Human rights lawyer, Mr. Bamidele Aturu has called on the federal government to probe the alleged use of over-aged players in the just concluded FIFA Under-17 football tournament which the country hosted.
Aturu said to claim ignorance of the allegation, would be an unpardonable act of insensitivity on the part of the government, adding that the purpose of the probe “would be to get to the root of the matter and fish out for instant prosecution and eventual punishment whoever among the officials might be remotely connected with age falsification, if found to be true.”
He urged the Federal Executive Council not to treat the demand for probe with levity, “otherwise coalitions of Nigerians against corruption and cheating in sports will constantly put this matter in the front burner of public discourse.”
He argued that many Nigerians were shocked when the allegation first made the rounds, saying that rather than investigate the authenticity or otherwise of the claim, the country’s sports officials resorted, to castigating and maligning the patriot who volunteered the information.
Noting that this attitude showed that sports officials had information that was shielded from the public domain. The human rights activist said whatever such information might be, now that the competition was over it was time to declassify it.
He said if the information was to the effect that the boys were within the FIFA age-range for the tournament there would no longer be any problem but that if the information confirmed the allegation, then sports officials might have explanations to make.
“Our government is directly charged with the superintendence of sports development in the country. It certainly must be aware of the allegation serially and comprehensively published in the media that some of the players fielded by Nigeria in the just concluded FIFA Under-17 football championship were overage at the time of the competition.”
“The time has come for all Nigerians who are interested in the growth of football in this country and who derive enormous pleasure from watching the game to demand that the government which advertises itself as a great defender of the rule of law and prosecutor of the war against corruption cause a commission of Inquiry or Judicial Panel to be instituted as soon as possible into the allegation that we fielded overage players for the championship in question.
“The purpose would be to get to the root of matter and fish out for instant prosecution and eventual punishment whoever might be remotely connected with age falsification, if any, among the officials in particular.
“Many Nigerians lost interest in the championship immediately the allegation emerged. Silence on the part of the Sports Ministry and the NFF at that point was not golden but exasperating. It makes no sense issuing a declaration as I understand has been done that all members of the team automatically move to the Under 20 team when there is a question mark on their ages.
“How are we sure that these boys should not be drafted into the senior National team? Certainly, we cannot run sports this way and claim that we are serious a whit.
“The Federal Executive Council should not treat the demand for probe with levity, otherwise coalitions of Nigerians who hate corruption and cheating in sports will constantly put this matter in the front burner of public discourse.
“On the face of it, it appears that certain infringements of our penal codes have been committed by sports administrators that may justify the intervention of anti-corruption agencies. Before we get to that bridge government should seize the opportunity of the call for probe to act administratively and fast.
“Let no one be mistaken, this demand will not be abandoned until something is done. Cheating in sports is but a variant of corruption. It is wishful thinking to expect those who cheat in sports not to steal public funds. This is why this demand will be pursued with vigour.
Source: Thisday Online
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