Nigeria's D'Tigress threaten World Cup boycott over late payments

In September, Nigeria's D'Tigress won their third Afrobasket Women title in a row. Saabi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Nigeria's women's basketball team are about to have some of their outstanding allowances and bonuses paid, after taking to social media to berate government and basketball officials over debts dating back to 2018.

The response by the Nigerian government came after the players posted a video on Instagram on Tuesday, just weeks after claiming their third Afrobasket Women title in a row, and fifth overall.

They accused their federation leadership and the sports ministry of neglect, and threatened to boycott the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, as well as the event itself, until their outstanding allowances were paid.

"First, we want to say thank you to the Nigerian embassy in Cameroon for celebrating us. We appreciate you more than you know. Other than that, we do not feel appreciated or celebrated after achieving this historical feat," said former Chicago Sky center Victoria Macaulay in the video.

"We have defended our championship and brought back the cup in 2019 and 2021, which is historical, but still no invitation has been extended to the team to visit Aso Rock [Nigeria's presidential home] for a presidential handshake. Why?"

Added former Seattle Storm draft pick Ify Ibekwe: "We are owed $33,118 from the NBBF, $24,000 from the Ministry for the Tokyo grant, and $100,000 from donations from three banks in Nigeria."

Captain Adaora Elonu relayed a clear set of demands from the players: "Our demands: all money owed to players, officials, and vendors. Adequate travel to competitions and a team manager for all team functions.

"If these demands are not met, with all due respect to the presidency, the NBBF and the ministry, all D'Tigress players will not be reporting to the FIBA World Cup tournament in 2022 in February. We are one united voice."

On Wednesday, Nigeria's sports ministry released a statement saying a request has been sent to Nigeria's Central Bank to begin the process of playing the players.

"The Ministry has requested the CBN to commence the processing of the payment to the Female Basketball Players immediately," Ministry official Ismaila Abubakar said in a statement. "The Male [players] will be paid as soon as their account details are supplied."

According to Abubakar's statement, the delay was a result of the players on the men's team not providing their bank details: "Only the 12 female team members of D'Tigress have supplied their foreign account numbers.

"The Ministry waited for the account numbers of the Male Team to be supplied so that the processing of payments can be one off as requested by the CBN."

The statement went on to add that the pre-Olympic allowances owed to the teams were also being processed but were subject to the availability of funds: "All outstanding Olympics and Paralympics Games allowances and bonuses are being processed and only slowed down by funds availability."

Money aside, guard Ezinne Kalu was critical of Musa Kida, saying the former president of the NBBF, who is now the chairman of the Caretaker Committee pending elections into the board, did not show up for their Afrobasket run in Cameroon.

"We feel like we've been marginalised," she said. "The former president never really shows up for camps or competition to boost our morale. And when we have significant concerns and issues that needs to be addressed, when he does show up, we get vague answers as if our concerns aren't important to him.

"But when we win, they magically show up for photos and celebrations to use for the political gain. Musa Kida was not in Cameroon but somehow, he showed up to Abuja to take pictures and to raise the trophy again for political gain."

These allegations prompted a quick response from the NBBF, with Vice President Babs Ogunade telling ESPN that the leadership was being blamed for things that were out of their control.

Ogunade started by defending Kida's absence from Cameroon: "He tested positive for COVID 19 and not only was I in Cameroon, but I informed the team of his situation. So I am surprised that they are now saying this. And as vice present of the federation, I was with the team along with another member of the board Sam Ahmedu. Is that not the leadership team?"

He went on to add that the donations from banks to the players was sitting in the NBBF's account at Nigeria's Central Bank awaiting disbursement but had been held up by members of the men's team not providing their banking details, backing up the ministry's story.

The delays in the payments appear to come from the Nigerian Government's TSA policy, which requires all government agencies to have funds paid into one Treasury Single Account (TSA). Those funds can then only be disbursed after layers of approval, which could take months.

It was the same issue that held up payment of allowances for Nigeria's men's football team after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Those payments took until 2021 to come through.