Bayelsa United players barricade Government House, over unpaid wages
Posted: 10 May 2011 Time: 6:58 am
Players of former league champions Bayelsa United staged a peaceful march to the Government House in Yenagoa to demand payment of outstanding wages dating over two years.
The players have been on strike for the past week and last weekend, boycotted their State FA Cup final against rivals Ocean Boys in protest at their unpaid emoluments.
On Monday, they took their protest a step further by barricading the entrance to Government House in Yenagoa where they demanded audience with the governor.
Among their grievances are unpaid sign-on fees for the past two seasons, plus 58 match bonuses for the same period, including their continental exertions.
Defender Jerome Ezoba told KickOffNigeria.com that the players could no longer stomach the injustice "Personally, I am owed nearly nine million naira," he said. "How are we expected to live? Even the player who died while playing for us, his family have not been given anything, and nothing has been given to the family of Emma Ogoli who went to Ocean Boys where he also died.
"They are both being owed a lot of money."
Goalkeeper Emmanuel Fabiyi described the situation as inhuman.
“We are here at the Government House to protest the inhuman treatment given to us. For almost four seasons, no payment of sign-off fees and we are being owed over 50 match bonuses. The management has not helped our matter at all,” Fabiyi said.
Ezoba added that the players' action was sparked by a newspaper report quoting a top team official as saying the players had been paid one million naira each in the past week.
"The papers are saying that they paid us one million each, and that is what the government will see. So we came here to make sure the governor heard the true story. That we have not been paid for more than two years."
Fabiyi then went on to paint an even more sordid picture.
“Many of my colleagues who joined the team recently had to sell their cars to enable them feed their families. As I speak to you, we have no bus to transport us around and for training. No kits, boots for players, we now fend for ourselves."
Bayelsa State Deputy Governor Werinipre Seibarugu eventually came out to address the players, expressing the government's surprise at their plight.
At a meeting with the coach George Ederekumo, club captain Ebiki Timitimi and representatives, the deputy governor is said to have told the players that N180 million was approved for the club and said he was unaware they were being owed so much, and for so long. The deputy governor also promised to ensure that the outstanding debts were cleared. But not before the players made one final demand: that the money be paid direct to them and not through the club officials.