Friday, March 27, 2009

Only $200,000 Missing

THE furore over $200,000 missing from the coffers of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, shows Nigerians still take accountability serious and expect governments and their agencies reflect this expectation in their conducts. No matter the exchange rate, $200,000 is not be the type of money you keep in an office safe, even if it is one that is now made to look impregnable. The money is lost, it would be another wonder if any part of it is recovered.

The police have been invited, suspects have made useful statements, and the NFF has kept assuring Nigerians that the theft would not affect the preparations for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Mozambique. Suppose it does?

Nigerians may have shown tremendous interest in the game against Mozambique but it has no link whatsoever to a theft that should land some people in jail, if we were a little more serious.

Who decided to put that type of money in an office safe? Under what financial procedure was it possible to lock up $200,000 in an office? What happened to the banks? In today’s world with all the financial management ease it offers, does anyone have to lug $200,000, and supposedly all the way to Mozambique?

The main suspects are those who approved the withdrawal of the money. Other suspects would include those who decided to leave it in the office, as seems to have been the practice over the years. They provided the opportunity for the theft, it does not matter what their motive was.

In February 2001, Mallam Yussif Issah, Ghana’s Sports Minister lost US$46,000 meant for bonus of the Black Stars in a World Cup tie in Sudan. By July 2001, Justice Julius Ansah of an Accra High Court sentenced him to four years imprisonment with hard labour. He was to refund the money, pay a fine of 1,000 pounds sterling, or serve an additional year if he could not pay the fine within a month. He was charged for, “stealing the money, and fraudulently causing the loss of the money to the State”.

At current exchange rates, $200,000 is N29.5 million. It is a lot of money. The NFF depends almost entirely on public funds.

It is important that the investigations are handled well, not just to recover the missing funds, but to assist the NFF to adopt modern financial management systems to save Nigerians from further embarrassments.

The way the matter has been treated clearly shows “only $200,000” is missing. It could have been more and we would have still endured the refrain that the loss would not “adversely affect the game in Mozambique”.

NFF needs help if it is to be weaned from this manner of operation. The national economic crunch is a good opportunity to make NFF manage public funds with seriousness.

If this money is not recovered, NFF would draw another $200,000 from the public to meet the same expenses. Such waste is unacceptable and must be punished.