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Show of Shame: German sportswear maker, PUMA, to sue Nigeria’s Athletics Federation, Ministry of Youth and Sports for breach of contract

Following the rejection of the jersey supplied by PUMA to the Nigerian contingent to the Tokyo Olympics Games, the German sportswear manufacturer is set to sue Nigeria’s Ministry of Sports and Youth Development and Athletes Federation of Nigeria (AFN) for breach of contract.

With the national show of shame, former Senator representing Kaduna Central district, Shehu Sani, blamed officials of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development for the embarrassment.

Sani posted on Facebook, “PUMA donated these $2.7 million kits freely to Nigeria and offered to financially reward our medal-winning athletes. Our officials rejected them and preferred to use public funds to purchase from other sources. Now our Athletes are embarrassed in Tokyo.”

The Federal Ministry of Sports and Youth Development insisted that the Nigerian contingent would not wear PUMA clothes because of a leadership tussle between the AFN board lead by Ibrahim Gusau and another faction championed by the Minister, Sunday Dare.

Several efforts made to supply the athletes the PUMA kits, including shipping bags of the kits with 40 items each to Tokyo through the Nigerian Embassy in Japan, were allegedly frustrated on the directives of the Minister.

This crisis came to a head when the German company announced the termination of the four-year deal with the AFN in a letter dated August 4, which was signed by PUMA’s Director Manuel Edlheimb.

And because of this, the Ministry insisted that Team Nigeria athletes were not going to use Puma kits at the ongoing Olympic Games despite the Gusau group sending them to Tokyo.

This was the reason why Nigeria is the only contingent wearing different attires at the Tokyo Games. In fact, several videos and pictures showed that both athletes and officials were wearing different attire and sportswear brands, a different cry from other countries who arrived in Japan at the same time as Nigeria and were however uniformly kitted.

A picture shared by the team after the visit of the Nigerian Ambassador to Japan, Abubakar Moriki, to the team’s camp, showed many of the athletes and officials in different attire, with one of the officials in the picture wearing an Arsenal jersey. Other videos shared by Nigerian athletes in Japan also showed them in different sportswears, like Nike and Adidas.

PUMA wrote the contract termination letter few hours after a trending video showed Nigeria’s shot put hopeful, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, washing his jersey ahead of his final game at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The caption of the video drew anger from Nigerians who expressed embarrassment that athletes were issued just one jersey. According to the caption: “When you made the Olympic Finals, but you only have one jersey.”

And this is despite a valid contract of $2.76m entered by the AFN under the leadership of Ibrahim Gusau on July 24, 2019, in Doha which was due to expire in 2022.

Under the terms of the contract, PUMA will supply apparel to all age categories to Nigeria’s Athletics team for four years at no cost.

In addition, gold medalists at the Olympic Games will earn $15,000, silver medalists will get 5,000 while a bronze medal will fetch athletes wearing the PUMA apparel at the games $3,000.

In announcing the termination of the four-year contract in a letter dated Wednesday, August 4, 2021, and signed by the company’s director Manuel Edlheimb, PUMA said Nigeria breached provisions of the contract by not wearing the kits at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

According to the letter by PUMA: “We are referring to the licensing and sponsoring agreement signed between our company and your federation.

“As a direct consequence of the recent developments, particularly at the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 and pursuant to clauses 9.2 and 7.3 of the Agreement, we hereby terminate the Agreement with immediate effect.

“PUMA especially declares to be discharged from any or all obligations towards all stakeholders involved and reserves all rights against these entities and individuals.”

The AFN under Gusau had entered into a $2.76m deal with Puma on July 24, 2019, in Doha. But the contract is one of the major causes of the crisis rocking the AFN, which had split the athletics body into two factions, with both Gusau and his Vice President Sunday Adeleye accused of sidelining other members of the board during the signing of the deal.

A source said that the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development would be made a party to the coming suit by PUMA for breach of contract because “the Ministry issued a memo granting AFN permission to seek sponsorship. PUMA sees AFN as a representative of Nigeria with that memo. It gave them confidence that AFN had approval. They also claimed that as of the time of signing the contract, the parties involved are recognised by law and FG, and there was no faction to warrant suspicion. They believe an administration is a continuum and the agreement has government backing.”

The AFN First Vice President, Sunday Adeleye, confirmed this while appearing on Arise TV as a guest on Thursday.

While displaying evidence and documents showing the FG’s approval for the federation to seek a sponsor, Adeleye said, “The contract is a non-disclosure one. It is between PUMA and AFN with FMYSD’s permission. We warned that this may lead to litigation and wrote to all parties involved, including finance and justice ministries.

“We are sure that PUMA will go to court on this matter. Their officials have called that they are sending documents from their legal department. We wrote the minister on the implications for Nigeria. This won’t make other companies deal with Nigeria.”

He also argued that Gusau-led AFN did everything possible to ensure that the image of the country is protected.

On why the kits were kept in a store, he said, “Our AFN has been barred from using facility in the stadium and we needed to run the activities of the association. We have a store and office that we run. The constitution didn’t say our office should be in the stadium.”

Asked he would take responsibility for the termination of the contract, Adeleye said, “We should be awarded because we are patriotic. FG asked federations to look for sponsors (before Sunday Dare). This contract precedes him. They are aware of the contract.

“We worked with instruction. We looked for a sponsor so that the burden can be taken off the Federal Government. The sports ministry should be sanctioned. We need a shake-up in the sports ministry.

“The problem is the minister and sports ministry under his administration. Our problems have never been this worse. Federations have issues but not to this extend. Despite a court order, the minister is resolute in destroying some people. We gave the kits out, the ministry said they were not going to use the kits.”

Meanwhile, the Department of State Security (DSS) last year cleared both Gusau and Adeleye of corruption allegations levelled against them by the Ministry over the PUMA contract.

The Ministry had in 2020 petitioned the DSS over the AFN’s partnership deal with Puma.

But the DSS, in a response to the Ministry’s petition titled “Re: Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development (FMYSD), Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and Alhaji Shehu Gusau”, dated September 3, 2020, and signed on behalf of the Director General of the DSS by Bello Mustapha, was received on September 4, 2020 by the Ministry.

Part of the letter reads: “This Service (DSS) has thoroughly investigated the matter regarding the Puma deal. The under-listed findings were established:

“Athletics Federation of Nigeria entered into a valid contract with Dynamic Sports Solution Nigeria Limited.

“The AFN gave Dynamic Sports Solution Nigeria Limited the mandate to source for sponsors for Nigeria’s track and field teams on her behalf in a letter dated September 4, 2018, signed by Ademu A. Elijah, Secretary General of the AFN.

“The AFN duly authorised Dynamic Sports Solution Nigeria Limited to deal with Puma on behalf of the federation in a letter dated June 23, 2019, signed by Patrick Estate, Head Marketing; and there is no evidence that Dynamic Sports Solution Nigeria Limited received money meant for AFN from Puma.

“In view therefore, it is reiterated that the FMYSD and the AFN board should employ internal mechanism to resolve the lingering dispute between them.”

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