NFF President Pinnick fights back: 'We are being victimised'

Nigeria Football Federation President Amaju Pinnick
Nigeria Football Federation President Amaju Pinnick has denied any wrongdoing

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick says he and four other top officials are being "victimised".

His comments to BBC Sport after the officials were ordered to appear in court on 1 July to face charges over the alleged misappropriation of funds.

The case has been brought by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) for the recovery of public property.

"The motive for this media trial is purely destructive, it's a deep-seated emotional, obsessional and delusional hatred," Pinnick insisted.

"This is not the first time, we believe all the false allegations are aimed at destroying our credibility and what we've built."

He went onto explain that none of the officials have been personally informed of the court summons and feels that the country's Attorney General should be involved.

"The prosecution lawyer claimed he couldn't serve the NFF officials and was given permission to serve at the NFF office, while the case was adjourned to 1 July," Pinnick added.

"We are not ordered to appear before a court in a case that is before the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) for an independent review."

Pinnick alongside NFF vice presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko, general secretary Mohammed Sanusi and board member Ahmed Yusuf have denied all the charges and that they have no case to answer.

The charges being pursued by the SPIP include failure to declare their assets, the alleged disappearance of US$8.4 million paid by Fifa to Nigeria for participation in the 2014 World Cup and arranging international friendly matches that do not take place.

Prosecution lawyer Celsius Ukpong, from the SPIP insisted on Thursday: "We are expecting the accused persons, the defendants, to come to court and take their plea."

Pinnick is adamant that the problems away from the pitch will not affect Nigeria's preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations.

"We don't want to lose focus. Their plan is to get us distracted and get us destroyed but we are resilient," Pinnick added.

"We are not telling you we are saints, we are humans and we can make mistakes. But the good news about us is that our mistakes we turn to learning process.

"It's human to be intelligent to learn from mistakes and be resurgent enough to bounce back. That's what we'll do."

It is not the first time officials of the NFF will be involved in corruption allegations.

Back in 2010, four former officials were arrested amid accusations that some $8m went missing during the World Cup finals in South Africa.

It took eight years for the quartet to be acquitted by the anti-graft agency.

Embezzlement allegation

Meanwhile, a separate court case involving the NFF has been adjourned until June 27 in what the country's anti-graft agency - the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) - says is 'judicial time wasting'.

The High Court in Abuja on Thursday adjourned the corruption trial involving three NFF accounts staff - director of finance, Christopher Andekin; head of finance and accounts Jafaru Mamza and Rajan Zaka, a cashier.

The trio are standing trial for embezzling $9.5 million being grants from Fifa and Caf for the development of football in Nigeria.

The EFCC have called for Pinnick and Sanusi to be charged along with the trio already in court.

Prosecuting counsel Steve Odiase, who represented the EFCC, said the request by the defence for a delay was "judicial time wasting" and presiding Justice Peter Affen said it was an affront on his court.

"The defence sent in a letter seeking an adjournment, which the court considered an affront because it did not address the issue at stake," Odiase said.

"This is time buying, judicial time wasting and delay of justice because the issue canvassed by both defence and prosecution is well known to law."

The accused persons have pleaded not guilty.

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