By Jacob Ajom
The unsettled chairman of the Nigeria Premier League, Davidson Owumi has more questions to answer. With the new season barely six weeks old and his former rival at the NPL board elections, Victor Baribote still breathing down his neck, Owumi’s indiscretion in selecting which call to answer or turn down can be understandable.
That said, the NPL chairman should be able to decipher from the tone of the call or text who means well for him.
I was forced by the nature of my duty to call the NPL boss sometime last month. When he picked up the call, he sounded quite busy, but was able to say, ‘hello, who is on the line?’ When I answered, I did not have much time for pleasantries. “I am Jacob Ajom of the Vanguard Newspapers. Silvanus Okpala, a former coach of Rangers International of Enugu said the club was owing him about N8 million Naira. He said you were aware that the NFF directed that unless his money was paid, the team should not be registered for the new season. But for reasons unknown to him Rangers are playing, even when they are yet to pay his debt. He accused you of flouting the NFF’s order. What is your reaction to this?”
Owumi’s response was quick. “Where I am right now I cannot talk. Call me later.” That was the sad end of my investigation as the NPL boss would neither pick subsequent calls from me nor reply to my text messages.
Okpala’s case is one in a plethora of such cases haunting the Nigeria Premier League. Beyond the razzmatazz and the relative acceptable level of play we see on the pitches across the country, the Nigeria Premier League is plagued by cases of unpaid sign-on fees, players salaries, match bonuses even referees indemnities, yet the NPL remains silent and looking helpless.
Patrick Udoh, an ex Nigerian international and former coach of Akwa United is also reeling in agony as the Akwa Ibom state-owned club owes him about N7 million.
Udoh joined the services of the club in the 2006/07 season, working under Coach Charles Bassey.
“I was the goalkeeper trainer and chief coach of the feeder team. In 2008/09 Friday Ekpo and myself were assistants to Coach Emmanuel King. In 2009 I was the chief coach of the club. In my first season with them I got only N150,000 out of N1 million. The next season I got N1.5 million out of N3.5 million.”
As chief coach in 2009, they agreed to pay me N3 million but ended up pying me only N900,000. My total money with the club now is N6.9 million.” the coach said.
The Nigeria Football Federation too ought to show some concern over the issues raised by coaches Sylvanus Okpala and Patrick Udoh because they said they have exhausted all measures as stipulated by NFF and FIFA statutes. “I have taken the club to NFF Arbitration committee since December last year. NFF said they have mandated the club to pay me my money but they have not complied,” a helpless Udoh said.
Is Owumi helpless because of the inability of the NFF to settle the NPL election crisis to date? Does Owumi lack the power to enforce NFF directive on debtor clubs? If not, why are clubs like Rangers International and Akwa United playing in the current season?