Players stranded, groan over unpaid CBN tennis prize money

Some tennis players, who took part at the just-concluded 2022 CBN Senior National Open Tennis Championships, are yet to be paid their monies and stranded in Abuja

The CBN tourney, the most glamorous tennis tourney in Nigeria, had a total of 64 male and 32 female players competing at the 10-day championship at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja. The tournament ended May 22.

Nonso Madueke clinched the male singles title after a stunning comeback 2-1 (2-6, 7-6, 2-0) win against Henry Atseye in the final match while No.1 seed Marylove Edwards defeated Oyinlomo Quadri 2-1 (2-6 6-2 6-4) to win the women’s title.

Our correspondent learnt that some of the players who played at the tourney borrowed money to feature at the event and were stranded in Abuja, with some sleeping inside the National Stadium, over one week after the event ended.

In tennis, players are paid appearance fees to play at tournaments.

A top official of the Nigeria Tennis Federation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, for fear of being victimised, said the problem arose after the sports ministry took charge of the payment of prize monies to the players, which was usually the function of the federation.

“CBN paid the competition’s prize money but they (ministry officials) decided to pay the athletes themselves, that’s why we are having this problem. Some of the players have been paid, but a lot of them are still yet to collect their money and are stranded in Abuja,” our source said.

It was also gathered that the CBN paid the tournament money into the Nigerian Tennis Federation’s Remita account a month before the tourney served off.

Remita is an electronic payment platform that helps individuals and business make and receive payment, pay bills and manage their finances across multiple banks.

President of the Nigeria Tennis Federation, Ifedayo Akindoju, confirmed that some of the players were actually owed, adding that several factors, including signatories and improper banking documentation on the athletes’ part, caused the delay in payment.

“I’m sure before the end of the week they will all get paid. I was at the stadium earlier this (Monday) morning and I saw about 20 players that had not been paid. This is the 44th edition of the CBN tourney, it (delay in payment of prize money) has never happened in the history of the event,” Akindoju said.

“Normally, in time past, we (NTF) used to pay the players in cash because a lot of them didn’t have proper documentation like BVN and bank accounts.

“So, this time the ministry insisted rightfully, because of the regulations of the Office Accountant-General, that everyone to be paid must present their bank statements.

“But the information came at the middle of the tournament. All the same, we went ahead to inform the players to provide the statement and that took some more time and as we speak some players still haven’t gotten it right.

“It’s either their account details was wrong or the BVN didn’t correlate. So, that is how it went. It’s purely a change of policy vis-à-vis lateness in having the federation have the info.”

On the signatories to the NTF account, Akindoju added, “The delay was also caused by the signatories to the Remita account, who are the federation’s treasurer and secretary. About one and a half year ago, the secretary travelled out of Nigeria and was replaced by a new person, who’s still there.

“But we found it difficult (to change the signatories to the Remita account) and we asked the ministry to change the signature of the former secretary to the current one, but that has not happened.

“Then I had to find out why there was a delay in changing signatories when I visited the DFA’s office (Director of Finance and Administration). I was told that there were some new changes, that the secretary and the treasurer were no longer permitted to operate the account; and that’s it’s staff of the office of the Director of Finance (that were now in charge).

“They did change but instead of transferring it to the secretary they put some people who we don’t know, but they are staff of the Finance Department of the sports ministry.

“Unfortunately, these people don’t know anything about tennis and they are the ones handed responsibility of managing the funding of tennis.

“So, the process became cumbersome, the secretary had to make a list of who to be paid, what to be done and had to be done and send to someone in the ministry to vet.

“The payment of players and all the expenditure were made by them but I made the approval of the payment. It was the distribution and the methodology that caused the delay.”

However a media aide to the sports minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the fault was not from the ministry.

“How can ministry pay for CBN sponsored programme,” he said.

“It’s not true. The Ministry has never and not in charge of that.

“It is the CBN payment structure for the athletes that caused the delay. The issues are being sorted. All the athletes and officials will get their dues soon. The CBN are the sponsors and they never owe.”

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