On Thursday, December 16, 2021, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, made mouth-watering promises to the 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) winners Akwa United for winning the state’s first-ever league title in their 24 years of existence.
Mr Emmanuel promised the team N100 million, a piece of land in Akwa Ibom State for the players, and a 32-seater bus.
“I have the permission of the entire Exco (Akwa Ibom State Executive Council) to announce that the entire team, all of you, will be given a plot of land each in Akwa Ibom State.
“Because you won the league, we will give you N100 million, so that we encourage you to do more,” the governor said.
Forwards: Ubong Friday, Wisdom Fernando, Charles Atshimene, Mfon Udoh, Godswill Nicholas, Akarandut Orok, Sadiq Abbas, Ikechukwu Nwani, Inemesit Sunday
PREMIUM TIMES spoke with some players about the state government’s unfulfilled promises.
According to Olisa Ndah, a former member of that squad, the promises have yet to be fulfilled.
Olisa appeared in 15 games for the Uyo-based club before joining Confederation Cup finalists Orlando Pirates in 2021.
“We haven’t really heard anything from the N100 million the governor promised. I’ve not really heard anything about it. I have friends in Akwa United, a lot of them, and we talk daily, even in the management.”
Another player, Dare Ojo, who had left Akwa United to Mash’al Mubarak in Uzbekistan early this year, told PREMIUM TIMES that there was nothing to show for the sacrifices the players made for the club.
“That’s true because we made a lot of sacrifices for winning the [2020/21] league. Not that easy for us. I don’t really know what happened, but the promises, up to this moment, haven’t been fulfilled by anyone. The land and 100m, he hasn’t fulfilled any.
They promised us N100 million and a plot of land for each player. Up to this moment, we never heard anything from them. It’s as if we didn’t win anything. For the first time in how many years in Akwa Ibom State, we won the league.”
Akwa United’s title-winning Coach, Kennedy Boboye, said he would not like to talk about his experiences with Akwa United as his business with the Uyo-based club was complete.
“They have not given any of those things – both the financial benefits, the land and landed property the governor promised; there is no one that has been fulfilled.
“I don’t know. Nothing was said before I left. Please, I don’t want to talk about Akwa United. I’m done and dusted.”
Boboye directed we speak with the chairperson of the club, Paul Bassey, to find out why the promises were yet to be fulfilled.
“I don’t have to. I’m not the chairman of the club, I was just the coach. They have a chairman. His name is Paul Bassey, and he’s a retired journalist like you. You can call him for feedback on everything. He’s supposed to be the one to get to the club, not me.”
Just as Boboye advised, PREMIUM TIMES called Mr Bassey about the N100 million and landed property. The club chairman was reticent and uncomplimentary during the telephone conversation.
“And those in the club have received,” Mr Bassey countered when he was told that players who had left the club insinuated the promises have not been redeemed. “Is that your investigation? Young Man, go and sleep! Did you hear me? Quote me, ‘go and sleep’.
He then asked rhetorically if the players in the club had received the promises.
“You don’t have any news. Players that have left haven’t received anything. Those that are here, have they received? I’ve been a journalist for over 30 years. Do you hear me?” At which point, he hung up.
Players still at the club say no
PREMIUM TIMES extended an extension to speak with players who stayed another season with Promise Keepers after they won the League if they had received the promises, as Mr Bassey suggested.
Based on personal and contractual reasons, Akwa United’s players spoke on condition of anonymity.
Two players, still at the club, confirmed they have not given them either the landed property or a share of the N100 million.
“No! They didn’t pay anybody, but the governor made a promise to redeem the pledge to us. Nobody should think that maybe we, the players still in the club, have collected money (and not) those that have left the club.”
Another player added: “They haven’t paid anything since then. We haven’t received anything yet from the promises the governor made.
He then added, “the club chairman is still patient about everything, hoping it will still be fulfilled.”
AITEO Cup promise made fulfilled three years later
In 2017, Mr Emmanuel made a similar promise to Akwa United players for winning the AITEO Cup. The governor made promised an N70 million largesse, but the redemption manifested in 2020.
Godspower Iguida, a member of the AITEO Cup winning squad, told PREMIUM TIMES that the money got to the players three years after Mr Emmanuel the promise.
“In our time when we won it, I think it was 2017. They later fulfilled the promise, though it took a lot of time before they gave the money.
“They later paid the money two years back (2020). I was still in the team then.
“The first 18 that featured for the final, I think they were given two million or thereabouts each, while others that were registered, I think some were given between N1.2 and N1.5 million.”
Commissioner refuses to comment
Just like Mr Bassey, who was discourteous about the cash gift and landed property, the state commissioner for Sports also refused to speak.
Monday Uko is the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Youth and Sports. He also attended the occasion when the governor made the promises to the players. But despite having the authority to speak about the governor’s cash and land gifts, he declined to do so with our reporter.
“I’m not going to answer you on that. I’m not going to answer that question.
“Do you have any other questions?”
Faint hopes for redemption
A former defender, Olisa has almost given up on redemption of the governor’s promises.
“I still hope maybe one day, but I lost interest in it. I already forgot about it and I have even forgotten I won the NPFL. Actually, it’s just as if we just won an FA Cup or something.”
Ndah represents many other players who have given up on the promises from the governor. A player still at the club spoke about how difficult it might be to get the land if the Governor leaves office.
“What I’m worried about is the land. Some players are no longer in the club. Some aren’t in the country. By the time they will allocate the land, we might not be in the state. For me, we are just pleading and urging the Government before leaving, that he should pay it. If he can redeem the pledge for us, it’s going to be for the goodness of his name and we too, the players that suffered for the league title, will benefit from it.”
As things stand, if the recent promises made and fulfilled follow the steps of the previous ones, it may become impossible for the players to get either the money or the land because Mr Emmanuel has only nine months left in office.