Nigeria’s Pinnick is next in line to run African football; can he clean it up?
From staunch allies of Sepp Blatter, to pocketing money earmarked for development, will African football get the leadership it deserves?
The suave chairperson of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick is next in line to run the Confederation of African Football (CAF) while his predecessor Ahmad Ahmad answers to bribery and sexual harassment charges.
French police arrested the 59-year-old Ahmad in his Paris hotel room on Thursday, and released him the following day.
However, the next man at the helm of African football, 46-year-old Pinnick is also facing a string of allegations:
- Criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, and misappropriation in a $9.5m FIFA grant, earmarked for Nigeria’s football development
- Misappropriation of $8,400 in attendance fees at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia
- Bribing officials to become NFF president
Pinnick defends himself, saying the critics were misinformed.
For example, the reason why he forfeited housing allowances “is not because I have too much money, but simply following my passion. So when I hear people say NFF board members are corrupt I wonder where the corruption is coming from,” Pinnick told reporters last month.
Experts say top level football is open to corruption because of easy money.
- “Time and again, we have seen powerful figures in football seemingly unable to resist the temptation of dipping their hands into the cookie jar. African and Caribbean officials particularly,” said Biola Kazeem, TV football pundit and chief executive of Elev8, a Lagos-based sports media and marketing firm.
The ousting of his Ahmad’s predecessor Issa Hayatou came after he lost his bid to get an eighth term in 2017. The Cameroonian was a longtime administrator for three decades, co-incidentally like his compatriot President Paul Biya, who has been head of state since 1982.
Hayatou’s loss and a subsequent exit from FIFA’s ruling council, ended a scandal-ridden era for football. He was never convicted for any of the many allegations cast his way.
- He is currently in court as the subject of a $27.9m fine by the Egyptian Economic Court (EEC) for a billion-dollar deal with French media company Lagardere, that failed to get a proper tender.
- A staunch ally of former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, he was one of 22 men involved in the controversial vote that cemented Qatar’s position as hosts of the 2022 World Cup. That incident triggered Blatter’s removal and a major shakeup that shook up world football.
More shaking up may be in order.
Bottom line: With easy millions in reach and few global checks in place, football corruption is hard to uproot.