Wednesday Dec 01, 2021

How club officials, agents, refs defraud Nigerian footballers

Investigations by ’TANA AIYEJINA have
exposed how corruption has eaten deep
into various levels of Nigerian football,
leaving the footballers to suffer
Sports minister Solomon Dalung’s first
experience of the massive corruption in
the Nigerian sports sector dates back 14
years ago.
Then, as a member of the country’s
government delegation to the 2002 Africa
Cup of Nations in Mali, Dalung, who some
also questioned his inclusion on the list,
having virtually nothing to do with sports at
the time, was shortchanged by fraudulent
ministry officials, who didn’t give him the
complete money he was entitled to.
“I was once a victim of corruption in the
sports industry. I was one of those on the
Federal Government delegation to the 2002
AFCON and I was entitled to $7000 but I
ended up collecting only $400,” he stated.
On assumption of office, Dalung was
alarmed at how much money there was in
football. “There’s more money there than
in the oil industry,” he said, adding that it
was the cause of the leadership crisis that
had bedevilled the Nigeria Football
Federation in the past two years.
“There’s more cash in football than in the
oil sector and there is so much selfish
interests and as a result we have this
crisis,” Dalung added.
But it will shock the Plateau-born sports
administrator to know how much more
corruption has eaten deep into the
country’s football, not just at the top but
at club level.
In a letter titled “Looted football funds-
over N50bn diverted into private pockets of
officials of state government owned
football clubs” and dated April 4, 2016, the
National Association of Nigerian
Footballers invited anti-graft agencies to
“thoroughly” investigate the fraudulent
practices of corrupt football officials.
“There are strong indications that funds
accruing to football at all levels from the
Nigeria Football Federation to the Nigeria
Professional Football League and the clubs
are being diverted into private pockets,”
the statement signed by acting NANF
president, Larry Kubeinje, stated.
Majority of clubs in the Nigerian domestic
league are owned by state governments,
who often use these clubs more as tools
to score cheap political points, rather than
as professional and money-making
ventures. Thus fraudulent club officials
have cashed in to rip government off
revenue that should have accrued to the
clubs, while the players groan over months
and sometimes even years of unpaid
salaries, sign-on fees, allowances and
match bonuses.
According to NANF, funds appropriated to
the following government-owned clubs:
Lobi Stars, 3SC, Warri Wolves, Enugu
Rangers, Wikki Tourists, Sharks (defunct),
Dolphins (defunct), Bayelsa United, Kano
Pillars, Plateau United, Heartland, Enyimba,
Akwa United, Sunshine Stars, El Kanemi
Warriors, Taraba United, Jigawa Stars,
Nasarawa United and Kwara United,
particularly those in the elite division of
the NPFL, is about N500m annually, but it
could be more if the clubs qualify to play
in the CAF club competitions, the players
body stated.
The statement further read, “These clubs
are also entitled to title sponsorship and
broadcast rights fees from the League
Management Company.
“But from 2006 till date, none of the
above-mentioned clubs spend up to N250m
from the state governments appropriated
funds to run these clubs. The bulk of
these funds are diverted into private
pockets of top officials of these clubs.
Since 2006, unpaid contract fees, sign-on
fees, salaries and allowances of Nigerian
players dead or alive is over N2bn from
each of these clubs.
“It is in the light of the above that NANF
invites the EFCC to thoroughly investigate
this matter and recover over N25bn looted
by these clubs officials from 2006 till date
and prosecute those found culpable.”
Wolves N70m crisis
Relegated Warri Wolves have been in dire
financial crisis over the years, despite
being one of the best funded in the
country. Two seasons ago, the club
received money from the LMC for their
second-place finish, as well as N300m
from the government but still couldn’t pay
the players. The situation heightened when
the players threatened a strike before they
were paid only two months of their salaries
in September, but not without some drama
and controversies.
In August, a former official of Wolves Timi
Ebikagboro on his Facebook page revealed
that the club received N70m from the
state government and the Delta State Oil
Producing Areas Development Commission,
but was surprised that the players were
still owed.
He added that the government money
(N50m) was shared by officials, while the
N20m from DESOPADEC was paid into a
private account, rather than the club’s
Oftentimes in the Nigerian league, officials
pay the clubs’ money into private accounts
for it to yield interests, before paying the
players, who are left to groan in poverty
over unpaid wages during the period.
Wolves’ chairman, Moses Etu, however
denied that the money was paid into a
private account.
“I will not want to speak of the
government publicly; DESOPADEC money
was not paid into a private account. With
what we had, we were able to play a two-
legged CAF Champions League match here
and in Sudan, pay three months’ salaries,
pay last season’s bonuses to present and
players who have left (the club), play 30
matches home and away, pay not less than
12 match bonuses this season and
logistics, then we deserve kudos,” he
But Super Eagles forward and ex-Wolves
player IkechukwuIbenegbu refuted Etu’s
claims, saying he and other former players
were still owed a sizeable sum of money
by the Warri club.
Ibenegbu said, “Etu only paid us(ex-Wolves
players) six match bonuses of the past
(2014/15) season; we are still waiting for
our 100 per cent accumulated wages to be
“The players held a meeting with Tony
Okowa (Delta State Sports Commission
boss). Tony told the players that he would
only pay them 25 per cent out of the 100
per cent of the accumulated wages, that
we should forfeit the rest. But up till now,
we have not received a dime out of our
accumulated wages.”
In the midst of the drama, another
spectacle played out on September 9,
when Wolves officials GordonsOgbe,
AzukaOgosi and Azuka Ralph were
allegedly robbed while on their way from
the bank. The trio were said to have
withdrawn N6m to pay the players and
officials’ part of the money owed them.
Also, Wolves got virtually nothing from the
sale of their high-profile players
AzubuikeEgwueke, OghenekaroEtebo and
“There are so many shady deals in the
club. When I got to Wolves as GM, I was
angry that players’ contracts were not
properly certified. In normal climes, you
see clubs renewing contracts of players
before a season ends. Etebo and
Egwueke’s contracts ended on January 10,
2016; Wolves tried to contest it but it was
clear and the club got nothing from their
transfers,” former Wolves general manager
Edema Fuludu said.
The 1994 AFCON winner added, “This is
what you get when dishonest people are
given positions but they don’t care
because it’s government funds.”
Fraudulent transfer deals
In November, Nasir Jubril, Manager,
Transfer Matching System of the NFF, said
the country’s football clubs raked in a
whopping N5bn in the first 10 months of
2016, from the sales of players locally and
“Between January and October this year, a
cash inflow of about N5bn has accrued to
the clubs in Nigeria from the transfer of
players. For instance, if a player is bought
for say two or three million pounds, when
you multiply that with the exchange rate
you can imagine what we are talking
Jubril however, didn’t provide details on
what each club earned from the players
sales but it raised a pertinent question on
what the clubs did with the money, since
they still went cap-in-hand to government
for sponsorship.
Secretary of the Association of
Professional Footballers of Nigeria, Austin
Popo, said the money realised from these
transfers, were mostly diverted for private
use by the officials.
“A lot of players are transferred abroad
but where is their transfer money since
majority of the clubs still rely solely on
government funding? We must monitor
these transfers; majority of them enter
private pockets. Corruption thrives in
Nigerian football. All the focus is on the
NFF but nobody talks about happenings
inside the clubs. This has to stop and we
are ready to fight until they adhere to
global standards and protect the players,”
Popo said.
Former Eagles midfielder Garba Lawal was
alarmed to discover that Kaduna United
players had no personal bank accounts and
were owed salaries for as much as seven
months, when he was appointed chairman
of the club in 2014. United also didn’t have
a club house, team office and good buses,
according to the 1996 Olympic gold
medallist, who said the club received
about N51m as yearly subvention from
government during this time.
A major problem that however stared
Lawal in the face was the controversial
transfer of the club’s defender Efe
Ambrose to Israeli side MS Ashdod in
Ashdod had refused to pay United the US
$70,000 agreed for the move, which led to
FIFA’s dispute resolution committee
imposing a 15,000 Swiss franc fine on the
club, in violation of article 64 of its
disciplinary code.
However, Lawal discovered that United’s
erstwhile officials had given the Israelis a
personal account, rather than that of the
club, which prompted the Europeans to
renege on paying the amount.
“Ashdod paid the money when I was
chairman of the club but it was when I
came in that I started making the contact.
The Israelis wanted a club account, not a
private account, and they didn’t agree to
pay because they wanted proof that the
account they were going to pay into
belonged to the club.
“So, I opened an account in Kaduna
United’s name and Ashdod paid the money
in batches within a short period of time.
“United didn’t have an account before I
joined them. They did table payment; the
sports ministry gave the club raw cash and
they spent days paying players and
officials inside a hotel. I couldn’t waste my
time doing that, so I opened accounts for
all the players in Sterling Bank,” Lawal
In an interview with sports website
in 2014, ex-Kaduna United chairman Sabo
Babayaro admitted that they presented a
private account to the Israeli club.
“We had an initial agreement for the fee to
be paid to our board financial secretary’s
account, Musa Mohammed Maliki, they
(Ashdod) refused and insisted on paying
into our club account in care of the agent
who brokered the deal,” Babayaro was
quoted by as saying.
But the Kaduna United issue doesn’t come
as a surprise to Kubeinje. “It is the same
situation in all the clubs year-in-year-out in
areas of internally-generated revenue
through the sales of players to foreign
clubs. The clubs’ domiciliary accounts in
this respect have become personal
property of the club chairmen and top
officials, where huge foreign exchange is
diverted into private pockets,” he stated.
But that was not the only fraud Lawal
discovered. One season, Kaduna United
had no player, after they sold all their
players and then loaned them back from
the clubs they were sold to. Yet, these
players were allegedly paid despite not
being on the club’s rooster any longer,
Lawal said.
“I came in to discover that players were
sold to other clubs but these same players
were loaned back to United. I played at
two World Cups, two Olympics, four
AFCONs and in Europe, I never saw a thing
like that,” he said.
Sports commissioners/agents/academies
Another major problem plaguing Nigerian
football is the involvement of people in the
hierarchy of the game in the sales of
footballers. Also, academy owners are very
influential in player sales. These
academies usually serve as laundry
channels for government funds, and only
exist in names with no offices or grounds.
Popo said the state sports commissioners
play a major role in defrauding the clubs.
“Two years ago, there was a transfer of a
player to Europe for €100,000 and the
money was paid into the personal account
of the club’s general manager. Funny
enough, these club officials don’t do it
alone; they connive with the sports
commissioners,” Popo stated.
A former Super Eagles star, who was once
General Manager of 3SC, told our
correspondent how the Oyo State Sports
Commissioner during his time at the club,
virtually forced him to pay him N500,000
monthly from the club’s allocation from
The ex-3SC boss, who pleaded anonymity,
said, “The man insisted that I must pay
him N1m monthly but I refused. The
money was barely enough to take care of
the team. But some top people intervened
and there was nothing I could do, so we
arrived at him collecting N500,000
An academy official, who also pleaded
anonymity, told our correspondent how the
sports commissioners and top clubs
officials defraud government owned clubs
through their academies.
“These people use club funds from
government to buy players for their private
academies and make the world believe
that the players are owned by the clubs.
But in the players’ contracts, they belong
to their academies. They then loan these
players back to the clubs. When such a
player seals a move abroad, the money
from his transfer goes to the academy and
nothing is remitted to the club account and
government loses,” our source said.
Last year, former Dolphins striker Emem
Eduok was engulfed in a transfer imbroglio
after Norwegian side Sarpsborg insisted
that they had acquired the Nigerian
international from A & B Academy on a
four-year deal reportedly worth $150,000.
Former league top scorer Eduok joined
Dolphins, now defunct, on loan from Akwa
United in the 2010/11 season before the
club acquired him on a permanent basis.
But Dolphins ignored Sarpsborg and
instead sold Eduok to Tunisia’s Esperance.
However, Sarpsborg Sporting Director,
Thomas Bernstein, insisted that the player
was presented as an A & B player by
Bright Ogude, CEO A & B Academy.
“Eduok confirmed to us in oral and wrote
to us that he belongs to A & B Academy,
we did our investigations and we found out
it’s true,” Bern stein said.
Sarpsborg ‘s loss was Dolphins and
Esperance gain, as the forward was
eventually sold to the North African club.
Dolphins had an option to take legal action
against Ogude and A & B Academy but our
findings showed that A & B Academy and
Sports Club is a part of A & B Group of
Companies, named after two influential
former sports commissioners in Rivers
“On Eduok, the agent, Bright, wanted to
play a fast one on Dolphins but the striker
reported the issue to the club. But A & B
Academy doesn’t belong to the
commissioners. To show his loyalty to both
men, Bright used the first letters of their
first names as appellation of the academy.
He even named his first son after one of
them,” a former Dolphins official said.
For Enugu Rangers fans, the euphoria of
winning the league after 32 years in the
doldrums is still in the air. But there seems
to be a time bomb waiting to explode when
the celebration drums cease to beat.
In April, our correspondent came across a
petition written by the supporters club of
the Flying Antelopes to the EFCC calling
on the anti-graft agency to investigate the
fraudulent activities of the club
management in the sale of their players to
clubs abroad.
Chairman of the supporters club
IbuchukwuNwodo, who is among those
that signed the petition, said one of such
transfers involved winger Ejike Uzoenyi,
who joined South African side Mamelodi
Sundowns on a four-year deal in 2014.
Uzoenyi joined Rangers from Enyimba in
the 2009/10 season in an exchange deal
that had Bishop Onyeudo joining the
People’s Elephants.
Nwodo stated, “Our biggest star Uzoenyi
was sold but Rangers didn’t receive even
five per cent of the transfer money. They
said the player was on loan (from
Enyimba). It’s a lie. We had an exchange
deal with Enyimba; they were given
“Nobody can tell us Uzoenyi wasn’t a
Rangers player but his transfer to
Sundowns became a different ball game
entirely. They shared the money amongst
themselves, including Uzoenyi. It was a
terrible thing.”
Players suffer
The case of Taraba United was widely
celebrated in December last year, after the
players staged a protest in front of Taraba
Government House, Jalingo, over 11
months unpaid salaries. The melee that
ensued saw the players beaten up by
soldiers and teargassed by policemen but
they were undeterred as they camped in
front of the government house for nine
Defender Linus Adams lost his new-born
daughter during the commotion that
ensued but couldn’t raise funds to travel
from Jalingo to Kaduna to see the body of
his dead child and comfort his wife.
A year later, things have gone from bad to
worse, with the players now owed 21
months salaries alongside sister club
Taraba Queens.
On Monday, players of both clubs blocked
the main entrance into the Taraba
Government House in protest over the non-
payment of their salaries.
“We are sad over what the Taraba
government is doing to us. We have not
been paid for 21 months now, they owed
us 10 months in 2015 and in 2016, 11
months have gone without any payment,”
Michael Uzih, Taraba United captain, said.
Most clubs in Nigeria travel to match
venues by road in order to save costs,
leaving the players at the mercy of the
country’s bad roads and dare-devil men of
the underworld, while the top officials
travel by air for the same games.
Sometimes, some of the players are killed
or left with career-ending injuries either
from auto crashes or from gunshots.
On January 18, two-time African
champions Enyimba had one of their buses
ambushed by heavily armed men in Okene,
Kogi State, on their way to Kaduna to
participate in the Super-4 tournament. The
players were made to pass through
harrowing experiences.
“Honestly, we thought we were going to be
shot because they were shooting in the
air. They hit our heads with guns. We
thought they were going to kill us. But
they only collected our money, phones,
iPads and other valuables,” Daniel Etor,
Enyimba’s 22-year-old midfielder, said.
In March last year, the bus carrying an 18-
man squad of Kano Pillars to their opening
fixture of the 2014/15 NPFL against
Heartland in Owerri was attacked by armed
men in Kogi, shooting five players —
Gambo Muhammed, Eneji Otekpa, Reuben
Ogbonnaya,Ubong Ekpai and Adamu
Gambo returned to football two months
later after a successful surgery while a
bullet was removed from the head of
Ogbonnaya a month after the attack. The
defender had left the bullet in his head for
that period in order to assist Pillars in their
quest to qualify for the second round of
the 2015 CAF Champions League.
Referees indicted
In 2010 veteran league reporter Emma
Jemegha reported how board members of
a South West club allocated loans to
themselves from the club’s money and
also inflated the money for the
maintenance of their pitch.
Jemegha says club officials would prefer
to “settle” referees, rather than taking care
of the welfare of players and coaches.
He stated, “No club in the NPFL gets less
than N300m annually but most of the top
officials prefer to take care of frivolities
and settling referees, instead of paying the
“Between 2003 and 2004, a prominent
team in the South East won the league but
their coach got sacked. When people
raised eyebrows, some board members of
the club said, ‘we knew how we won the
Former Secretary-General of the NFF,
Bolaji Ojo-Oba, corroborated Jemegha’s
claims, describing Nigerian football as
“cash and carry.”
Ojo-Oba said in Lagos at a seminar on
December 6, “Teams want to win, the
managers know that if they don’t win, they
are gone; the coach knows that if he
doesn’t do well he is gone too.
“That is why most clubs can’t pay the
wages of their players but they have
money to service the referees. It’s
happening in all the clubs. I’m from Ibadan
but I don’t watch games there because
they say I don’t allow them carry out their
“So, what is happening now (in Nigerian
football) is cash and carry. And it is due to
the level of poverty among referees,
because most of them don’t have any
other means of livelihood.”
NFF also involved
Incidentally, Ojo-Oba alongside former NFF
president Sani Lulu, Amanze Uchegbulam,
a former NFF first vice president; Taiwo
Ogunjobi, ex-NFF secretary-general; is
being prosecuted by the EFCC for offences
bordering on conspiracy and breach of due
The four accused persons are alleged to
have misappropriated over N1.5bn released
by the FG to the NFF during the South
Africa 2010 World Cup. They are accused
of siphoning about $125,000 through
shoddy hotel bookings in South Africa
during the World Cup, $250,000 lost as a
result of booking the wrong airline for the
trip, $400,000 allegedly expended on the
Nigeria/Colombia friendly match and
$236,000, which vanished from the coffers
of the Glass House (office of the NFF) in
They are also accused of flouting due
process in the purchase of two Marcopolo
buses for the national team, and sharing
N185m amongst state FA chairmen in their
bid to frustrate their ouster from the
The EFCC, in a statement signed by its
Head, Media and Publicity, Wilson
Uwujaren said, “Since their trial began in
September 2010, they have deployed
various legal tactics to frustrate their trial.”
In October, former NFF marketing director,
Idris Adama, said claims by Pinnick Amaju,
NFF boss, that the football body didn’t
have funds to prosecute the 2018 World
Cup qualifier against Zambia in Ndola, were
Amaju had told the Senate that the
national team might miss the game if the
FG didn’t assist the team with finance, but
Adama raised questions over the
whereabouts of the federation’s funds.
“I generated for them (NFF) N1.4bn, in
addition to €780,000.00 and $1m annually.
But my reward was to be sent out
unceremoniously. But ask them, Enzor
Pharmaceutical has paid N35m, Supersport
has paid $1m and Globacom is owing —
which was due on July 7, 2016 —
N382,500,000.00. Where is the money?
They are just being wicked to the society
that engaged them to deliver positive
results to the growth of our football. They
will never like me because I am blunt.”
Global image smeared
The corrupt practices of Nigerian officials
have also caught the attention of the
international football community.
On Sunday, sports minister Dalung
disclosed at the 2016 Annual General
Assembly of the NFF in Lagos that world
football body FIFA had withdrawn its
developmental funds from the NFF, after
its officials failed to properly account for
how it made use of the money.
“I received a report from the NFF
intimating me of FIFA’s Audit Report,
which raised questions on the
management of FIFA’s $1.1m
developmental grant to the NFF. According
to the report, FIFA has withheld all
developmental funds to the NFF for lack of
proper documentation of $802,000 out of
the funds released to NFF,” Dalung stated.
In 2010, a video on the Sunday Times
website showed Nigeria’s Amos Adamu,
then a FIFA executive committee member,
allegedly telling an undercover reporter
posing as a lobbyist working on behalf of
the US World Cup bid that he wanted to
build four football fields for $200,000 each
(in Nigeria) and that the money could be
paid to him “directly.”
When the reporter asked whether the
payment would help Adamu make his
decision in favour of the US, he responded,
“Obviously it will have an effect. Of course
it will have an effect because certainly if
you are to invest in that, that means you
also want the vote.”
Adamu denied any wrongdoing but he was
banned for three years and fined 10,000
Swiss franc after an investigation by the
FIFA Ethics Committee found him guilty of
breaching bribery rules.
Dalung lamented the alarming rate of
corruption in football, saying it could cause
the nation another international
embarrassment. He then ordered officials
of the football body to give proper account
of how the FIFA money was spent.
He stated, “This is a very serious issue
that must be given urgent attention to
avoid another international embarrassment,
more so that the present administration
under the leadership of
PresidentMuhammaduBuhari has zero
tolerance for any act of misappropriation,
misapplication, embezzlement or fraud in
any guise.
“The NFF is directed to immediately
provide my office with detailed information
of receipt, disbursement and application of
the FIFA developmental grant accordingly.
In addition, a reputable audit firm should
be appointed urgently to check the
account books of the federation to ensure
that funds are judiciously expended. The
audit report must be made public so as to
promote transparency, build credibility and
enhance your market value.”

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