Ex-Nigeria stars West and Babayaro join fight to tackle graft

Emmanuel Babayaro was one of the heroes when Nigeria made history to become the first African team to win an Olympic gold at the 1996 Atlanta games.

But since then he’s been left angered by the dwindling opportunities for young hopefuls to make careers in sport.  

“Football ought to be a big employer of labour and a big business but because of the brazen corruption many aspiring footballers are so frustrated,” he said.  

Nigeria’s footballers’ union, which represents past and current players, in February filed a lawsuit aimed at getting the government to force the officials accused of corruption to stand down. 

“They are public officers and that is what happens in such a situation,” union president Harrison Jalla told AFP.

– Whistleblowers –

It is not just ex-players taking a stance. 

Some former and current officials at the national federation have come forward as whistleblowers and their complaints have formed the basis for much of the legal cases. 

“The players have seen the truth and they are also pained that the football they gave everything, including the best of their youth, for to grow it is dying in the country,” explained Tunde Aderibigbe, a director who has petitioned anti-corruption agencies to launch probes. 

“The local league, which produced many of them, is now a big joke with no sponsors and this year, teams representing Nigeria have failed internationally.”

Former technical director James Peters lamented the lack of infrastructure and development progammes due to corruption.

“Both the technical department and the technical committee, which has not sat for more than a year, have not been alive to their responsibilities because monies meant for them have found their way to private pockets,” he said.

“It breaks my heart that despite enormous investments… we still cannot boast of basic infrastructure to grow football in Nigeria.”

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