babalola on why the N244m was not transferred to their (LMC) account, he said he acted on the directive of the clubs.
“I don’t want to talk on that (money being transferred to LMC) for personal reasons but I’m not the one that gave the money to the club owners. Call the club owners and ask them how they got the money. I didn’t release the money. If they appoint me as a Signatory A, there must be a directive before I can do anything. The clubs must give me a directive; I can’t act on my own. It’s very clear.
“The money was released to them (clubs). The (NFLL) board is accountable to the clubs and if the board is not in place, the clubs take over the management.”
However, Nasarawa United boss Danladi declined to comment on how the money was shared or spent, saying he had presented to the EFCC, details on how the club owners used the money.
Baribote also refused to comment on the issue. “I don’t want to talk. If (the) EFCC and the police invite me, I will go but I won’t talk to you about the money,” he said.