Monday, February 15, 2010

FEATURES: Onehi, Zamfara Utd In Feud Over Compensation

On February 20 it would be the first anniversary of victims of the fatal road accident that claimed the lives of two Zamfara United personnel while travelling to Gombe for a Premier League game against Wikki Tourist. That match was earlier scheduled to hold at the Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Bauchi according to the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) calendar of the 2008/2009 season. But it had to be relocated to Gombe since renovation had started at the stadium in Bauchi for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
In that fatal accident that claimed the lives of a player, Abdullahi Sabiu and a curator, Ado Umar, attached to the club was one of the side’s promising midfielder, Peter Onehi, who joined Zamfara United as a free agent in the mid-season transfer window of the 2008/2009 season. Onehi was one of the players, who sustained serious injuries as a result of that ghastly motor accident and today, he is no longer playing and it is even worse as the young man is fighting to survive after he was diagnosed of having suffered a urethral rupture as well as injury to his pelvic. This development means that Onehi is unable to pass urine independently.
The player’s manager, Rasheed Gbadamosi, told that the former Zamfara United man had to be admitted at the Federal Medical Centre in Gombe State a day after he and his team-mates were involved in the accident that happened on February 20, 2009. According to the hospital records made available, Onehi spent five months at the Federal Medical Centre, Gombe and that was between February 21 and July 23 of 2009.
But the crux of the matter between Onehi and Zamfara United is that the former has accused his former employer of neglect. Onehi, however, told that for over a year he has been abandoned to his fate by his former Premier League employer. But Onehi was unfortunate as he featured just three times for Zamfara United in the Premier League last season against Warri Wolves, Nasarawa United and Niger Tornadoes. But the player feels pained that while he was still in hospital bed, he was sacked alongside 21 other players by the management of the club.
“Since I had an accident with the other team members last year February, I have been left on my own by the club (Zamfara United). I joined the club last season and I played just three matches for them before the accident. I called the club’s General Manager (Shehu Gusau) to tell him that my condition is worse and that I needed N250,000 to undergo another operation. Nothing has happened since then except that the club sent N40,000 into my account on September 11, 2009. It has been promise after promise from him and even the Special Assistant to the Zamfara governor promised to intervene but still nothing has happened.
“Now I can’t even urinate properly except through a tube talkless of returning to football. This is really inhuman because I was still in service when this happened to me and now I feel like being dribbled up and down,” said an aggrieved Onehi.
The player’s manager, Gbadamosi, however, added a new twist to the whole matter saying that he had written to the Premier League’s Executive Secretary, Alhassan Yakmut, on the issue and he also assured that the NPL would intervene but since September 15 when he wrote the board nothing has transpired to bring succour to the player’s plight.
It is understood that the Gombe State government undertook the player’s medical bill while at the medical centre in that state for five months. The General Manager of Zamfara United, however, pointed out that immediately the accident, he contacted the governor of Zamfara State who spoke to his counterpart in Gombe. That necessitated the Gombe State government taking up the player’s bill at the medical centre.
“That his bills were paid was not his own making because I contacted the sports commissioner over his matter since I saw that he had suffered a lot. The governor (of Zamfara) was informed and he spoke to the governor of Gombe, and that was how he was helped out there and they paid his bills,” said Gusau, who is vice chairman of the NPL.
However, Onehi had more allegations to level against the management of Zamfara United concerning his agreement, as he claimed that for the five months while in hospital, the club shortchanged him when his monthly salaries were paid between February and July. He said he was paid N30,000 for each of the five months instead of N50,000 which was agreed upon between him and the club.
On this allegation, Gusau took his time to explain that the player is ungrateful and rubbished his claims. He said the management had decided to end Onehi’s contract alongside some other players but he had to personally intervene so that they can be paid salaries up till the end of last season. The Zamfara United official took time to explain that the club does not offer contract fees (otherwise known as signing-on fees) to its players rather they (the players) are graded on salaries according to their performance.
“In Zamfara United, we do not offer contract on signing-on fees. What we do is to place players according to their performance. We have about 10 players who earn N50,000 and then there is about another 15 or so that earn N40,000 while others get about N30,000 and N35,000. But for him (Peter) to say that he was shortchanged that is not true because we made sure that the cheques were paid into his account. I don’t handle money at the club but I make sure that the money is available,” Gusau countered.
But Gusau also disclosed that the club had forwarded the names of Onehi and other players involved in the accident to the Zamfara State government to assist them since their plight has become a source of concern to him and other officials of the club. He said Onehi had demanded for N250,000 to undergo surgery but that the club decided to increase the amount to N500,000, which is yet to be made available to the club.
On the other hand, Gusau forwarded two text messages sent to him by Onehi. The first being a message berating Gusau while the follow-up text was to apologise for the first text message. The former Ocean Boys’ player acknowledged sending the text messages.
Onehi entered into a deal with the Premier League side on February 3, 2009 in an agreement which was witnessed by four of Zamfara United officials then being Bello Garba (Zamfara United coach), Lawali Musa (welfare officer), Rabiu Maishanu (marketing manager) and Bello Umar (masseur). The contract also clearly stated that the player can terminate the deal at his own convenience.
“The two parties (referring to Zamfara United and Onehi) agreed with the condition that the player will play for the club (Zamfara United FC) and anytime the player wishes to leave the club can do so without any condition,” read part of the contract terms.
With the NPL remaining mum on the issue, the player’s manager believes that dragging the issue before the press remains the last resort to seek an improved health condition for his player. Gbadamosi and Onehi are beginning to feel that the NPL is timid in bringing up the case against Zamfara United since Gusau is the vice chairman of the Premier League board.
However, when spoke to Yakmut, he acknowledged receipt of the complaint letter from Onehi’s representative. He revealed that it had been forwarded to the appropriate channel – the Arbitration Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) saddled with handling disputes between employee and employer in the Nigerian league.
“There are so many cases before the (Premier League) board. But we are not in the position to determine those cases because there is a committee saddled with that responsibility. So, we receive complaints and forward them to the appropriate channel to handle. So this is not a case of trying to sweep anything under the carpet because somebody that belongs to a club is a board member. No we won’t do that,” Yakmut said.
For now, the goodwill of friends and other well-wishers that Onehi has been living on is growing thin by the day. Last year, chairman of Heartland Football Club, Okehialam, gave the former Ocean Boys and Kwara United player the sum of N20,000 to help with his regular check up, which he undergoes in Ilorin every month. And Gusau has declared that as a former player he is ready to help Onehi in spite of the misunderstanding while Onehi like a prodigal son is ready to end the one-year feud and keep his personal relationship with Gusau.

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