Members of the House of Representatives on Thursday condemned the “unsavoury treatment” meted to the Super Falcons by the Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalung, and the Nigerian Football Federation by failing to pay their match bonuses and allowances.
The female national football team had won the 10th edition of the African Women championship just concluded in Cameroon.
However, the girls were not paid their allowances, a development which forced them to resort to street protests in Abuja for about two weeks.
The team also refused to vacate their hotel, insisting that they would not leave until they had been paid.
Only on Wednesday, they had stormed the Presidential Villa and the National Assembly to protest.
The Presidency had reacted immediately by summoning Dalung and the leadership of the NFF to a meeting on Thursday.
It also directed them to settle the allowances of the players without further delay.
At its sitting on Thursday, the House condemned Dalung and the NFF, saying that their actions brought shame upon Nigeria.
A former Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Sports, Mrs. Ayo Omidiran, had sponsored a motion on the burning issue.
Describing the girls as “patriotic”, she said they answered the national call with the belief that they would be paid after the championship, but were disappointed.
Omidiran, who is from Osun State, spoke more, “For the past two weeks, the space has been filled with the cries of these ladies.
“Has it become a crime to make your country proud? What makes it more painful is the fact that the Cameroonian girls, who came second, were celebrated by their President (Paul Biya).
“These girls are not asking for anything extraordinary, but the allowances owed them from the qualifiers till they won the trophy.
“What would have happened if the girls had refused to leave Cameroon and carry out the protests on the streets of that country?.”
Another member from Edo State, Mr. Sergius Ose-Ogun, noted that there was something wrong with the Nigerian attitude to things.
Ose-Ogun added that in almost every facet of national life, an “evil spirit” seemed to be advising people to do the wrong thing.
“It is not only in sports, Mr. Speaker. Even in the civil service, workers retire after 35 years and they are not paid their dues.
“Why did they have to subject these girls to so much pain?
“There is an evil spirit in this country, which must die”, he said.
The Deputy House Minority Leader, Mr. Chukwuka Onyeama, told the House that Nigeria would have been saved from the disgrace by simply declining to participate in the championship.
“This is a major disgrace and I don’t know how to explain it”, Onyeama observed.
As the debate progressed, a member from Borno State, Mr. Mohammed Nur-Sheriff, revealed that there was more rot in the sports ministry than Nigerians knew.
He cited the case of the multi-billion naira sports velodrome built for the 8th All Africa Games hosted in Abuja in 2003.
Nur-Sheriff alleged that the edifice had long been converted to a warehouse by the sports ministry.
He informed members that no sporting activities took place in the velodrome any more.
“The velodrome has been converted to a warehouse by the sports ministry.
“The ministry now stores gas cylinders inside the velodrome.
“This facility is the biggest of its kind in Africa. Even the one in South Africa is not as big as what we have in Abuja.
“But, go there today, you will be alarmed. It is now a warehouse,” he added.
The House directed that the allowances of the girls should be paid immediately.
It also asked the Committee on Sports to monitor compliance and report back to members within four weeks.