Corruption runs deep in Nigerian football. Now it appears one of the country’s most respected coaches, Salisu Yusuf, must serve as a scapegoat after he was caught on camera accepting money from undercover reporters who posed as football agents.
Yusuf, 56, has coached some of the biggest clubs in Nigeria, including Kano Pillars and two-time African champions Enyimba. He led the home-based Super Eagles to a second-place finish at last year’s WAFU Cup and this year’s African Nations Championship in Morocco. He is due to take Nigeria’s U23 team to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Then came a video, published online by the BBC earlier this week, and the product of an investigation by Tiger Eye PI, a Ghana-based private investigation agency led by the controversial multiple award-winning undercover reporter, Anas Aremeyaw Anas.
In the video, which was recorded last September during the WAFU Cup in Ghana, the Super Eagles assistant manager, who oversees the “home-based” team, was shown receiving $1000 in a discussion geared towards him including two players for the African Nations Championship earlier this year.
Gift or Bribe? In a statement to the BBC, Yusuf denied any wrongdoing. He claimed that he had received $750 as a gift and not as a bribe. But the context implies otherwise. The money was supposed to influence a decision that falls within his discretion.
He said the players in question were already regulars in his team and that only unforeseen circumstances could prevent them from making his CHAN squad but he still accepted the money.
After he was promised 15pc of any fee from a prospective transfer of these players, he responded, “they are already in CHAN”, sealing the agreement with a handshake.
Yusuf is paid three million naira ($8,345) a month and, since AITEO became the major sponsor of the Nigeria Football Federation, no reports have emerged of senior men’s national team coaches going unpaid or not receiving their salaries.
The NFF’s communications director Ademola Olajire said: “For now, the NFF has commenced preliminary investigation into the matter to assist the Committee on Ethics and Fairplay.”
The Coaches Association of Nigeria has backed their member pending further investigation.
President Ladan Bosso said: “We don’t think that the coach should be held liable for any wrongdoing. As a body we shall investigate further this matter further and where need be sanction or caution our colleague.”