Festus Abu, Friday Olokor and Idris Adesina

The Taraba State Government has been subjected to intense criticism by the National Association of Nigerian Professional Football Players and Nigeria Women’s Premier League over  police attack on the state-owned men and women’s  football clubs  at  Government   House in Jalingo on Thursday.

Police allegedly brutalised some of  FC Taraba  and  Taraba Queens players who  marched through the streets of the capital city to the Government House  to  protest against the failure of the state government to pay them their   18 months salaries and allowances.

One of our correspondents learnt that some of the players were  allegedly arrested by the police.

However, Governor Darius Ishaku  on Sunday urged  the footballers to have patience and desist from disrupting the peace  in the state, saying he had already begun moves to  pay them.

NANPF Secretary-General  Austin Popo, who expressed his disappointment with the state government’s refusal to pay the players after a meeting between the players’ union and the state’s Commissioner for Youths  and Sports Gambo Indafo, condemned the attack on the players.

 “The situation of those players is calamitous and lamentable. It is not the first time they will protesting against the same thing. The players were attacked with tear gas by the police while some of them were locked up,” former international Popo  told one of our correspondents.

“But  the players who were locked up have been released. Some officials of the Trade Union Congress   met with the  state government and the players’ representatives.

“The players  promised to stop the protest for the two weeks but  said they would  resume the protest if they were not paid. We hope the government will honour their part of the agreement.”

NWFL Chairman Aisha Falode slammed the alleged brutalisation of the players for daring to demand their entitlements.

 “We don’t want to believe that the government directed the police to beat footballers who came to demand  their salaries and bonuses.

 “They  are breadwinners of their families and you can imagine what they have gone through all the period they have not been paid.

“I want to appeal to Governor  Ishaku to look into this case and bring everybody involved in the ill-treatment of the players  to book.

“We believe that  governor, who is a loving father, did not send anybody to beat these girls, who are Nigeria’s mothers of the future. It is the handiwork of some overzealous officials, who must be made to realise and respect the sanctity of womanhood.”

Ishaku,  in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs  Emmanuel Bello, said  football should bring relief and entertainment,  not crisis in the state.

He said, “My heart goes out to the footballers and I can assure them we are on top of  the matter. We are looking at both short term and long term measures to combat their issue. I have been studying the outstanding bill and working with my team to find solutions. We should be able to deal with the issues soon.”

The governor added,  “I have a name to protect and a reputation too. So I’m committed to the welfare of  my citizens.  Football is very important but I’m also mindful of civil servants and my pensioners. I’m carrying everyone along in this. In a time of scarcity,  priority becomes very vital.”

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