Enthusiasts urge transparency in fighting corruption in sports

Participants at a one day conference on corruption in sports
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By Victor Okoye

Sports enthusiasts have called on stakeholders in the sector to uphold the virtues of transparency and accountability to fight corruption in the industry.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that they spoke at a one-day International Conference on Corruption in Sport, Whistle blowing and Transparency in Abuja on Saturday.

The conference was organised by the Africa Centre for Media Information and Literacy (AFRICMIL), Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), HEDA Resource Centre and PLAY!YA Nigeria.

Beverly Agbakoba-Onyeijanya, a Sports, Entertainment and Technology legal practitioner, said that the sports industry had been so heavily politicised which has led to corruption in the sector.

She said that member states of various Federations are involved in wars over who has the right to vote, with elections being a major source of contention and disputes in the sports industry.

“We’ve seen the rancour that have torn apart the Basketball Federation in Nigeria with factions, and of course with this comes the possibility of bribery, corruption and inducements,” she said.

She said given the amount of money involved in the prosecution of sports, there was a need for the anti-graft agencies to focus attention to financial crimes in the sports industry.

According to her, the establishment of an anti-corruption sports desk in agencies such as the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ICPC, would check mate the excesses of sports administrators in the country.

In a remark, Usman Kaltungu of the EFCC explained that the commission’s powers to fight sports related corruption cases in the country, was been hindered by undue interference from International Sports organisations such as FIFA, FIBA and others.

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Francis Obih, President, Badminton Federation of Nigeria (BFN), said the issue of favoritism and sentiments must be stamped out from sports.

“As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t matter where you are coming from, once you are going out to represent Nigeria, you are representing the country and not any ethnic group or a particular religion.

“So, such things should be taken away from sports, it doesn’t matter whether you are my brother or not, it should be purely based on merit and competence.

“Also one of the disturbing areas is also the sexual harassment of female athletes by their coaches.

“This is a no go area for me and the height of indiscipline to have officials, the coaches or technical personnel to have any sexual relationship with their athletes.

“We must do everything to stop it because it hampers the performance of the athletes,” he said.

He said every stakeholder, be it administrators, ministry, journalists, must come together, join hands and set certain ethical standards.

“These standards should guide the growth and development of sports in the country, in order to bring corruption to its barest minimum.

“No one person cannot do it alone, all hands must be on deck and in agreement, even though in every group, there are always some bad eggs and that’s the truth.

“However, we must find a way of isolating those elements and minimise the damage that they can do, so that the whole body is not seen in a bad light,” he said.

Also speaking via zoom, an Investigative journalist based in Germany, Grit Hartmann, said that journalists outside the shores of Africa were not ignorant of corruption stories from the continent, especially Nigeria.

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She called for synergy and transnational corporation among stakeholders, adding that the issue of corruption in sport in Nigeria and the African continent at large was a systemic problem.

Stanis Elsborg, a Senior Analyst also based in Germany, said that corruption in sports was not limited to Africa.

He said that Europe and other parts of the globe are also susceptible to corruption tendencies in the area of sports.

Joshua Umeifekwe, a professor at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said the essence of measuring and managing multiple sports governance crisis was to maintain the credibility and transparency of the sector.

“Transparency like you know ensures trust and so what we are saying is that there is a need to measure the nature of crisis that we have.

“For one to talk about ways of managing the crisis, you need to have an assessment of these crises.

“Some of the ways include; collecting qualitative data, running a survey, interviews, to mention a few.

“Having done this, we must ensure we manage the crisis by ensuring transparency and ethical standards are followed and maintained,” he said.

Chido Onumah, Coordinator, AFRICMIL and Oluwashina Okeleji, a sports journalist with BBC Sports, among others said that the role of whistleblowers in the sector cannot be overemphasised.

They said for sports to grow, there was a need to have whistleblowers to expose some of the ills and corruption going on in the sector.

They also called for the establishment of a legislation to protect whistleblowers, as well as investigative journalists in the country. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

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Edited by Joseph Edeh

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