BY CHIMAOBI UCHENDU
Niyi Alonge, Managing Director of Total Promotions, Owners of the Title and TV rights of the NFLL, has cleared the air about his involvement in the Nigeria football league since 2003.
The new Interim Management Committee set up by the Nigeria Football Federation recently have been playing the ostrich claiming alibi about Total Promotions’ existing contracts with the NFLL but the Benin-Akure-born marketer has declared that no one can rubbish his huge investment in the Nigerian league insisting that he would fight with every legal might at his disposal to claim his rights.
Hear him: “I got involved with the NFFL in 2005 through a letter that the former NTA gave my company for the Nigerian Football League. I have an advertising agency called Adwork Limited which handled NNPC. NNPC had a network programme on NTA but it so happened that they couldn’t pay NTA, so they were going to cut off the programme. NNPC then called me and said ‘Can you do us a favour?’ because you know our process and I paid NTA on behalf of NNPC.
“The then NTA MD called me saying he was impressed that I bailed my client out, can I bail them out with the NFL, they are owing some money they can’t pay for the broadcast rights. I said to Tony Iredia that I like football and I know that it is a good investment but I don’t know how you came about this. He showed me all the papers of the debt, I said I will be interested. He then gave me this letter of August 10, 2005 concerning the then League Management Committee (now NFLL), so I got there and paid what NTA was owing them so the chairman of the league sat me down and asked if I could be a sponsor that they need money.
“They were being kicked out of their flat. I came from Daily Times where I was the Head of Marketing so I knew it could succeed if it is well managed, so I wanted to get involved because it means good business for my company. I gave them two conditions – no private company will touch you if you are not a limited liability company with the distinct difference from government. Secondly, if you accept that then we’ll see, and they accepted, and that is how I invested N30m then in 2005. And I have the records, when they advertised it, only two companies came in.
“I have the minutes; if anyone wants to come and counter, let them bring their own minutes if they have. In their minutes, they said Total Promotions should come and take the league and I said No, you are a company of public interest, it must be advertised for the interested parties. So they advertised it actually, a million, I paid, even though I had already paid them N30 million but they are two separate issues, the N30m was for broadcast rights. Again, only two companies bid, my company and AIT because NTA said they are no longer doing.
“ AIT put in N60m, I put N120m, so they gave it to my company But for two years, if you want to know, up to 2007, no company came, no private company was interested, they were watching because of Cadbury’s experience.
In two years, I was using my money to pay, but of course, it is a contract, I had to pay. Then SuperSports came and I have heard people say SuperSports were chased out but they were not there in 2005, I had already been there for two years paying on my own solo. I paid the rent when they moved because they didn’t have any money, now some people are now talking but that is the background of how I got involved.”
Some persons may be wondering why this case has been in court since 2013?
Obatseki’s league left, and by that time, Owumi, the present secretary was part of an election which he won, and when he won, they met my contract on, and Owumi came to me and said he promised his clubs that they were going to get another sponsors … because Glo had left them S0, we got it. I brought MTN for the second time, I paid for everything because MTN said they would not go direct again because they don’t want the embarrassment they suffered the first time.
You wanted this title rights, I got them N3bn. Ask Owumi who is the secretary of IMC today. I don’t know what happened, they threw Owumi out of office and I supported him, because it was very unfair and they had N3bn and Glo promised them again and they passed the right to Glo.
Because I won, MTN had not given me a penny, the marketing director of MTN then is in Lagos, he will tell you that they did not give me a penny. When the NFL did that, and Glo did this, I had to go to court. And we are still in court till today – Glo, LMC, me,
I just want to recoup my money; I have had about three SANs fighting on the title rights on broadcast rights. There were these conceptions that Obatseki told SuperSports that I am his cousin and he told them to get out. They were not there in 2005, please find out, SuperSports came in 2007 and I had put in millions, and I had paid again for two years to keep the league going because it was there in my agreement, I must pay N120m every season, then when they threw Owumi out, LMC came in, and by supreme court decision, the only legal chairman of league stops with Baribote.. The Supreme Court decided last June that the League is still NFLL and that LMC is a fraudulent company till date.
“ LMC disobeyed, they went to SuperSports during African Cup in South Africa, they arrived and they actively announced that they now have $10m or so per season for the league from South Africa. Mind you, my contract was still on, so I sued them to Lagos court for violating my contract with NFLL, the evidence of Saliu who was in court is that yes, they agreed that Total Promotions has the contract but the contract is from NFLL, and that there is a different sheriff in town, they are not the successor to NFLL and they are picking who they want, they are not disturbing Total Promotions and that is why I went to court, and the court set perpetual injunction in 2014. LMC not Total Promotions went on appeal, and that appeal filed by their lawyer, they never followed it up till today, it is still there in Lagos court of appeal. And the Supreme Court says NFLL is alive.
What do you think is a way out?
Two things actually, by way of advice, let’s have a structure that is legally respectful as the present structure of football in Nigeria is very saddening. From head to toe is not legally structured, anybody can just come there and do what they like.