The rescheduled 2018/2019 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Match Day 8 fixture between Bendel Insurance and Enugu Rangers which was abandoned in farcical circumstances after match officials refused to turn up for the fixture at the UNIBEN Sports Complex, Benin, on Wednesday is now set to be played today.
The much-anticipated renewal of the hostilities between the traditional rivals had to be called off yesterday after the Nigeria Referees Association (NRA) reportedly directed its members to stay away from the tie out of concerns for their safety.
The NRA concerns stem from statements attributed to Phillip Shuaibu the Deputy Governor of Edo State who is also a registered player of Insurance where he allegedly issued threats to referees who “do rubbish” in Insurance’s home games following their one all draw with Rivers United on Match Day 10 in February.
The NRA had reportedly written to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the League Management Company (LMC) in the aftermath of Shuaibu’s statements demanding that he, in his capacity as Deputy Governor issue a signed undertaking guaranteeing the lives and safety of all match officials deployed to Benin in the future.
With no such undertaking forthcoming from the Deputy Governor before yesterday’s game, the NRA in return made true their threat by directing their members to stay away from the game.
Multiple Reports indicate however that the Deputy Governor has bowed to pressure and acceded to the NRA’s demands by signing an undertaking guaranteeing the safety of the match officials. The match, therefore, has been set for 4 pm today at the UNIBEN Sports Complex, Benin.
It is not exactly clear why the NRA chose yesterday to down tools over this issue having previously sent match officials to Benin including for last Sunday’s goalless draw against Kwara United.
Tenth-placed Bendel Insurance will hope to put a stop to Group A leaders Rangers’ thirteen game unbeaten run later today. Insurance themselves are unbeaten in their past five matches although the last three have ended in goalless draws. They have played six goalless draws in total and have drawn nine out of fifteen matches this season.