Nigeria's government is to step in to pay the outstanding wages of national team coach Stephen Keshi, the country's sports minister has announced, promising his salary arrears would be cleared.
Bolaji Abdullahi said he had received approval from President Goodluck Jonathan to pick up the tab for Keshi and his assistants, who are owed a total of 78 million naira ($485,000, 357,000 euros).
Keshi, who earns five million naira a month but has not been paid for at least five months, took Nigeria to glory in the Africa Cup of Nations and qualification for the World Cup finals in Brazil.
"The Presidency has made arrangements to pay the salary arrears of the coach of the Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi," Abdullahi told reporters on Thursday.
"We (the sports ministry) don't have the responsibility of paying the coaches. The (Nigerian football) federation has that responsibility.
"But the government cannot say 'let the federation handle it on their own' anymore. Since it was not in our budget, I had to appeal to the Presidency and everything should be cleared soon."
The Nigerian Football Federation, which relies on government funding, has been plagued by financial worries in recent years and receives little in the way of private sponsorship.
There are complaints that the budget is inadequate to meet the team's commitments.
Financial constraints have led to protests, including before this year's Confederations Cup, where there was a stand-off between players and the federation over the size of win bonuses.
Keshi, meanwhile, said he was baffled at Nigeria's position in the latest FIFA world rankings announced on Thursday, slipping three places from 33 to 36 despite their World Cup qualification and a 2-2 draw in a friendly versus Italy.
"I am shocked (by the latest rankings). We won the Africa Cup of Nations this year, qualified for the World Cup and four-time world champions Italy held us to a draw, so I am surprised," he said.
The latest rankings are expected to be one of the yardsticks to be used for next week's World Cup finals draw.
Keshi, however, said that as long as the Super Eagles were winning, rankings were immaterial.
"We should continue to win and make Nigerians proud because that is what is most important to me and Nigerians," he added.
"If we remain in wherever we are in the ranking and keep winning and Nigerians are happy, then I am happy."
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