Nigerian referees given permission to take bribes

March 31, 2006

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Football referees in Nigeria can take bribes from clubs but should not allow them to influence their decisions on the pitch, a football official said on Friday.

Fanny Amun, acting Secretary-General of the Nigerian Football Association, said bribery was common in the Nigerian game.

"We know match officials are offered money or anything to influence matches and they can accept it," Amun told Reuters on Friday.

Amun first made the statement earlier in the week to a football seminar in the capital Abuja, prompting protests from other officials.

"Referees should only pretend to fall for the bait, but make sure the result doesn't favour those offering the bribe," Amun said.

At the seminar, Nigerian football league chairman Oyuiki Obaseki reprimanded referees for poor quality match reports, saying that bribery was to blame.

"The quality of your reports have not done our league any good, so please desist from corrupt practices," he told delegates.

Despite a high-profile campaign to stamp out graft in the impoverished African country, Nigeria consistently ranks among the most corrupt countries in the world -- and football is no exception.