Nigeria Football Federation reaches partnership agreement with Aiteo
For years, the embarrassment of owing national team coaches wages have hung like a millstone around the neck of the Nigeria Football Federation.
Backing up all the way from Clemens Westerhof in the 1990s, through Shuabu Amodu, Christian Chukwu, Austin Eguavoen, Samson Siasia, Stephen Keshi, Sunday Oliseh to Gernot Rohr, the story has remained the same.
And those are the high-profile cases of the men coaching the Super Eagles, the flagship team of the federation -- coaches who usually have little or no compunction about going to the media about their grievances.
Coaches of the women's and cadet teams are usually too docile or afraid to do the same, but tend to suffer the most.
Usually dependent on government funding to meet these obligations, the NFF this week moved to secure a permanent solution to the problem by signing a five-year deal worth N500m annually with indigenous energy company Aiteo for the specific purpose of paying national coaches.
Here are three takeaways about what this means for Nigerian football.
1. All Bases Covered
The first and most overriding takeout is that there should be no more cases of unpaid wages to the entire slate of national team coaches.
Unlike in the past, where the NFF would source sponsorship for payment of the wages of just the Super Eagles' coach, the current arrangement umbrellas every single coach under the NFF's employment.
Although the wages of the Super Eagles coach accounts for more than a quarter of the total annual payroll, there is still more than enough left to ensure that the other coaches get paid without any more trouble.
"This takes care of one critical aspect of our operations," NFF president Amaju Pinnick said. "And it allows us to focus on more technical issues."
Francis Peters, Aiteo's deputy managing director who signed the contract on behalf of the firm, insisted that the funds would be used appropriately and would lead to better things for Nigerian football, especially in World Cup qualifying and beyond.
"There are monitoring milestones built into the contract to ensure that all aspects are met. And we are confident that with this union, the Super Eagles can win the World Cup. Even if we don't, they will know that we came."
This deal marks a major transparency coup for the NFF. Long regarded as a corrupt institution, the current NFF have taken great pains to shed that reputation -- a holdover from previous years -- in order to encourage more private investment in football.
Structured into the contract at the request of the NFF, according to second vice president Shehu Dikko, is a clause that allows Aiteo and/or its financial auditors to examine the federation's books at any time of their choosing.
"We have also opened our books to them to inspect at any time they want to examine our finances," Dikko said at the signing ceremony.
He also pointed out that the payments, which would be made on a quarterly basis, would be overseen by Financial Derivatives, a reputable financial services firm.
"This is to ensure full transparency and to assure everyone that we have nothing to hide," NFF President Amaju Pinnick added.
3. Opens Doors For More
Someone always needs to be first.
For years, Nigerian companies have shied away from investing in domestic football, mostly due to the near-unending crisis and perceptions of corruption. That led to serious and damaging marks to the NFF's reputation.
The few who have felt confident enough to venture in have done so on a scale that fell far short of what the federation required to run its activities.
As a consequence, the football federation has remained largely dependent on the government, leaving them in dire financial straits.
Aiteo's huge investment, the biggest and most significant by a Nigerian company, opens the doors for others to step in, especially if the first year of the contract goes without a hitch.
Dikko, who also chairs the NFF Marketing Committee, says the calls are coming in already.
"We have been getting calls already from many of our top businessmen who also want to get involved in our football," he said.
"That's what we need. We can't depend on outsiders to solve our challenges, we have to look within. That's why Aiteo is a very significant partner for us, because they showed confidence to step in against all odds."
Colin Udoh is a Nigeria football correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.