By Jacob Ajom
Former Acting President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Chief Mike Umeh is a Lagos-based business man who is better known for his involvement in football administration in the country. Umeh was Team Manager of Rangers International Football Club of Enugu in the club’s early days. He progressed to become Team Manager of the Green Eagles, as the national team was then called. Umeh’s era as TM of the national team witnessed the best part of the history of Nigerian football – Tunisia ’94, USA ’94, etc. He was also chairman of Anambra State FA on several occasions. He was also Vice President of NFF.
Umeh’s exploits in both sports and business has endeared him to many including the high and mighty of the society. His friend and former Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa contacted him and asked him to clear goods for the Sokoto state government from the Apapa port to Sokoto. “I carried out the job diligently. But when his former Deputy, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko assumed office as Governor, he arrested me and accused me of what I don’t know anything about,” Umeh recounted. On May 27, 2013 the former football chieftain was picked up from his Lagos residence by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and taken to Sokoto. He was arraigned a day latter at the Sokoto High Court. Umeh defeated both the EFCC and the State government in the case.
They appealed against the judgement. The appellate court upheld the judgement of the lower court. Not satisfied, they then took the matter to the Supreme court. The Supreme court presided over by former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onoghen on February 15, 2019 discharged and acquitted Chief Umeh on the allegations levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
After the courts’ verdicts Umeh has lost so much, particularly, including his hard-earned reputation
The trauma cannot be described. It is the biggest trauma in my life. I had never been to the police station in my life before. A detachment of the EFCC, about 10 of them in the early hours of the day, invaded my house in Victoria Island. When I peeped through my window, I saw them taking positions around my swimming pool side and surrounded my premises. It looked as if I was dreaming. I asked myself, what am I seeing? My mind skipped off. When they came, there was no resistance from my gate men. All of a sudden, I saw about four of them, four plain-cloth policemen, coming toward my bedroom. But I managed to lock my door before they got there and they kept banging on my door. I was wondering if they were thieves, robbers. I was evidently frightened. But when I peeped through window and saw some uniformed policemen and their police van parked I became calm and felt strong because I can’t be afraid as I had done nothing wrong.
“I sent my wife to go and find out what was going on and to ascertain who those people were. She went down to see who they were and they seized her immediately, took her phone and detained her in my study. They made her pick my calls because I was expecting her to come and give me feedback. I couldn’t reach her anymore. I knew then that there was trouble. I took my time, took my bath, dressed up and when I opened my door, I saw them right in front of my bedroom. I went down with them to the study. When they saw me, they then allowed my wife to walk away.
And I said gentlemen, yes this is Chief Mike Umeh, what can I do for you. They now showed me a warrant of arrest from Sokoto State Government. When I saw that, I shook my head because I knew I didn’t do any business with the Sokoto State government, rather than the former Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Bafarawa. He is my friend and what I did for him was a logistic job; a logistics job without any contract or formal approval. What we did for them was to give them services of clearing their imported items from the port and that we did and delivered to them. The allegation was that I was the one who imported those items while I am not. I am only a clearing agent; a servicing company.
“What happened was that Bafarawa was no longer in government and as soon as Wamako, his former deputy took over, he gathered all friends of the former governor and charged them to court without proper investigation, with frivolous and malicious allegations. Until now, some are still going to court. We were about 35 of us going to court under different allegations.
“In my own matter, when EFCC arrested me, they first detained me in Lagos, took me to Abuja and from Abuja they had to take me to Sokoto. All this while, I was the one buying flight tickets for me and EFCC operatives from Lagos to Abuja and from Abuja to Sokoto. Even when the court granted me bail, they took me back to Abuja and detained me there pending the perfection of the bail. So it is an experience I pray I never had in my life again. It was a terrible ordeal.
“I lost my money, my reputation and physical exertion. The story was blowing like a wildfire across the world. I am an international businessman an administrator and popular figure in the sports circle, especially football. As a former team manager and at that time, I was the vice President of the Nigeria Football Federation. It even served as a tool for blackmail as some of my colleagues in the NFF were using the case to want to bring me down. But look at me today, God’s time is the best.”
“When my trial came up, I won them in the High Court, they appealed and I still won them in the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal because there was nothing found against me. I was just maliciously accused without just cause. And it is all because Wamako is not happy with Bafarawa. It is just politics as when they went to the Supreme Court the court reaffirmed the judgments of the lower courts and threw out thee case. So those who were celebrating that Chief Mike Umeh is in soup without knowing the facts of the matter should now hide their faces in shame. It has also helped me to know the other side of life”
I lost so much money, travelling from here to Sokoto, every two weeks. I am talking to my lawyers. They have to be on top of the matter. It was well celebrated in the media both print and electronic.
I believe in our legal system. The decisions of the courts have reaffirmed my faith in our legal system. They say it is the last hope of the common man. Who am I to have been able to overcome the federal government and the Sokoto State government without the incorrigibility and firmness of the law. I am just an individual.