Arrests ordered for Nigeria’s top football officials

Nigeria’s high court on Monday adjourned a corruption case against the head of the country’s top football body and four high-ranking officials, after they failed to appear in court.

Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president, Amaju Pinnick has travelled to Egypt for the African Cup of Nations tournament despite the on-going criminal case.

At Monday’s hearing, the judge ordered an arrest warrant for the four officials– Vice presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko, executive Ahmed Yusuf and general secretary Mohammed Sanusi — facing trial alongside Pinnick.

The federation bosses face a 17-count charge ranging from failure to declare assets, conflict of interest and embezzling $8.4 million (7.5 million euros) paid by world football governing body FIFA to Nigeria for participation in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Charges were brought in May after a government investigation into alleged graft at the body.

The defence counsel in court said the accused officials were in Egypt on government assignment, which the prosecution disputed.

The case was adjourned until September 26, when the accused must appear.

The prosecution counsel, Celsus Ukpong said the officials, who have twice failed to attend trial “refused to come to court because they felt they are too big.”

Pinnick and the other officials are accused of failing to declare assets, conflict of interest and taking cash through a web of schemes — including payments received for games that never happened and unexplained payments to match-agents.

All have denied the charges, with the NFF calling the accusations “frivolous and baseless.”

Former NFF presidents and senior figures in Nigeria football have urged the accused officials to appear in court to clear their names.

Nigeria’s troubled football body have long faced a raft of accusations for corruption and mismanagement.

The long-running battles over NFF finances and elections have brought threats from FIFA.

A failure to account for the use of funds led the governing body to suspend grants to the NFF in 2015.

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