Was the EOCO raid on the GFA necessary ?
The Oxford Dictionary defines raid as: a surprise visit by the police looking for criminals or for illegal goods or drugs. Or a short surprise attack on an enemy by soldiers, ships or aircraft.
The scenes at the Ghana Football Association (GFA) Tuesday, December 7, 2010 have been described variously with “raid” being the most commonly used word by the media.
But others have gone to the extreme with words like “Commando Style Raid” but one thing is certain the action by the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) has raised lots of eyebrows.
In their defense, Executive Director of the anti corruption agency, Kweku Mortey Akpadzi said the EOCO had very little options available after the FA failed to honour its earlier invitation to assist its investigations into suspected breaches in the nation’s tax Laws.
Indeed the EOCO gave the FA the perfect opportunity to voluntarily help its investigations when it wrote to the FA on September 7, 2010 requesting the FA to provide documents covering the expenditure on the 2010 World Cup, the Glo sponsorship deal among others.
However the FA wrote back to the EOCO on October 14, 2010. According to Mr. Akpadzi the letter read: “The GFA will get back to you on the subject as the notice was very short.”
It seems the FA was trying to buy time by sending the letter to the EOCO, following the separate action by an executive committee member of the GFA George Afriyie who sought an order at the High Court to prohibit the then Serious Fraud Office from investigating the GFA and its President Kwesi Nyantakyi.
So eight weeks after receiving that letter from the FA, the EOCO armed with a court order carried out a raid on the GFA to confiscate computers and documents.
But even though the legality of the EOCO’s action is not in doubt, the manner in which it went about undertaking its task leads one to wonder if there was not a better option?
EOCO had a search warrant and could have dealt better with the FA because the word “raid” as being used paints a wrong picture.
Could they have gone about this in a more humane way?
Suspicious deals at the FA
It is important to point out that the EOCO investigations have become necessary as a result of the need to unravel the mystery surrounding the sponsorship deals that the GFA has entered into with some corporate organisations.
Not long ago, sections of the local media waged a campaign against the FA to unravel the mystery surrounding the alleged role played by Mid Sea Estates and Afrisat International in brokering the $15 million Glo sponsorship of the Ghana Premier league.
It will be most hypocritical for media elements now to call for a halt into investigations merely because of the FIFA directive warning government against investigating the private accounts of the FA.
The problem of government interference in the affairs of FAs in Africa would not end today because of the different circumstances that pertain in Africa and the advanced world.
In Europe clubs own their stadiums and run their own affairs without much help from central government. The opposite is the case in Ghana where government funds the construction of stadiums and rents it out to the Premier league Board at very low rates.
For instance, the FA raised the budget for the 2010 World Cup while government provided the initial funds for the national team.
United front from African countries
For now FIFA does not seem to recognise the peculiar case of Africa on this issue and continues to issue threats to African countries on a regular basis about perceived interference in its affairs.
The Ghanaian government cannot however fight the battle alone since it will be a lost cause.
Africa needs a more united approach to deal with the issue at hand and it is about time Sports Ministers in Africa give a joint statement to FIFA on the issue.
The only way that FIFA will change is if there is a strong and united international pressure.
The time might be right for Africa to take the issue up with FIFA especially following recent calls for reforms after the recent controversy over bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Anybody who has followed the workings of FIFA over the years would be aware that change does not come easily or swiftly.
The curse of a second World Cup
A good friend of mine told me weeks ago that Ghana might be suffering from “the curse of a second world cup.”
I did not read too much meaning into what he said but his words still linger on my mind.
Both Cameroun and Senegal experienced some problems with their football administration years after playing at the FIFA World Cup.
In the case of Cameroun, many pundits point to the over bearing influence of their president Paul Biya on that nation’s Football Federation as the major cause.
Senegal football is gradually recovering from the ashes after their historic performance at the 2002 World Cup where they beat the then defending champions France.
It is an undeniable fact that playing at the world cup brings a lot of wealth but as to how such wealth is distributed and channeled to develop the local game, only God knows.
Back home, the Ghana League Clubs Association (GHALCA) has boycotted all leagues in the country until the EOCO completes its investigation into the FA.
That action might be seen as going too far but only time will tell how long GHALCA can carry out their threat.
But GHALCA must as well ask itself whether its action will do any good to the welfare of the league clubs.
Moreover, the Ministry of Youth and Sports has disassociated itself from the EOCO’s action saying it played no part in the action by the anti-corruption agency.
To conclude, the EOCO might have erred in the manner it carried out the search on the FA headquarters but it indeed has the power to investigate the FA.
I hope the investigation should be in the interest of all as we seek answers to the numerous controversies that have bedeviled our game lately.
Needless to say FIFA is watching closely to see how things will pan out.
By Erasmus Kwaw