Sanity at last in Nigerian League

The Nigerian League winners have finally been picked but not in the last day frenzy we all expected

Kano Pillars win the league without even kicking the ball on the last day taking away all the expected excitement of having three clubs jostle for the League title but how things change and to no fault of the League who almost bundled it any way by waiting until the last moment to do the right thing.

But just in case you just came in from another universe (I’ve been watching a lot of Fringe lately) let me take you back, down memory lane.

The Nigeria Premier League has rules and regulations yet some people wanted to subvert it, or so it seemed until three Lagos based journalists, Colin Udoh of Kickoffnigeria, Toyin Ibitoye of Channels TV and Bode Oguntuyi of did the right thing.

Below is the troublesome article in the League’s rules and regulations

4.2(1) Any club that fails to honour its fixture obligation without any reason acceptable to the NPL shall be fined the sum of Twenty Million Naira only {N20, 000, 000.00} payable to the NPL in addition to all expenses incurred by the home team within fourteen (14) days.
In addition to the fine the erring club shall forfeit 3 point 3 goals arising from the match.

4.2(3) If a club fails to honour two consecutive matches without an acceptable reason such a club shall be expelled from the League and its matches played and unplayed shall be cancelled.

Now Ocean Boys failed to honour the game in Kano against Kano Pillars many weeks ago but at no point did anyone make them pay the sum of twenty million naira (about $125, 000) or even refund the home side, Kano Pillars the expenses incurred in the hosting of the game and life seemed to go on for everyone playing the Nigerian League.

A few weeks later, they failed to honour a home game against Kaduna United and then an away game against Wikki Tourists falling foul of Article 4.2(3) meaning they should have been expelled from the league and all their matches played and un-played cancelled.

The league rather met and set up a three man committee headed by Alhaji Wopa to investigate why they did not play three matches and began moves to force them to play matches.

Ocean Boys’ next game was at home to Rising Stars and they did not turn up. After the referees had performed walk over formalities and given the game to the visitors, Rising Stars, the NPL ordered that the game be played the next day.

Rising Stars did not ask who would bear their expenses for the cost incurred for an extra day stay and the rest of the League watched on as a few men did their best to destroy what was left of the credibility of the Nigerian League.

Ocean Boys, the home side still failed to turn up the next day and the NPL rather than talk about it, rescheduled Ocean Boys to play a game in Port Harcourt against Sharks ten days later.

Now if there was any doubt as regards the status of Ocean Boys at the time, the General Manager of the club, Anthony Ogola addressed the media and said they had voluntarily withdrawn from the league, blaming the NPL’s Acting Secretary General, Tunji Babalola for their woes.

He said, they are a privately run club and had a budget they must defend but things went awry when the League send text messages to the club to play referees indemnities, hotel accommodation and feeding at their home games.

Ogola said no club planned for this since it was the duty of the NPL and it took a lot off their finances and that was why they could no longer honour league games

Media Officer of the club, Ohis Asein is also alleged to have said they had pulled out of the league but were being forced by the NPL to play matches.

At least this agrees with Article 2.0 (3) on Withdrawal

2.0(3) If a club withdraws at any stage of the competition, it shall be expelled from the competition and will not be eligible for readmission. All its matches played shall be cancelled.

So can anyone explain why were Ocean Boys not expelled from the League at this point? The NPL kept quiet about it, the other clubs looked on saying nothing while the media wrote and discussed it but nothing happened until a few days ago when Colin Udoh, Toyin Ibitoye and Bode Oguntuyi took matters into their hands.

They warned the Nigerian Premier League to take action against Premier League club Ocean Boys, or face legal action.

Represented by Fred Agbaje, on Tuesday, they issued a 48-hour deadline as league organizers continued to drag their feet over the issue.

According to their petition, they were only asking the NPL to obey their own rules in a manner that does not leave any room for any suspicion of foul play.

At that time tongues had started wagging that the NPL’s inaction was to protect certain teams who were favoured to win the League and would have been hurt by the Ocean Boys’ withdrawal.

The journalists threatened to go to the Federal High Court if the right thing was not done in 48 hours.

A few hours after that petition was made public, the NPL in a press release issued by its media officer, Emma Njoku quoted Joe Amene, a board member and chairman of the Media/ Publicity Committee as saying

“The Nigeria Premier League (NPL) has observed with dismay, the determined efforts by some persons acting in proxy for a cartel that are bent on derailing the successful conclusion of the 2011/2012 league season

“These same persons have all through the season tried unsuccessfully to erode the equity of the League through smear campaigns against the person of the NPL Chairman, Chief Victor Rumson Baribote. Having failed to achieve the objectives of their masters, they have now resorted to clinging on the matter of Ocean Boys FC to continue to deploy the media to instigate crisis despite the fact that the case involving Ocean Boys is before a properly constituted committee of NPL” the statement went on.

“We need to state unequivocally that the NPL is committed to enthroning the league champions through the outcome of matches on the field of play. Unfortunately, for those masquerading as ethical champions, we are aware that they are hired guns of people who have held the league down over the years and have not accepted the fact that they have lost control” Amene further stated.

“While the NPL is a responsible organization, we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated by persons who seek to use legal personalities to achieve relevance in a system that accords them no such status as stakeholders. The Week 38 matches of the 2011/2012 season will hold as scheduled” the statement concluded.

However, in a volte-face less than 24 hours later, the same Joe Amene signed a communiqué after a meeting of the League board and one paragraph read,

In a related development, the board unanimously evoke article 4.2(3) of the NPL which states that “if a club fails to honour two consecutive matches without an acceptable reason, such a club shall be expelled from the league and its matches played and un-played shall be cancelled” in the case of Ocean Boys Football Club. Therefore, Ocean Boys FC stands expelled and its matches, played and un-played summarily cancelled.

With this new development, those that watch and report the Nigerian League brought out their calculators to start working out the new league table based on points deductions from Ocean Boys’ games.

The hardest hit were Lobi Stars, Rangers and Shooting Stars who beat Ocean Boys home and away losing 6 points each in the deductions as well as the goals scored.

League defending champions, Dolphins also lost 4 points from this action.

And with that, Kano Pillars have been declared the League champions as they are now four points clear of their closest rivals with just one round of matches left to play.

Did the NPL eventually get it right? Certainly, but they shouldn’t have left it as late as they did.

Below is the current League table after the deductions

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