Sports minister Solomon Dalung has incurred the wrath of the Nigeria Football Federation for blaming the NFF for the Super Falcons’ protest against the non-payment of their entitlements after winning the Cameroon 2016 African Women’s Cup of Nations in Yaounde on Saturday.
Nigeria defeated hosts Cameroon 1-0 in the final to win the title for the eighth time.
The 23 players, who are reportedly being owed $25,000 each being win bonuses and camp allowances by the NFF, seized the AWCON trophy and have refused to leave their Abuja hotel to press home their demands.
The Federal Government stepped in by assuring the team that they would be paid after the players threatened to march through Abuja streets to “embarrass” the country.
But the players are insistent on getting their money.
The NFF has a frosty relationship with Dalung and the latest salvo from the minister is set to ignite a clash that could potentially boil over as the Falcons’ protest persists.
Dalung, who spoke to reporters in Abuja on Thursday, insisted the protest would have been avoided if the NFF had submitted its fund request for the tournament to his office early.
The minister also accused the national football body of poor planning ahead of the championship.
Dalung said, “I think it is a complex situation but the entire governance of football deserves an urgent surgery. If that surgery is not done, we will always live with the embarrassment.”
But our correspondent learnt that the NFF leadership is not happy with the minister’s outburst and had been planning and strategising on how best to defend the federation.
“The Minister of Information (Lai Mohammed) has explained why the players have not been paid their allowances and bonuses. Why is the minister (Dalung) blaming us,” an official of the NFF, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent on Thursday.
“The minister is not being fair on the NFF; it’s not true that we delayed in submitting our fund request to his office.
“We are not happy – and we will defend ourselves because we don’t want Nigerians to hold us responsible for a problem we didn’t create.”
Another official of the federation, who also pleaded anonymity, said, “There was nothing the minister could have done if we had submitted our request a year before the competition. The economic recession in the country is responsible for what the NFF is currently going through.
“No ministry has received any allocation since June so what is he (minister) talking about?”
Spokesman for the NFF, Ademola Olajire, who declined comments on Dalung’s outburst, said the players would be paid once the federation receives money from the government.
He said, “The minister and the General Secretary of the federation (Mohammed Sanusi) met with the players today (Thursday) and I believe the issue will be resolved.”