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JUST IN: FG begins investigation on $2.7m Puma athletes’ kit deal cancellation

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

Following German sportswear manufacturer, Puma’s termination of sponsorship deal worth over $2 million, the Federal Government has ordered an immediate investigation into the four-year sponsoring and licensing deal between the apparel manufacturer and Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), as well as the disqualification of 10 athletes from the Tokyo Olympics over out-of-competition testing.

The apex government said that the move was to prevent future occurrences particularly the World Athletes competition scheduled for next year in United State (US) and to unravel those behind issues that affected the performance of the Nigerian contingents at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan.

Announcing the commencement investigations into the issues, Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, who appealed to Nigerians for the drama that had been unfolding recently, described the Puma deal as unfortunate and stressed that the investigations would help unearth truth surrounding the deal.

Dare noted that the deal was not sanctioned by the government as stipulated by the guideline governing the AFN operations and that the only kit approved by the Ministry prior to the tournament was that reached with a local manufacturer in harmony with President Buhari’s policy on local content policy, that ensured each athlete was kitted with a 9-item backpack.

While noting that the sports federations were poorly managed previously which was why some stakeholders’ were against reforms which were reasons for the confrontations witnessed, the minister stated details would have been given but because some matters were before the court.

“Following from the above, the issue relating to the competition wears vis a vis the alleged arrangement with Puma is most unfortunate. I have demanded a proper investigation into this matter. Such an inquiry will unearth the truth about how some people tried to sabotage Nigeria’s participation and undermine the country and our Olympic athletes.

“Before any federation which is a component of Team Nigeria however wears any brand, it must refer to the Ministry and the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) for clearance and approval. The Ministry and NOC must be fully aware of the contract details by the Federation to protect the rights and freedoms of the athletes and ensure Nigeria’s interests are protected.

“In this situation, the Ministry wishes to state that the contractual arrangement between AFN and Puma prior to the Olympic Games has generated a lot of controversy between the former President of the Federation and the former Board members. I will not want to go into too much details on this issue because it is sub judice. Suffice it to say that the Ministry was not part of the agreement”, he added. 

The minister further blamed the AFN for shortages of kits that resulted in shotput athlete, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi’s wash-and-wear video became a subject of controversy globally, saying the Tik Tok video on the issue was an attempt to create a media frenzy to embarrass Nigeria by the federations.

According to him, the quantity of competition wears given to each athlete is the decision of the particular federation. No complaints came to my notice until the Tik Tok Video posted by one of the athletes went viral. We Immediately stepped in to manage the situation. The Federation involved has been directed to provide a detailed explanation about the kit.
“As the Minister I must bear some institutional responsibility for this lapse.  I also had to depend and expect that each person in the long and often technical chain will perform their role expeditiously and with precision. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, someone failed in their responsibility and as Minister I bear the responsibility and brunt of criticsm.  But that is not enough. I must move to ensure that Nigeria never experiences another such moment. I have ordered a full investigation that will not only uncover what happened but will also, recommend a process where such lapses can never occur in the future and initiate leveraging compliance monitoring technology to guardrail this.
“I have personally apologized to the affected athletes. Here and now, I personally apologize to all Nigerians for this ineligibility episode. The AFN has also taken responsibility and apologized to the athletes and to Nigerians.
“Already, a new Medical and Anti-Doping Commission has been set up to establish a foolproof system of testing and ensure Nigeria exits the A Categorization by WADA. Also, Blessing Okagbare remains one of our best athletes who has served Nigeria well. We emphatize with her. Nigeria will monitor closely developments around her temporary suspension and appeal.

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