By Emmanuel Afonne
Bimo FC of Lafia on Wednesday said it would boycott the remaining matches of the Nigeria National League (NNL) season pending the determination of its petition to FIFA and Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on poor officiating in the league.
The club’s Team Manager, Iyke Igbokwe, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on telephone that the club decided to boycott the league since the mangers of NNL refused to address the issues raised in its match-fixing petition.
According to Igbokwe, it was an aberration to restart the league without first of all addressing the delicate issues that could jeopardise the future of NNL.
“We are saying that you cannot have bad officiating without match-fixing.
“We wrote a petition to NNL, NFF and FIFA on match-fixing which has not been addressed and the league’s organisers confirmed that the first round of the league was characterised by bad officiating.
“Our referees are FIFA graded, so they know the laws of the game and when they apply it in scandalous manner in a match, then, you know that money has exchanged hands and it’s match-fixing.
“The NNL itself confirmed what we were saying by suspending the league; it didn’t stop there, they said that the league will restart only when the NNL and the clubs must have met with NFF and the referees appointment committee,” he said.
“All these are written in a circular given to all the clubs; the club owners met in one congress and confirmed that the league was characterised by bad officiating and that they will send a delegation to interface with NFF on the matter.
“We don’t know whether that meeting held, nothing was communicated to the clubs and we just saw a notice now that they want to start the league today (Wednesday), so, Bimo FC is not playing.
“We are supposed to be away to Real Stars of Kaduna, but we are waiting to know the way forward just like the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) did,” Igbokwe said.
The Bimo team manger also noted that the club would send a reminder as regards its letter to the EFCC and the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, on the illegal money being collected by a group of individuals in the NNL.
“The money collected from clubs is criminal in nature; it may interest you to know that Bimo FC was bought for N12.5 million but nothing was remitted to NNL’s coffers. The money was shared among the NNL cabals,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of NNL Lawrence Katken, has said that due process was followed to restart the league.
Katken told NAN that the league managers decided that the competition would resume, while the committee carry on with its responsibility.
He said that any club that refused to play would only have itself to blame since the matter at hand was not a personal thing but a concern for all the clubs and league mangers.
“It is only at the disciplinary committee level that we will invite those clubs that have petitioned against bad officiating, and if clubs representatives are there, what are you expecting.
“The league was not stopped on behalf of the clubs that wrote petitions; the league was stopped for the entire clubs.
“When we suspended the league, we called a meeting of the football committees which involved the referees committee, clubs representatives and NNL representatives and we had a discussion on those petitions.
“The errors that were committed were acknowledged with a promise to look into them; yesterday (Tuesday), the referees committee sat to review the cases of those referees that were said to have handled their games poorly.
“The referees who are involved have been invited to appear before the committee at a later date, so, we decided to go on with the league while the committee continues with its work.
“Those referees who are involved will not be given any match until the matter is resolved,” Katken said
NAN reports that the NNL was suspended before the kick-off of the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosted by Russia between June 14 and July 15.
The league which has 40 clubs divided into four groups was put on hold just after the Week 8 round of matches.