Nigeria’s oldest boxer, Bash Ali, was last Thursday, taken into police custody after a prolonged row with Nigerian Export – Import Bank, NEXIM, over the sponsorship of a Guinness Book of World Record fight.
The boxer, in his seventies, was taken away on Wednesday after the bank accused him of threatening to bomb its premises in Abuja before calling in the police.
Mr. Ali has denied the allegation.
“I never said I will bomb their office,” Mr. Ali said. “If any institution owned by government disobeys the order of Mr. President because of corruption, that institution should be closed down. That is what I said.”
He said his arrest was an attempt to silence him from exposing the bank’s management’s demand for bribe.
The boxer and three of members of his team were arrested and charged for nuisance the following day – after spending a night at the notorious SARS unit. The court subsequently remanded them in Kuje prison custody.
A Nuisance, a Cause
The boxer’s ambition to place his name in the Guinness Book of World Record has seen him picket many institutions over the last decade, including the Nigerian Police Force, headquarters of the ruling People’s Democratic Party and the National Assembly.
In the last decade, Mr. Ali lived for several days on the street corners, bus stops and gates of institutions he targeted. When Mr. Ali chooses a target, he camps there, occupies the office and pickets them until he is heard.
His cause climaxed in 2013 when the National Sports Commission set up a Local Organizing Committee for the fight. NEXIM Bank was offered a seat on that committee. Mr. Ali claims it was at the inauguration of the committee on January 7, 2014 that NEXIM got a “presidential” directive to provide 30 million US Dollars for the fight.
“That’s their role on the committee,” he said.
The Bank denies knowledge of the directive and said it demanded copies of the directive severally from Mr. Ali, but he was “never able to produce” them.
“NEXIM does not finance sports activities. Notwithstanding this explanation, Bash Ali did not relent but decided to adopt every means to extort the $1, 000,000. 00 from the Bank.
Mr. Ali argues that, neither the “directive” nor NEXIM’s claim that it does not fund sports activities, is the reason the bank refused to provide funding for the fight.
He said the Managing Director of the bank, Robert Orya, demanded 10 percent of the 30 million US Dollars support funds in bribe and “I said no.”
“He also demanded 100 million US Dollars in bribe from the projected pay per view revenue from the match and I said no,” Mr. Ali said.
The boxer said after he turned down the bribery demands, since February 2014, the bank began withdrawing from the project – the reason he targeted the bank.
The bank denied the allegations.
Hearing on the nuisance and threat to life charges, as well as Mr. Ali’s bail application, begins on March 4.