The House of Representatives member opens up to Goal in an exclusive about the financial row that almost threatened to spoil Nigeria’s trip to the Confederations Cup last week
Chairman House of Representatives Committee Chairman, Honourable Godfrey Gaiya has absolved the Super Eagles of any blame in the show of shame that Nigeria was subjected to in Windhoek, Namibia when the players refused to board the arranged flight to Rio de Janeiro via South Africa.
The legislator who has been a passionate football lover was very blunt when he told Goal that the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation did not put the players and their interests in the true picture of the financial issues relating to the two World Cup qualifying matches played against Kenya and Namibia last week. He then narrated in full what went wrong and how Senate President David Mark rescued the situation.
"Let me say it the way it happened. Good enough I was in Kenya, I actually paid my way into Kenya and later to Namibia for the two important 2014 World Cup qualifiers. I was there in Namibia when the issue of players’ revolt against non-payment of their bonuses came up but none of us were put in the picture. I was in Namibia with the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Sports (Senator Adamu Gumba) with the two other members of the House Committee on Sports,” said Gaiya.
“Up till the time we got to the airport neither me nor the Senate Committee Chairman on Sports knew there was an impending issue on payment of players' bonuses. Yes let us agree that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has the powers to determine the bonuses of the players. Let us also accept that it is within the powers of the NFF to streamline and downsize where there is a need to do so.
"The issue here is that if there was the need for the NFF to either downsize their staff or to reduce the bonuses of players.
"Two things should have been done which are - consulting those of us who are from the other side, we have the powers to make appropriation. Whatever kobo the NFF is spending has to come through the National Assembly. At no time were we told that they had issues to do with finance.
"There is no paper as I am talking to you now that has come to the House (of Representatives) to even tell us that they have downsized or that they have reduced the bonuses of the players. We never knew about it and we have never been consulted.
"You see it takes two to tango. It is the right of the players to be carried along when issues to do with their welfare is to be considered. I want to say here that the NFF should have taken the players into confidence and some form of negotiations as regards the major reasons for slashing the $10,000 winning bonus to $5,000. None of us were told formally that the allowances or bonuses of the players were slashed.
"I paid my way to Namibia like I did to Kenya to also be with the team. Part of my reasons for being there is also to ensure all is well with the team but surprisingly I wasn't informed that the players rejected the bonuses.
"We were with the Nigerian Ambassador to Namibia at Windhoek nobody disclosed this bonus issue where we could have thrashed the matter and resolved it amicably there not until we got to the (Namibian) airport when the players refused to connect their flight to Rio de Janeiro until their full and correct bonuses were paid. I had already connected to Nairobi but thank God the Chairman Senate Committee on Sports immediately became the middle man.
"Senator Gumba had to call the Senate President to inform him of the bonus row. The Senate President immediately got in touch with President Goodluck Jonathan who agreed that he was going to make up (for the remaining balance of the bonuses).
"It was from there the Senate President arranged for the Sports Minister to see Mr President who ordered that the Minister should go back and work out the shortcoming (the remaining balance). The money was eventually wired to the team from the Presidency.
Goal also gathered that the Eagles were later paid the sum of $10,000 each for beating Kenya 1-0 in Nairobi and $5,000 each for the 1-1 draw they got against Namibia in Windhoek.
Gaiya also revealed to Goal that the players acted the way did to prevent the NFF from paying them same reduced bonus for the Confederations Cup since they are aware that Globacom is sponsoring Nigeria to the competition and each player knows that they are entitled to nothing less than $10,000 each for matches that would be played at the Confederations Cup that commenced in Brazil on Saturday.
"Two issues are very apparent here, the players know that the Confederations Cup in Brazil is being sponsored and the sponsor has already agreed to pay them per win. Even if the NFF has done whatever within their capacity they ought to have assured and re-assured the players that whatever they are doing has nothing to do with what they stand to receive as allowances and bonuses for the Confederations Cup. So the players were scared stiff of being short changed.
"This action shows that there was no transparency, no openness in communication and thirdly nobody was carried along in what the NFF was doing.
"So for the Confederations Cup, Globacom is catering for the entire needs of the Super Eagles including ticketing for travelling to and fro venue of the competition, bonuses and allowances. The reason being that the competition although is being rated by FIFA but not in the normal calendar of FIFA. All nations participating are expected to have a sponsor. So in Nigeria's case Globacom is catering for everything and the Federal Government through the National Sports Commission is not expected to spend a kobo," Gaiya opened up.