Nigeria: NPL Crisis Deepens, Clubs Groan

For several years now, Nigeria’s elite league, the Nigeria Premier League has known no peace. The league has been bedeviled by endless crises which have pushed it to the brinks. The league which began about eight years ago is still battling with teething problems to the consternation of many football followers.

The first board of the NPL was headed by Chief Gaius Oyuiki Obaseki. The board enjoyed enormous financial support from communication giants, Globacom but failed to make maximum use of the huge resources that came its way. For many it’s hard to understand how so much money that accrued to the board was spent. In as much as the board raked in billions from the Glo sponsorship deal, the clubs remained impoverished.

Things took a more worrisome dimension when Obaseki’s tenure expired and a fresh election was to be conducted. Two gladiators, Mr. David Owumi and the presently embattled chairman of the NPL, Chief Victor Rumson Baribote sowed the seed of total discord in the NPL as they fought to lead the board.

After an acrimonious process, Owumi emerged the chairman of the NPL only to be removed few months later by a law court which ordered the NFF to conduct another election. Following the NFF conducted elections, Chief Baribote emerged as the new chairman. His emergence did not calm flared nerves as the NPL family became deeply factionalized.

While the dirty fight lasted, Globacom on its part began to drop its commitment to the league. Even as it failed to make use of the offer of first refusal extended to it by the NPL, the communication company rushed to the court in search of redress when it discovered that NPL had gone into title sponsorship deal with its arch rival, MTN.

That began another battle that brought the NPL on its knees. Despite several interventions from the government and other key stakeholders in Nigerian football, the sponsorship brouhaha is unresolved and the NPL is still an orphan. Consequently, two NPL seasons have gone without a sponsor. The league’s saving grace is the NFF and the clubs themselves. Unfortunately, the NFF itself is perpetually going cap in hand.

The NPL is surviving by strokes of luck but unfolding events are indicators that such luck has been over-stretched as the pressure continues, it may snap at any moment. On Tuesday, 18 clubs in the NPL meet in Abuja and after an emergency meeting held at Dennis Hotel, they passed a vote of no confidence on the board of the NPL led by Baribote. The clubs did not stop at that as they immediately impeached the embattled chairman and then set up a six-man management committee headed by Mr. Mike Idoko to lead the board pending fresh elections.