The misappropriation of money, salaries, allowances, and benefits accruing to professional football players by the management of Warri Wolves football club, Delta State Sports Commission, as well as the state government and League Management Company Limited (LMC), has gotten to a worrisome stage.
Though the non-payment of salaries of professional footballers did not start today, the situation is at the worst stage, caused by the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, whose only focus appeared to be his presidential race.
Leading to legal action in 2018, a law firm, IKECHUKWU OGBONNA & CO Barristers, Solicitors & Consultants in a letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) dated January 11, 2018, petitioned the Management of Warri Wolves Fc Football Club, Delta State Sports Commission, Delta State Government, and League Management Company Limited (LMC).
According to the petition, players owed salaries, allowances and benefits were Professional Footballers who played for Warri Wolves FC Football Club in the 2013/2014, 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 football seasons
The petition stated that 34 players were owed a total of N245, 217,960.00.
The petition received by the EFCC on August 28, 2018, reads in part: “Our aforesaid clients were contracted by the Management of Warri Wolves FC Football Club under the auspices of Delta State Sports Commission, Delta State Government and League Management Company Limited (LMC) to play for Warri Wolves FC Football Club in the 2013/2014, 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 football seasons. Their respective contracts of engagement contain among other things provisions for salary, allowances and benefits (hereinafter called entitlements) in accordance with Schedule 2 to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Framework and Rules for 2013/2014, 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 Seasons. Copies of the said contract papers and a schedule of the players’ entitlements are hereby collectively attached herewith as Annexures “A” and “B” for ease of reference. Regrettably, whilst our clients were busy playing football for Warri Wolves FC in the 2013/2014, 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 football seasons in keeping with their aforesaid contracts, they were not being paid their entitlements despite the fact that the entitlements were adequately being remitted to the trio of Warri Wolves FC, Delta State Sports Commission and Delta State Government. This continued till the end of the 2013/2014, 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 football seasons.
“Consequent upon the foregoing, our clients wrote a letter dated 20/7/2015 to the Management of Warri Wolves FC football club wherein they complained about the unlawful withholding of their entitlements and requested to be paid same. A copy of the said letter is attached herewith as Annexure “C”. The management of the Club failed and/or refused to address the matter hence our clients wrote another letter dated 24/8/2015 to the League Management Company (LMC) requesting the LMC’s intervention in accordance with Section D (2) of the NPFL Framework and Rules for 2013/2014, 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 Seasons. The said letter to LMC is attached herewith as Annexure “D”. Upon receipt of the said letter, the Chairman of LMC, Mallam Shehu Dikko wrote a letter dated 2/10/2015 to our clients assuring them that their complaint would be treated in strict compliance with the rules. Surprisingly, the LMC failed to act and the situation remained unchanged.
“Section A Clause 126.96.36.199 of the NPFL Framework and Rules for 2014/2015 provides that for a club to qualify for participation in a new season of the Nigeria Professional Football League, the club must show that no sum payable to a player in respect of services provided in the preceding season is overdue and yet to be paid as at the date the player demanded same. Section A Clause 5.3.10 authorizes the LMC to bar a football club from engaging in the Nigeria Professional Football League in the season following the one wherein the club is at default in payment of players’ entitlements. Section A Clause 188.8.131.52 also bars clubs who are indebted to players from hiring/contracting new players until they show evidence that they have liquidated all that they owe the other players. Curiously however, despite these compelling statutory provisions, the LMC allowed Warri Wolves FC football club to participate fully in the 2015/2016 season of the Nigeria Professional Football League and also engage new players despite their indebtedness to our clients for the 2014/2015 season. Again, the LMC is empowered under Section B Clauses 9.44, 9.45, 9.46 and 9.47 of the NPFL Framework and Rules for the 2014/2015 Season to take various disciplinary actions against football clubs for offences relating to players’ entitlements. It is worthy of note that all provisions of the NPFL Framework and Rules for the 2014/2015 Season are replicated in the improved NPFL Framework and Rules for the 2015/2016 Season.
“We wrote a letter dated 15/2/2016 to the General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) requesting that our clients’ complaints be addressed. Regrettably, the NFF did nothing, hence we decided to write another letter dated 23/3/2016 to the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of LMC requesting his intervention but that also yielded no result. The said letters to NFF and LMC are attached herewith as Annexure “E” and “F” respectively. We wrote another letter dated 7/6/2016 to NFF Players’ Status Committee requesting the committee’s intervention but again, the committee threw our complaint into the dustbin. The said letter to NFF Players’ Status Committee is attached herewith as Annexure “G”.
Curiously, despite our clients’ unrelenting agitations/complaints and the fact that the NPFL Framework and Rules for the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 Seasons were signed into law by MR. SHEHU DIKKO who doubles as the Chairman of LMC and the Vice President of NFF, the LMC released more than N300,000,000.00 (Three hundred million Naira) to the Management of Warri Wolves FC in the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 football seasons in total disregard of Section B Clause 9.45 of the NPFL Framework and Rules for 2015/2016 Season which provides as follows:
“9.45. Overdue Payables
9.45.1. Clubs are required to comply with their financial obligations towards players and other clubs as per the terms stipulated in the contracts signed with their professional players and in the transfer agreements.
9.45.2. Any club found to have delayed a due payment for more than 30 days without a prima facie contractual basis may be sanctioned in accordance with paragraph 4 below.
9.45.3. In order for a club to be considered to have overdue payables in the sense of the present article, the creditor (player or club) must have put the debtor club in default in writing and have granted a deadline of at least ten days for the debtor club to comply with its financial obligation(s).
9.45.4. Within the scope of its disciplinary jurisdiction, the LMC may impose the following sanctions:
184.108.40.206. A ban from registering any new players for one or two entire and consecutive registration periods; 220.127.116.11. Confiscation or withholding of proceeds accruing to the Club from the transfer or sale of Players and using such funds to settle the overdue payables; 18.104.22.168. Withholding of funds accruing to the Club from the LMC and using such funds to settle the overdue payables;
9.45.5. The sanctions provided for in Rule 9.45.4 above may be applied cumulatively. 9.45.6. A repeated offence will be considered an aggravating circumstance and may lead to a more severe penalty.
“The aforementioned football authorities have criminally diverted/misappropriated the lawful entitlements of our clients for their own personal gains and if nothing is done very urgently, our clients’ entitlements will not only go down the drain but many more footballers will be surreptitiously swindled in the same manner. We, therefore, request that you use your good office to investigate this complaint, recover our clients’ entitlement and cause the culprits to be brought to book.”
Recall that in June 2020, former Warri Wolves forward, Abu Azeez, called out the club for owing players over three months’ salaries, in a series of messages on Twitter, exposing the maladministration of Okowa’s administration and nonchalant attitude towards sports development in the state.
Though the current leadership of the club and the sports commission were not reachable at the time of filing this report, sources disclosed to SecretsReporters that the condition of non-salary payment has not changed.
As a result of the lingering poor payment of footballers, the Seasiders are currently not ranked as part of the top best clubs in Nigeria.