Nigerian sports fraternity was jolted Friday afternoon when an ugly news broke – that FC Ifeanyi Ubah who were traveling to Kano for NPFL matchday-six game against Jigawa Golden Stars slated for Sunday, December 1, 2019, at the Sani Abacha Stadium, were attacked by gunmen at Kabba, near Lokoja, Kogi State, Completesports.com reports.
According to reports, the armed men emerged from the bush, decked in National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, uniform, started shooting sporadically at the team’s bus. The driver was more seriously injured in the incident.
As at late Friday night, the critically injured driver had ‘gulped’ no fewer than three pints of blood as medical experts in the various hospitals he, and other injured players and officials were rushed to, battle to save his life.
Completesports.com recalls that on March 5, 2015, Kano Pillars FC were equally attacked by suspected armed robbers along Abaji-Lokoja, road, Kogi State. Five players, Gumbo Mohammed, Eneji Otekpa, Adamu Murtala, Reuben Ogbonnaya and Usong Ekpai sustained various degrees of injuries in the attack. Pillars were on their way to Owerri for a league match against Heartland.
Organisers of the league – the League Management Company, (LMC) quickly postponed the match to allow the injured players enough time to recover.
A year later, exactly on January 16, 2016, Enyimba players and officials, were the victims of the rising wave of armed attacks targeted at football clubs. The People’s Elephant were on their way to Kaduna for the NPFL Super-Four playoffs when they were attacked by armed robbers at Okene, in Kogi.
Earlier this year, Katsina United coach, Abdullahi Biffo was kidnapped in Malumfashi, Katsina State. He regained his freedom 17 days after he reportedly paid N15m ransom.
The latest FC Ifeanyi Ubah case was not the only armed robbery incident on the Kabba road that fateful Friday. The Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, confirmed that their men were also attacked by gunmen on that road last Friday.
The question now agitating the minds of many after FC the ill-fate ifeanyi Ubah’s road trip is who could be the next victims if the security agencies don’t move swiftly to make the roads safe. Why has it been that scary ‘Kogi axis’ all the time?
The rampant cases of armed attacks on traveling teams in the domestic league brings to mind, the issue of the league organisers’ inability to attract the kind of sponsorship that will enable the teams travel by air for their away games.
A situation where the organisers, LMC, can partner with a local airline operator as part sponsors is important. Leaving this aspect entirely in the hands of the clubs that are owned by State governments amounts to toying with the sucurity of the main performers of the NPFL and only scratching the surface in the big quest to build an excellence professional football league.
If the LMC could strike a deal with a domestic airline operator as partners and make it mandatory for clubs to comply with the terms of such a contract, it will bring huge sanity to club and NPFL administration. The club owners, particularly, would have huge burden taken off their shoulders.
Another area that the “Kogi” robbery incidents have thrown up is the need to review insurance package of every NPFL club.
Beyond the mere ‘insurance cover papers’ demanded from clubs by LMC before their players could be registered, the league organisers can centralise this by partnering with a reputable insurance company to provide better coverage for all the clubs.
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