SportsSiasia’s Altercation with Sports Ministry

Siasia’s Altercation with Sports Ministry

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July 04, (THEWILL) – In August 2019, Nigeria’s most decorated Olympian football manager, Samson Siasia, was handed the maximum punishment for the alleged crime of agreeing to “receive bribes in relation to the manipulation of matches” according to the conclusion of investigations carried out by world football governing body FIFA.

In his managerial career, the ex-Super Eagles midfielder, who had spells coaching the national side, the first between 2010-2011 and for a period in 2016 while also serving the country as coach of the Under-20 and Under-23 sides, with whom he recorded successes at the Olympics, faced the end of what was a career that still had years ahead of it.

The statement that contained the decision of FIFA read: “The Ethics Committee has found Mr Siasia, a former official of the Nigeria Football Federation, guilty of having accepted that he would receive bribes in relation to the manipulation of matches in violation of the Fifa Code of Ethics.”

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The implication was clearly stated. Siasia was effectively banned “for life from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level. In addition, a fine in the sum of CHF 50,000 (US$50,000) has been imposed on Mr Siasia.” All of this stemmed from the “large-scale investigation” that FIFA conducted into the behaviour of convicted Singaporean match fixer, Wilson Raj Perumal.

The ban enlisted the then 52-year-old football administrator as FIFA’s third banned personality on the continent associated with the Perumal investigations. Prior to the hammer that FIFA slammed in Siasia’s case, Abu Bakarr Kabba, the former Sierra Leone FA official and Mooketsi Kgotlele, another former FA official but in Botswana, had both been duly suspended in July of the same year.

The judgments for all three differed. While Sierra Leone’s Kabba got a five-year ban for his involvement, Botswanan Kgotlele and Nigeria’s Siasia were hit with the maximum sentence of a life ban. To further worsen Siasia’s case, he was fined the sum included in the statement announcing his punishment for the bribery accusation.

The veteran Super Eagles star and Nigerian international, capped in excess of 50 times for his country, out of which he scored 16 goals from his position in the midfield, vehemently insisted on his innocence. His position was as clear as his determination to fight to clear his name.

Although he was short of the financial outlay to prosecute an elaborate and robust defense of himself, the player who won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria, adamantly refuted the charges levelled against him and entrusted the legal redress of the ban in the hands of his lawyers, who immediately set out to study the FIFA ruling in a bid to address the charges in an appeal.

In a public statement at the time, THEWILL reported that Siasia did not mince words when he said FIFA was frustrating his efforts to clear his reputation of their embarrassing accusations and that was because they did not possess proof to back their claims that he indulged in the allegations levelled against him. That was what made him so confident that he had a strong case and that he had instructed his legal representatives in this matter.

He added, “I want the world to know that rather than correct itself now that FIFA knows of the strength of my appeal and the evidence given thus far to prove that I could not have committed the alleged offences of match fixing and bribery, FIFA continues to spread false allegations that I was involved with the match fixer without any shred of evidence and has continued to do so because it knows there is no compensation claim.”

In September, Siasia revealed that he had formally began his process of appealing against FIFA’s ban, telling the press that his lawyers filed the appeal to FIFA on August 27, while another appeal was filed with the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) on August 29, 2019.

Siasia made another impassioned claim of his innocence with these words, “In all my career, I have done nothing but serve my country and clubs to the best of my personal and professional ability, with all my strength and might, with discipline, pride and passion and an awareness that it is a privilege to be an ambassador of our great nation.”

All he asked for was the support of the nation he had served dutifully and with patriotism especially at a time he was troubled on two fronts. He expressed this when he added: “It is my greatest hope and belief that my country also stands by and with me at a time like this. I am still dealing with the pains and challenges of my mother being kidnapped again and fighting to secure her release. I urge the nation to support me with prayers, goodwill and support of all kind. The demands are very heavy,”

This is the background to the recent brickbats being exchanged in the ongoing altercation between the 53-year-old and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development with a string of accusations and counter-accusations bedevilling the relations between Siasia and the Honourable Minister in the Ministry, Sunday Dare couched in finger-pointing.

It all erupted after Siasia’s appeal was favourably considered by CAS and he was granted reprieve. As THEWILL reported on Monday, June 21, CAS reduced to five years the life ban imposed on the manager, stating that they found: “the imposition of a life ban to be disproportionate for a first offence which was committed passively and which had not had an adverse or immediate effect on football stakeholders.” CAS also struck off the fine against him.

After an initial reticence immediately following the CAS reversal, Siasia held a press conference in Abuja on Friday, June 25 where he opened a can of worms with the disclosure of having been left to fend for himself, without the support of the government of his own country after all he had done and was still doing until the 2019 ban. He claimed the response he got when he met Dare after the ban was not helpful. In his words, “all the Minister could say was that there was no money.”

However, Dare, did not welcome the accusation. He insisted that Siasia received some money, the details of which still existed. He was quoted as saying: “Siasia is not telling the truth and the ministry and the government will come out with the facts of the cash he collected and the efforts we made. He is not telling the truth.”

In a formal statement released from the office of the Minister to counter Siasia’s account of events, the official explanation states: “The Minister stayed on top of the case by pulling all strings to assist Siasia. In addition to the governors of Edo, Delta, and Lagos, he made an appeal to the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, the Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi. In another instance, the Minister took Siasia on a visit to the then Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson to appeal for support for him.

“Siasia’s claim that government did nothing to assist him is untrue, deceitful, and misleading. While there are no budgetary provisions for such incidents, the ministry and the Office of the Minister gave Siasia all the support that led to the mitigation of his life ban from football-related activities.”

That did not stop Siasia from initially staying adamant in his claim that there is no proof in the statements of financial outlay from the Minister. The former Under-23 team manager, whose Olympic teams won silver and bronze representing Nigeria, challenged Dare, whom he referred to as “a nice guy” to provide evidence.

“I met him a week after he assumed office and he said they didn’t have money, so I went to Femi Adesina (Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity) and he sent me back to the Sports Minister. I told Adesina that I came to see the President (Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)), to see if he could talk to Dare to help me, but he said I should go back to the Minister. I have letters to that effect. I’m not saying he (Dare) did not do his best, I only said he could not help me because he just assumed office.

“If he has any proof that the Federal Government helped me, they should bring it out. Nobody is hiding anything here. I’m just disappointed they did not do anything. Private sector and some governors did, but ask Dare what did the FG do for me? He made effort to talk to people and that was it. Through him, I texted someone and he gave me money. Maybe that’s the help he is talking about. But it is not the government but an individual. I have nothing against the Minister, but if he has proof of where the government gave me money, he should come out with it.”

This initially claim of having received no financial support of any sort has recently been revised by the Siasia, perhaps after time has helped to jog his memory or perhaps after seeing some evidence to counter his earlier claims. In an admission to some media outlets, Siasia changed a portion of his stance to now claim instead that while some money reached him from Lagos State, through the intermediation of the Minister, he still insists nothing came from the FG.

He said: “I don’t have any problem with the Minister. He is a nice man, he listened to me and tried to help out. He helped me talk to the Lagos State government which gave me $5,000. If the Ministry gave me anything more than that, they should show me proof. Where did they help me with $40,000?

“I understand, the Ministry does not have money and that’s the truth. I am not saying that Dare didn’t help me. I said the federal government should have helped out because I don’t have that resource to fight FIFA. I wanted the government to help me and that was it, I don’t want people to see it as if I’m quarreling with the Minister.

The fact that he got something from the a State through the middle-man function of Dare, in his capacity as Sports Minister, lays credence to some claims of the Minister. This did not factor in Siasia’s earlier country-claims until recently. There may be more that clears up with time and this points to the fact that Siasia may remember other avenues that money came in through the Minister.

It may also be that, in reality, that was all far as it went with aid from elsewhere and he had to take care of himself on his own.

Time will tell which it is but what is clear at the moment is that, obviously, the last has not been heard of the accusations and counter-accusations with the truth not being known for the time being. However, the availability of proof and evidence may well be the next stage that the drama goes with the possibility of a twist in the story.

About the Author

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Jude Obafemi is a versatile senior Correspondent at THEWILL Newspapers, excelling in sourcing, researching, and delivering sports news stories for both print and digital publications.

Jude Obafemi, THEWILLhttps://thewillnews.com
Jude Obafemi is a versatile senior Correspondent at THEWILL Newspapers, excelling in sourcing, researching, and delivering sports news stories for both print and digital publications.

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