The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, on April 29, 2020, announced the release of N11 million to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on athletes.
He said the money will be paid into accounts of Nigerian athletes under the title ‘Athletes Relief Fund (ARF).’
However, an allegation of misappropriation of the COVID-19 palliative fund has been raised.
Former hurdler, Moses Orodo Oyiki, who represented Nigeria at Atlanta ’96 Olympics, alleged that there was a lack of fairness and transparency in the list of beneficiaries.
“What was a fantastic and commendable exercise from the Honourable Minister for Youth & Sports Development is receiving opprobrious remarks from some quarters because of the secrecy that shrouded the list of beneficiaries, the number of beneficiaries, and how these beneficiaries were selected,” Oyiki told The Guardian.
Oyiki added: “I understand 50 athletes benefited. Himah Charles (Athletes Representative on the board of AFN) and Mary Onyali (Special Assistant to the Sports Minister) unfortunately allowed their human flaws and frailties to influence the list with such a disastrous consequence.
“I do not think it is out of place to tell members of the athletics family how many of its members benefited from the Minister’s Covid-19 palliatives. In a competitive sport like ours, do not expect any act or omission to pass without a response, remark or criticism from athletes and other stakeholders,” he stated.
Oyiki continued: “I understand that two well-meaning Nigerians donated N1 million and N10 million respectively as Covid-19 palliatives to the ‘supposed 2020 Tokyo Olympics bound athletes.’ The minister’s relief fund was therefore not meant for ‘all-comers’. This was why it is still imperative that a list of those athletes is published.
“It would appear Himah Charles had knowledge of the list and the donations. He said more than 40 athletes benefited and they were paid N50,000 each. This is about N2 million from the N11 million pot. I understand Onyali played a major role in the compilation and the AFN board members, especially the president, were involved at the last minute with minimal or no contribution at all.”
Reacting to the allegation, Charles Himah, Athletes Representative on AFN board, said he was involved in the initial compilation of the list, but was left in the dark since April 16 when he handed over to AFN President, Olamide George.
“I was involved in the initial stage. On April 14, the committee called me, and on April 16, I told the AFN president about it. From April 16 to May 1, when the money was distributed to athletes, I was never contacted. What I know is that the money was not for those in track and field alone,” The Guardian quoted Himah.
However, AFN President, George described Himah’s claim as false saying: “Charles did not submit any list to me. Mary Onyali forwarded the list they both compiled without contacting the board. I also frowned at it.”