The Nigerian Football Professional League (NPFL) has come a long way. It is no news that in the late 80s and early 90s, domestic football attracts full capacity crowd across various stadia in the country. Teams like Shooting Stars of Ibadan, Rangers International of Enugu, Stationary Stores of Lagos, Julius Berger of Lagos, Sharks of Port Harcourt, Enyimba of Aba and Bendel Insurance of Benin made waves in both the FA Cup and the domestic league.
Defunct teams like Abiola Babes of Abeokuta, Mighty Jets of Jos, New Nigeria Bank of Benin, Leventis of Ibadan, and Nationale of Owerri also enjoyed followership and generally did well to make domestic football tick. We recall that back then, football fans embraced domestic teams same way they do to national teams, especially the Super Eagles.
In 1990, professional football officially took off in the country with requirements rolled out for the prospective teams to meet.
Some of the conditions include having a very good turf as home venue; such teams must also have a functional secretariat, must be able to guarantee adequate payment of salaries, allowances and good welfare package for players and must also be a limited liability company. It is sad that 28 years after the start of the pro-league, over 80 per cent of these clubs have not met the conditions of a professional outfit. Till date, many of the clubs are still indebted to players, while most of them still play regular league football on bumpy pitches.
For example, we saw how the current NPFL champions, Plateau United, clinched the title in a very bad pitch. The story of Taraba United FC players that are being owed salaries and allowances is still fresh and unresolved. However, the standard of the domestic league has been suspect over the years.
This is in spite of the administrative improvement in the operations and the way some sponsors have also partnered with the League Management Company.
The Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, only last week, declared that the homebased national team players competing at the ongoing Africa Nations Championship were not good enough to represent Nigeria at the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Rohr’s position came as a rude shock, even though many other people in the country feel same way. We recall that players like Justice Christopher, Julius Aghahowa, Finidi George, Vincent Enyeama, Peter Rufai and a host of others broke into the national team from their respective Nigerian clubs. Countries in Africa like Egypt, Tunisia, Cote d Ivoire, Cameroon still have a good number of their domestic league players in their main senior national team.
We make bold to say that the best way to evaluate the standard of football in a country is through the domestic league. The ongoing CHAN tournament is now being used by the Federation of International Football for its monthly rankings and we frown at a situation whereby players in the country’s league have little or no chance of making it to the Super Eagles. It is difficult to blame players who rush out of the domestic football scene to make money and gain exposure abroad.
They do so to boost their chances of playing for the country at the senior level. Kylian Mbappe, a French, as a teenager made name in the colours of Monaco and he again moved to another French team, Paris Saint Germaine.
It can be argued that the facilities and organisation are different, but it is also important to make the league viable and strong enough to produce quality players. No doubt, the current standard is not good enough and many people also argue that the players in Morocco are not the best in the domestic league. A coach in the NPFL, Ladan Bosso, came out last week to decry the composition of the players in Morocco for CHAN.
Bosso noted that many quality players were left out of the team and the final list was not a true reflection of the league. Moving forward, we urge the LMC and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to monitor the league better.
There should be national coaches that will move round to bring consistent, promising talents in the league. There should also be a good monitoring process for all the football turfs being used for the elite league while same monitoring process should be adopted for the officiating and security at all stadia nationwide. We strongly believe Nigeria is big enough to produce quality players to play in the Super Eagles team A in future if comprehensive plans are aimed towards achieving that.
We urge football authorities to also look into the academies and boost school football at all levels since the youngsters can also break into the main team even as teenagers. Former internationals like Henry Nwosu and Daniel Amokachi played for Nigeria as teenagers.
World Cup: Rohr’s provisional list
With barely three weeks to the 2018 FIFA World Cup competition, the fever is everywhere across the world as managers of teams released the provisional lists of players expected to entertain the world between June 14 and July 15. Some coaches were brave enough to come out with a 23-man list which could only be changed due to injury. The national team Managers of Brazil, England, France, Portugal, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden and Senegal did not release provisional but final list. We believe they did this due to the chemistry that exists in their teams overtime respectively.
Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, came out with a 30-man provisional list for the competition and we observed that there were no surprises except Junior Lokosa of Kano Pillars and Nwankwo Simeon of Crotone FC of Italy. Lokosa’s exploits (18 goals) in the domestic league has been impressive while the consistency of Simeon in the Serie A is commendable, but whether they have the experience to boost the Eagles’ for Russia is another issue entirely. Of the eight strikers invited, one or either of these two players will drop. Brown Ideye and Henry Onyekuru should have been given another chance to compete for shirts.
The list showed that Rohr has made up his mind to stick with the players that earned the country a ticket. Odion Ighalo is the arrowhead in the attack but there is need for a very hungry and experienced alternative equally as good as he is. We make bold to say that Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi are best as support strikers. The current Eagles attack is still deficient, but we expect Rohr to capitalize on the good form of Chelsea’s Victor Moses to wreck opponents at the Mundial. Only last weekend, Moses was in the Chelsea team that won the FA Cup trophy in London.
We applaud the selection of players for the midfield where eight players were also invited to begin the run-in preparations. This area is the strength of the Super Eagles but the efficiency on the pitch will depend on how the players are deployed respectively. Skipper Mikel Obi is the commander and he has to stay fit because his presence is always a boost to the team. On the other hand, his absence leaves a huge gap in the team.
Super Eagles’ defence is a major area of concern. Rohr admitted that defence was his major headache. Ten players were invited to vie for shirts but we strongly believe one or two more should have been called to give room for competition which will be good for the coaches to pick the best. Efe Ambrose who has been consistent in Scotland should have been invited especially because he scores goals from set pieces due to his aerial prowess for Eagles in the past and also does so currently for his team, Hibernian.
Dele Ajiboye’s inclusion in the keepers list is good for healthy competition but we urge the goalkeepers’ trainers to give the four goalies comprehensive assessment to get the best three. Francis Uzoho and Ikechukwu Ezenwa are sure bets but whether Daniel Akpeyi is better than Ajiboye is what the coaches have to determine.
With the current setting, it is almost certain that Rohr has made up his mind on his final list. At this stage, sentiments must be avoided for merits. We have trust in Rohr to deliver in Russia, but some people around him are working for their personal rather than national interest.
Meanwhile, as we countdown to the event, a report has rated Joachim Low of Germany as highest paid FIFA World Cup coach with an average wage bill of €3.85 million. Next to Joachim is a Brazillian Manager, Tite. Tite’s average wage bill reaches up to €3.5 million which is same as that of Didier Deschamps of France.
Super Eagles’ Rohr earns €500,000 per annum and he is ranked 24th. In Group D, the Argentine coach has the best salary and he is followed by Iceland and Croatia. What the coaches earn is not enough to determine the performance of the team but it goes a long way to show motivation and the football development level in the country.
We urge NFF boss, Amaju Pinnick, to be careful not to allow politics to ruin the good work the federation has put in so far for this team. NFF has done really well.
Let us emphasis that the coaches should be brave enough to drop any player below 70 per cent fitness for the next available player.
So far, it is not clear whether the team has a psychologist and it is very important to have at least one for the World Cup. Overall, the players have a key role to play by coming all out to do their best for the country. The expectations of Nigerians are high and so it is expected they work hard and be determined to excel at the Mundial.
End health workers’ strike now
The game being played by the Federal Government and health workers under the auspices of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) is dangerous to the health of Nigerians and the economic wellbeing of the Nigerian nation.
On April 17, JOHESU called out its members, which include the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutes (SSAUTHRIA), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Medical and Health Workers Union (NHWU) and the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Workers (NUAHP), on a nationwide strike to force the hands of the Federal Government to accede to its requests.
JOHESU’s demands include the implementation of the adjusted Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS), the payment of specialist allowances to deserving health professionals, payment of arrears of the skipping of CONHESS 10, increase of retirement age of health workers from 60 to 65 years and the review of the composition of the Boards of Federal Health Institutions (FHIs), as well as the abolition of the position of Deputy Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (DCMAC), among others.
But the Federal Government, from all indications, is not ready to accede to the striking workers’ demands.
In one of his reactions to the strike, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said JOHESU’s demand to be on the same pay level with doctors was not realistic. Adewole, said instead, salaries and wages of the health workers would be adjusted.
While the altercation between the union and the Federal Government is going on, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) threw its hat in the ring.
The association threatened to embark on strike if the Federal Government acceded to JOHESU’s demands. Both the F e d e r a l G ov e r n – ment and the NMA seem to be on the same page in terms of their stand on the JOH E S U ’ s strike. But while the Federal G ov e r n – ment and the medical pract i t i o n e r s have taken healthcare to the chess b o a r d , many people, the majority being the poor, are paying the price.
While patients have been sent away from public health facilities, those who could afford to pay have gone to seek medical attention in private hospitals.
But those who could not pay have resigned to fate. It may be difficult to get the number of those who might have died because of lack of data in Nigeria. But certainly, a lot would have needlessly lost the battle to stay alive, albeit due to what could be termed minor health challenges, because of the ongoing strike. The strike has claimed lives. We sympathise with the 19 members of JOHESU who were injured in an accident on the Benin-Auchi Road on Saturday.
About 40 health workers, said to be staff of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) chapter of the union, were on their way to a function in line with the strike in Auchi, when the accident occurred. An engineer with an information technology firm reportedly lost his life.
The man, a victim of armed robbery, was reportedly rejected at a private hospital because there was no police report, but there were no health workers to attend to him at the government-owned health facility he was later taken to.
So the breadwinner of a family lost his life because of the strike. Several others are dying but their deaths are probably not reported. Unfortunately, the strike came when the President also had to take a medical trip to the United Kingdom. But apart from the leaders, how many Nigerians could afford to go outside the country for medical attention?
That probably explains why the leaders may not be keen in addressing the demands of the striking health workers.
While we cannot deny workers, particularly those in the health sector, the right to take steps to seek redress to their perceived short-change in the hands of their employers, going on strike at the slightest opportunity does nobody no good. In other climes, strikes have gone out of fashion. We encourage workers’ unions in Nigeria to devise new but proactive means to get employers to accede to their demands.
It is also pertinent to note that JOHESU was yet to comply with the directive by the National Industrial Court (NIC), Abuja, which, last Thursday, ordered the union to suspend its strike and resume duties within 24 hours.
Justice Babatunde Adejumo, who is president of NIC, gave the order after listening to the submissions of Mr. Okere Nnamdi in an ex-parte motion filed by a non-governmental organisation, Incorporated Trustees of Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International.
Adejumo ordered the Ministers of Health, Labour and Employment, among others, to immediately set up a committee to address issues raised by labour.
The judge ordered that the parties should arrive at an acceptable and amicable solution in the interest of Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of the strike action. We also implore the Federal Government to immediately find a lasting solution to the incessant strikes in the health sector.
This is necessary in order to safe many more souls which will be lost to the strike. A failed nation is it which cannot provide for the economic and health needs of its citizens.
Ikorodu-Sagamu road: Beyond the N20bn approval
The Ikorodu-Sagamu road, which used to be the only road connecting Lagos with other parts of the country before the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, had been in a deplorable state and total neglect for many years.
The strategic nature of the road makes it to bear heavy vehicular traffic, mainly petrol tankers and other haulage vehicles servicing Ikorodu Industrial Estate and the Ogijo Industrial hub, said to be the second most industrialised area in Ogun State.
The economic importance of this road is not in doubt: 42 communities and 45 industries are situated along this road and its adjourning areas. Of note among the industries are PZ Cussons at the Lagos end of the road, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC)’s Mosimi depot and Lafarge’s Cement factory at Sagamu at the Ogun State end. The Lagos State Polytechnic is among the educational institutions situated along this road, while the road also serves the 174 Battalion, Nigerian Army barracks.
The movement of essential goods and petroleum products take place along this road and the arduous transit often leaves broken down trucks in its wake and the delays, which results are significant economic losses for those involved.
The road remains an alternate route linking Lagos to other parts of the country, especially on such days when there is heavy traffic on Lagos- Ibadan expressway. That this road is economically significant is an understatement. Successive administrations in the country have ignored calls for the rehabilitation of this road.
Claims by a former Minister of Works under the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime to have rehabilitated the road turned out to be untrue. Since the inception of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, however, there had been cries from different quarters for the reconstruction of the very important road, necessitating visits by the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
One of such calls was by a member of the House of Representatives representing Remo Federal Constituency, Hon. Oladipupo Adebutu, who noted on the floor of the House that the road, which hosts several strategic installations and industrial plants such as the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company Limited (PPMC), is in “deplorable condition” and “continuously poses great danger to lives and property in the surrounding communities.”
The lawmaker noted that “the situation had caused high rate of fatal crashes, created gridlock and provided ample opportunities for armed robbery attacks on commuters and residents.” Also, on May 9, 2016, the Lagos State House of Assembly urged Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to repair portions of the Ikorodu- Sagamu Road to alleviate the suffering of the over 42 communities, estates and industries along the axis.
It did not, therefore, come as a surprise when, on March 28, 2018, the Federal Government announced the reconstruction of the road at a cost of N20 billion. A few weeks before the reconstruction nod by the Federal Government, however, Ogun State government suddenly commenced work on a portion of the road. Laudable as the move would have been, we make bold to say that the job being done, to say the least, was shoddy, as the already asphalt portion started giving way, two weeks after, necessitating patching.
This calls to question the ability of the construction company handling the job for Ogun State government to deliver the expected standard if allowed to continue the work. We believe that before any tier of government will embark on reconstruction of a federal road, agreement should have been reached on the quality and scope of work to be done, but in this instance, this definitely is not the case.
Considering the importance of the road to the nation’s economy, the need for an internationally accepted standard in road construction cannot be over emphasised. We hope the eventual outcome of the recent disagreement between the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and Ogun State government on the scope of work done and its quality will not result in compromise on standard construction work, which will be to the detriment of the larger society as anything short of a standard and long lasting reconstruction of the Ikorodu-Sagamu road will portray the Federal Government as a deceit.
With the flag off of the project yesterday, we think it is imperative to alert the construction firm on areas of expected concentration such as the fly over on the slope before the Lagos State Polytechnic, the front of Ogijo Community High school, which requires a deep and wide bridge to discharge flood water from the adjourning areas, another suspended bridge at Labori Oloja, among others, should be specially attended to.
The firm expected to undertake the reconstruction, ARAB Contractors, which moved in and out of site four weeks ago and is again back as at last Saturday night, needs to maintain its insistence on reconstructing the entire stretch, including the areas being given a semblance of road construction presently.
We equally expect that the right of way, which had already been compromised in many areas in Ogijo township, would be corrected. Anything short of this will amount to a waste of public fund and a lost opportunity for Fashola to write his name in gold.
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