Nigeria's Super Falcons Football Team Takes Pay Protest to President Buhari

Nigeria women's football team
Nigeria's female football team celebrate a goal against Sweden in their Group D match in the 2015 women's World Cup at Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg, Canada, June 8, 2015. The Super Falcons have won eight African championships. USA TODAY Sports Images

Nigeria's championship-winning women's football team launched a protest against unpaid wages outside the country's parliament before marching on the presidential villa Wednesday.

The Super Falcons have been holed up in a hotel in the capital Abuja since their return from Cameroon, where they won the Women's Africa Cup of Nations on December 3. Players say they have not received the $17,150 in allowances promised to them by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF).

Desire Oparanozie, a forward for the Nigerian international team who plays her club football for En Avant de Guingamp Feminines in France, shared pictures from the protest on her Instagram account. "It's such a shame things have deteriorated to this level. Nigeria as a nation have [sic] failed itself, and [it] won't be out of place to state that our leaders aren't worthy to be called leaders," said Oparanozie.

The players then marched to the villa of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari—who is currently out of the country as part of a West African delegation in Gambia—and the team was received by the president's chief of staff, Malam Abba Kyari. The chief of staff told the team that their payment would be resolved within two days, the BBC reported.

The Super Falcons clinched their eighth African title with a 1-0 victory over hosts Cameroon, with Oparanozie scoring the winning goal. The players claimed that, as well as their allowances, the NFF promised to pay win bonuses totaling $6,500 before the start of the competition.

Nigeria and Arsenal forward Asisat Oshoala told BBC Sport Friday that the NFF had treated the team "like the under-17s and under-20s." "We went to the tournament to play for our country and we won the trophy—it is our job and we make no excuses but are not made to feel like champions," said Oshoala.

Nigeria's sports minister Solomon Dalung urged the players to be patient in a statement published on the NFF website Thursday. "The point I want to make clear is that for this competition which this team has participated in and won, we are indeed overwhelmed by the performance of the team," said Dalung. "But one thing I want you all to know is that there are procedures for getting such monies from the Federal Government. It is not like an ATM that you will just go to and bring out cash. Government has processes on how things are done."

Dalung was unavailable to comment on the latest protests when contacted by Newsweek.

The NFF has said that its budget has been squeezed due to the difficult economic situation in Nigeria. The West African country slipped into recession in August, largely as a result of the global fall in commodity prices and a dip in oil production due to a militant uprising in the Niger Delta.

The Nigerian men's football team that competed in the Rio 2016 Olympics also complained over unpaid allowances and bonuses, threatening a boycott during the tournament before the matter was resolved. The team eventually finished third, winning a bronze medal.