Igoche Mark, the founder of Mark Mentor Basketball team, Abuja, has said the allegations of embezzlement against a former President of Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), Mr Tijani Umar, is a ploy to cause distraction ahead of the federation’s election.
Igoche, who said this in a statement made available to Daily Trust in Abuja, said; “those accusing Tijani Umar do not have any moral justification to fire the first shot, because they ought to know that whoever comes to equity, must himself come with clean hands.”
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He said the damaging allegations against Mr Umar were unsubstantiated.
A publication by an online media had last week accused Mr Umar of not accounting for the sponsorship money from Kwese Sports.
Before then, the camp of a former factional president of the NBBF, Musa Kida, had accused Tijani of embezzling the Kewse sponsorship fund.
But Igoche said: “For me, I see their unsavoury development as a ploy, a strategy to distract and derail the process of restoring normalcy to Nigeria basketball.
“With the new timeline given by the Ministry for the constitution of a new NBBF Board, it is crystal clear that these schemers are also bent on shifting the focus of serious-minded stakeholders away from the unwholesome issues that tainted the turbulent reign of the past NBBF Board.
“They have become accustomed to making frivolous and unproven allegations once it doesn’t suit them.”
He also said Mr Umar, during his tenure as the NBBF President (from 2013-2017), out-performed the accusers in many spheres.
“As NBBF President, Mr Umar blazed the trail by steering the D’Tigers to their first FIBA Afrobasket title in 2013, while ensuring that the team qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil.
“The same level of success was replicated by the D’Tigress who in addition to qualifying for the Olympics, won the first of their back-to-back FIBA Afrobasket titles.
“On the domestic scene, the DSTV sponsored Men’s Premier League, Zenith Bank Women’s Premier League flourished. Mr Umar attracted Kwese Sports, who committed an unprecedented amount of money to sponsorship including the much-needed media exposure for the local league.
“For me, these are laudable achievements, worth celebrating and needs to be replicated. But did the detractors bother to ask for the details of the contract?
“This act of trying to smear the name of Mr Tijani Umar at a time when stakeholders and lovers of the game are much more aware, more informed and desiring for the survival of the game, this comes as a huge distraction aimed at taking focus from regressive performances.”
He challenged the Board led by Kida to respond to Nigerians’ request for accountability of the last four years, especially on funds appropriated and released in those years.
Igoche also called on Nigerians and basketball stakeholders to disregard what he termed “baseless allegations, calculated to derail serious-minded persons”.