…We are suffering -Father cries out
By Amaechi Agbo
Almost two years after he was gruesomely killed by the Nigerian military on October 16, 2016 in Rivers State, there are every indications that the living do not want the dead to rest.
The story of Izu Joseph, former defender of Shooting Stars FC of Ibadan, Oyo state, is one that evokes shock, anger and pity. What one would not have expected is frustration being part of the nightmares the parents and daughter of the late player would face after his untimely death on that fateful day.
Late Izu Joseph was a player of no mean repute when he adorned the blue colours of the Ibadan-based outfit. He joined the club from Bayelsa United in 2013 and helped them gain promotion to the Nigeria Professional Football League the following year.
Izu Joseph, a central defender with Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) of Ibadan, was allegedly shot on Sunday, October 16, 2016 by suspected Joint Task Force officers in Okaki community, in the Ahoada West Area of Rivers State, on arriving the state to visit his family.
The player dedicated himself to playing his football with the 3SC where he won several Man of the Match awards until his life was cut short.
While it was established that 3SC helped in making his burial arrangement, however, troubled started when the management of the Oluyole Warriors started foot dragging with the payment of late Izu’s accumulated salary arrears, match bonuses and entitlements.
The family wrote several letters to the club but nothing came out of it. Also the family’s request to see late Izu’s contract papers was rebuffed.
In October 2016, former Shooting Stars defender Joseph was tragically shot dead while holidaying in his home state of Rivers. Aged 24 at the time, the unfortunate incident threw his family into disarray: he was the official provider for his immediate family, comprising a wife and daughter, as well as his aged parents.
What has followed has been a show of shame, as the management of Shooting Stars have given a lesson on how not to honour their fallen player. There have been various claims and counterclaims, but basically it boils down to this: before his demise, the player signed a contract with the club for two years, from 2015 to 2017, during which it was agreed he would be paid 300,000 Naira a month. The contract to this effect was, as is customary, lodged with the League Management Company (LMC).
Yet, for some reasons, the player was only paid 150,000 Naira for three months of his contract: from January to March. The entirety of his entitlements for the 2015 season, amounting to 1.56 million Naira, were owed, as well as his entitlements from April to October, when he passed away.
But why is Shooting Stars delaying in paying late Izu’s backlog of entitlements?
The General Secretary, National Association of Nigeria Professional Footballers, NANPF, Austin Polo expressed worry over the development.
“Only God knows, my brother. I have personally travelled to Ibadan and have discussed with the Commissioner for Sports and they keep on saying that they don’t have enough money. But even the ones that they are paying, there is no narratives to it.
They have not even agreed on the exact amount they are owing Izu. I am aware that last month they paid about N400, 000. What is that mean amount for? We cannot continue like this where people will just do things the way they like and feel they can get away with it.
“Today, the good news is that the union has been able to establish the exact amount that is being owed Iate Izu Joseph which is N3.8 million and we have communicated it with the LMC. Unfortunately, because 3SC got demoted from the NPFL last season to the NNL; we are now discussion with the chairman of NNL and he has said that LMC should transfer the matter to them so that they can be decisive before the NNL kicks off.
“The truth is that once we have the facts and the figures like Izu’s matter, they will pay the contract they submitted with LMC because that is the genuine contract. The contract I saw in Ibadan was N150, 000 but the one I saw with the LMC is N300, 000. So, Shooting Stars will pay the N300, 000 contracts they signed with him and we will make sure they pay it,” Mr Popo stated.
We are suffering – Joseph’s father cries out
The father of the late player, Mr Reuben Martin Izu has lamented the hardship Izu Joseph’s untimely death and 3SC’s refusal to pay his entitlements has subjected the family to.
Mr Martin, a retired civil servant with five children and now a granddaughter to take care of, said the family is passing through stress as he regularly visits the hospital to monitor is blood pressure.
He therefore called on the management of 3SC to play their part in ensuring the immediate payment of his late son’s entitlements even as he called on the Rivers State and federal governments to come to the family’s aid.
“I don’t know how much they owe him because the people involved have refused to release documents to us. We don’t have his contract paper yet. I was told his salary was N150, 000. And I asked them, how much is the accumulated debts? How much do you owe my son? Balogun (Rashid) the club’s GM, has refused to say anything. He kept sealed lips.
“I am a retired civil servant. Izu Joseph had been the bread winner for the family. Why is Shooting Stars treating us this way? We are surviving from hand to mouth. And with the daughter to take care of, things are not funny.
“I want the federal and state governments to come and help my family. They should come and take care of Joseph’s only child. The future of the child is very paramount.
Her educational needs, health care and everything that will make her live a fulfilled life. We are passing through a lot. We are suffering. Shooting Stars, sad enough, has refused to play their own role in this matter.
“They promised that they would take care of the daughter but till date nothing has come out of that promise. We are passing through stress. I don’t know why they are doing this thing. Why they are doing this, we suffer, we have stress. These days I always go to the hospital to check my blood pressure; they have not made us happy at all.
“The military on their part are not helping matters either. But we trust in God. The presidential panel that investigated the murder came here and we presented our case but we have not heard anything.
“My son helped his club to gain promotion to the league but see how they are treating him even in death. Why are the people insensitive?” The discomposed father asked as he wept afresh during the interview.
Send a letter to 3SC so that nobody will be quoted out of context – Commissioner
Meanwhile, when contacted on phone to ascertain what the ministry sports in Oyo State was doing in ensuring that late Izu Joseph’s lingering unpaid entitlements are settled, the Commissioner for Sports in the State, Mr Yomi Oke asked the reporter to write a former letter to the management of the 3SC so as to avoid quoting them out of context.
On his part, the Chairman of the Club, Mr. Gbolagade Busari, when contacted on phone, said “I don’t want to talk about Izu Joseph’s case on the pages of newspaper; I sorry about this. I don’t want to be treating it on the pages of newspaper. There are a lot of insinuations here and there,” he said.
In the meantime, the chairman of the Nigeria National League, NNL and the chairman of the League Management Company, LMC, Chidi Offor Okenwa and Alahji Shehu Dikko, respectively, did not pick calls put across to them neither did they respond to text messages sent to them requesting for their comments on the issue.
Izu Joseph was buried on 5 December 2016 but it appears from all indications that Shooting Stars Sports Club of Ibadan does not want him to rest even in death.