Solomon Dalung, minister of sports, says the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) would have applied to the sports ministry for funds early enough if anyone knew the Super Falcons would win the African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON), which ended in Cameroon at the weekend.
The Nigerian women defeated hosts Cameroon on Sunday to win the tournament for a record eighth out of 10, but they have yet to receive their allowances.
They have consequently refused to vacate their hotel premises in Abuja, and have vowed never to release the trophy to the federation until their bonuses are paid.
Asked on Thursday by state house correspondents to react to the embarrassing development, Dalung said the team’s victory was unexpected.
“It is unfortunate that we are celebrating victory of the Super Falcons amidst some bitter feelings among the players because of some administrative lapses that were not managed properly,” he said.
“If the situation was explained to these girls, I don’t think it would have gotten to this level. But we are working round to clock to ensure that what belongs to them legitimately is given to them. This has to do with government process.
“One thing I always make clear is that the process of request for funds for sporting projects must come earlier to meet the objectives. Don’t forget that nobody even knew the team would emerge victorious; if we were confident they will emerge victorious, all the federation would have done is to plan for process of participation and entitlement.
“It is already established in sports tradition; when you win, this is what you are entitled to. The situation is highly unfortunate and I don’t like it. These girls have given confidence to women who want to embrace sports but this will go a long way in killing this laudable achievement. It is unfortunate but we will make sure the right thing is done.”
He admitted that the situation was really complex, because the team’s coaches were also being owed backlog of salaries.
“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. I’m talking about the governance of football administration in Nigeria,” he said.
“The excuse of non-interference according to FIFA rule has been used to harass and intimidate government. But now that the government is being embarrassed by the activities, I don’t see anybody talking about interference.
“They use it to scandalise the government so the man who is at the receiving end has the responsibility to ensure that things must be done right so we must take steps to ensure that money meant for athletes get to them on time as and when due.”