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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