Gadzama on Freedom Radio, laments neglect of the North by AFN

Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, first Vice President, Tafida Gadzama has lamented the apparent neglect of the northern part of Nigeria by the governing body for track and field in Nigeria.

Gadzama told Abuja-based Freedom Radio in a recent interview that there has been a deliberate neglect of the zone in terms of programmes that will aid development of the youths who have become pawns in the hands of bandits and terrorists.

He revealed a cross country competition he fought to be staged in Taraba in 2022 was cancelled at the last minute because ‘some people in AFN felt it would make Gadzama more popular’.

‘It is obvious those running the AFN now are not interested in developing distance running in Nigeria. We tried to get a cross country competition to be staged in Taraba state but it was scuttled at the last minute because they thought I have presidential ambition and staging the competition will make me more popular,’ said Gadzama who won African Games and Olympic Games gold medals for Nigeria.

Gadzama revealed he and a couple of others from both the Northern and the Southern parts of Nigeria are mapping out plans to develop distance running in Nigeria and will seek private sector support.

‘We need to set up a high performance centre around the Mambilla Plateau which will aid the training and development of middle and long distance runners from across Nigeria.

‘This is the picture the few who have taken control of AFN could not see. They thought only the North would benefit,’ said Gadzama who has called out on the big business men from the north to help with the building of a performance centre in the Mambilla area.

Gadzama is confident distance running can become a veritable source of income to thousand of our distance runners and lure the youths away from banditry and terrorism.

‘I was told a Nigerian won the USD$10,000 top prize money at the Rivers international marathon and that the first prize for the best Nigerian athlete, man and woman was N5m each. This is what developing them will bring.

‘Imagine having like 50, 100 of them having the standard that will enable them to compete globally, the money they will brig home will not only help in providing comfort to their families but also provide employment.

‘It will also spark a revolution of sort like what we have in Kenya now where a lot of athletes now see distance running as full time employments. This is the picture those managing the federation are not seeing.’

Gadzama also spoke on the AFN audit committee report which exposed corruption and misappropriation in the federation.

The former African 400m U20 champion says decisions are taken without the knowledge and at times the approval of board members.

‘This is why I denied a Guardian newspaper report that AFN President, Tonobok Okowa is owed N200m by the Federal Ministry of Sports Development. It is news to us board members because neither was it discussed at any board meeting nor was any budget presented for approval,’ he said and warned the Sports Development Ministry against paying monies that are not properly documented or documented at all like the N40m ‘loan’ purportedly paid to Okowa from the Premium Trust Bank sponsorship money.

There are questions the anti-corruption agencies should be asking Rita Moshindi, the Secretary General of AFN regarding the payment.

‘Did the Secretary General raised any memo requesting for the refund of the N40m Okowa purportedly loaned to the AFN? If any, was there attached to the memo the agreement between the President and the AFN board on the loan agreement? Was there a time a N40m loan agreement was ever discussed at the board, whether approved or otherwise?

‘Which account warehoused the Premium Trust Sponsorship fee after the Secretary General and the marketing consultant violated the terms of the contract which stipulates the opening of an SPV account for the money,’ asked Gadzama.

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