The 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) was given a facelift as the matches were beamed live on TV.
Hopes rises even more when the NFF announced fresh capable brains to steer the affairs of the 2020/2021 Nigeria National League.
The appointment of Chief Operating Officer of the NNL, Emmanuel Adesanya and the CEO, Senator Obinna Ogba, is a round peg in a round hole, both of them are great football administrators following their antecedents, particularly, the COO who was in charge of the AITEO Cup competition before his new appointment.
Without wasting time, they swung into action immediately after holding their Annual General Assembly where they addressed the media in Abuja stating different ideas they’re bringing in with which to improve the standard and quality of the League.
Despite their efforts to stage a well-organized and hitch free League this season, Nigerians were disappointed as match officials failed to show up in the two centers of the season openers in Abuja and Malumfashi.
On their part, the referees claimed the appointments were made less than 24 hours before the match and also they were being owed backlogs of indemnities in the last two seasons and are not sure on how that will be settled in the new season. Reacting to this, the NNL management while admitting owing the referees felt disappointed saying they had meetings with the leadership of Nigerian Referee Association (NRA) who assured them that match officials will be at the venues.
As at week 5 of the League, six referees have been punished for unprofessional acts in different matches. This justified speculations that match officials collected bribes from teams and match results were being determined before the kick off.
The Four NNL teams in Abuja (NAF FC, EFCC FC, Road Safety and Oyah Sports FC) have seen hell in the hands of the officials because referees were not being fair in their decisions even at their home ground. The referees see Abuja as an venue where they can come, do whatever they like with impunity and go away with it.
In two different matches which I was privileged to watch; the first match involving NAF FC and El-Kanemi as well EFCC FC Versus Rarara FC of Katsina. The two center referees; Gimba Mohammed for NAF FC game and Abubakar Musa from Kaduna who handled last Friday’s game between EFCC FC and Rarara FC intentionally (with video evidences) decided the outcome of the game where the two home teams lost points due to referee alleged manipulation.
The center referees in these two matches were seen to be biased in their decisions and calls during the league games. In the NAF FC versus El- Kanemi’s match, the visitors second goal was a clear offside and the goal was allowed to stand even as the home team protested.
The equalizing goal of Rarara FC against EFCC FC was a clear manipulation. When the referee sounded the whistle for infringement, he pointed his hand against the visitors but quickly changed his mind and called for a penalty against team.
There were allegations that referees who come to officiate games in Abuja see it as an avenue to fraudulently make money if the visiting teams grease their palms. To this end, the illegal act reduces the quality of the game as some believe that the NNL is ‘cash and carry’.
Threats to the hosts and favouring the visitors may trigger the nursing angers in the easy-going Abuja fans if this acts fail to stop. We urge the NNL management as well the NRA to swiftly switch into action to end this menace.
The NRA and the NFF Referee appointment Committee led by Tade Azeez and on their part should stop the appointment of referees on match day and should give stern warning to their members to stop using their whistle as a means of accumulating illegal funds.
The NNL should also find a way of settling the referees’ indenminities because Nigeria is polluted with corruption and the match officials could be easily bought to balance their expenditure.
The EFCC FC versus Rarara FC match was marred with irregularities. The arrival of the referees at 4:50 pm gave rise to speculation that they were at a venue taking bribe. The match was forced to go on late because the away team claimed they booked their accommodation at Kaduna and must leave for the hotel same day.
As we wish the NNL all the best in making the league a worthwhile, we appeal that referees who were appointed to officiate the EFCC FC against Rarara FC last Friday should be dealt with according to the rule book to serve as deterrent for others who may want to repeat such unlawful act in Abuja before the elasticity of patience of Abuja fans is overstretched.