By Emmanuel Afonne
Bimo FC of Keffi on Wednesday cried out over its expulsion from the Nigeria National League (NNL), describing the action as a witch-hunt and gang up against it by the league managers.
The club’s Team Manager, Iyke Igbokwe, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Abuja that Bimo’s expulsion might not be unconnected to the match-fixing petition he submitted to the EFCC and Police against NNL managers.
NAN reports that NNL expelled Bimo from the league after it failed to honour two games consecutively on Match Day 9 and 10 which they say contravenes section 14 paragraph 10 of the NNL rule book.
But Igbokwe said the expulsion of Bimo was a calculated attempt to shut the door against the club from proving its match-fixing allegation brought against the managers of league.
He vowed that the club could not be intimidated into dropping the allegations against the league body.
“The referees that officiate NNL matches are either FIFA graded or Grade 1, so, there is a kind of officiating that will be dished out in a terrible manner that any sane mind will know that something transpired around the corner.
“A case in point was a situation where one referee, A. Mohammed from Bauchi, officiated in our match against Zamfara United, and in our next home match against Jigawa, the same person returned as Asafa Mohammed to officiate our game.
“We wrote petitions upon petitions, but there was no reply and they continued to give those bad referees matches to officiate. I can tell you that these match-fixing emanated from NFF Referees Committee that appoints these referees.
“The NNL management on June 7, 2018 wrote a circular to the clubs that they are placing the league on hold for poor officiating, and if you monitor football well, you will see that our referees are well graded.
“They came back from Russia and the 39 national league clubs held a meeting on Aug. 15, 2018 in Abuja and resolved that a notice of 21 days should be given to the clubs by the NNL secretariat before the resumption of the league.
“To our surprise, on Sept. 7, 2018, the NNL wrote the clubs that they are starting the league on Sept. 12 and the clubs immediately replied back that it was not what they discussed,” Igbokwe said.
He explained that the essence of the notice was to enable clubs recall their players to camp and prepare well for the league and that this resumption would be after the issue of bad officiating/match-fixing in the league must have been sorted out.
Igbokwe expressed disappointment over a situation where a sponsor of the league was allowed to feature a club in the same league it claimed to be sponsoring, noting that fair play would never be achieved in such situations.
“The NNL is malfunctioning also because they have a sponsor of a league (bet9ja) that has a team — “Remo Stars”, playing in the same league.
“This is why they started that league in a hurry because they are already match-fixing Remo Stars to win promotion to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
“They know that if they wait for all these match-fixing allegations to be investigated, they will be wasting the time of bet9ja and Remo Stars.
“So, that is why they are restarting the league in a hurry, and I think it is unethical because you will not get fair play when a sponsor of the league is also playing in the same league and NFF is there watching,” he added.
The Bimo FC team manager insisted that Bimo could not be expelled overnight after spending N12.5 million for a slot in the league and another N50 million to prosecute its matches up to Week 8 before the purported expulsion.
He said: “We didn’t play the two matches not because we didn’t have money since we played as far as Adamawa, Sokoto and Kano.
“So, it is not a question of money but a question of some people as usual using their `agbero’ method to remove a good omen that has come to Nigeria football.”
Meanwhile, the NNL Secretary, Lawrence Katken, had told NAN that Bimo FC was expelled for not honouring two consecutive matches in the league.
He also said that a notice of 21 days was sent to the clubs before the restart of the league as agreed by the congress.
“Bimo FC was expelled from the league for missing two consecutive matches in NNL. The rule says if you miss two consecutive matches you will be expelled from the league.
“Furthermore, a notice of more than 21 days was sent to clubs before league matches commenced; go and ask anybody,” Katken said.