NPFL At 30: Origins, History, Champions, Top Scorers

The Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) celebrated its 30th anniversary on Tuesday, 12 May.

Celebrations were understandably muted as the league is currently suspended over the coronavirus pandemic.

League football in Nigeria had been instituted in 1972 with Jos side Mighty Jets the nation’s first-ever top flight champions.

But football stakeholders decided on the wholesale restructuring of the league on 12 May 1990 with the topflight becoming completely professional.

Pioneer members of the restructured top flight included Kano Pillars, Obanta United (later VIP), Ranchers Bees, Enugu Rangers and Stationery Stores.

Others were the now defunct Lagos ACB, BCC Lions, Bendel Insurance, Bendel United (now defunct), Enyimba, Highlanders of Jos, Iwuanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland), and JIB.

Of the founding members of the league, only Enyimba, Kano Pillars, Enugu Rangers and Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Heartland) are currently in the topflight three decades later.

Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Heartland) who were reigning champions from the old first division kicked off the season against Stationery Stores at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos.

The Owerri-based Naze Millionaires prevailed 2-1 against Stores and went on to win the inaugural championship – their fourth league title on the trot, a feat yet to be repeated.

Iwuanyanwu Nationale also produced the inaugural winner of the golden boot with Ishaya Jatau finishing on top the goal’s scorer charts with 17 goals.

Aba side Enyimba are the most successful club in the NPFL era with eight league titles which is also an all-time record for topflight titles.

Kano Pillars have won the second-highest number of NPFL titles (four) while the two other founding members of the professional league still in the topflight – Enugu Rangers and Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Heartland) – have won the restructured topflight once and twice respectively.

In 2011, Kaduna United’s Jude Aneke became the first player to score 20 goals in a season. His feat was, however, surpassed by Enyimba’s Mfon Udoh whose 23 goals in 2014 remains a record.

Udoh is also the only player to have won the golden boot twice while Peter Anyiolobi’s 9 goals for Enyimba in 1996 are the fewest for a golden boot winner.

In 2017, Lobi Stars Anthony Okpotu became the first player to register three hat-tricks in a single season achieving the feat against Sunshine Stars, MFM FC and El-Kanemi Warriors.

Here is the list of NPFL champions and highest goalscorers over the last 30 years.

1990  Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Owerri) Ishaya Jatau (Iwuanyanwu Nationale) 17
1991  Julius Berger (Lagos) Richard Ojomo (Bendel United) 12
1992  Stationery Stores (Lagos) Arthur Moses (Super Stores) 10
1993  Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Owerri) Tony Nwigwe (Iwuanyanwu Nationale) 13
1994  BCC Lions (Gboko) Olumide Harris (Shooting Stars) 14
1995  3SC Shooting Stars (Ibadan) Ben Agawam (Gombe United) 12
1996  Udoji United (Awka) Peter Anyiolobi (Enyimba) 9
1997  Eagle Cement (Port Harcourt) Paul Kpoughoul (Jasper United/BCC Lions) 16
1998  3SC Shooting Stars (Ibadan) Hassan Minna (Gombe United) 14
1999  Lobi Stars (Makurdi) Emmanuel Ago (Iwuanyanwu Nationale) 14
2000  Julius Berger (Lagos) Peter Ijeh (Julius Berger) 14
2001  Enyimba (Aba) Uche Okereke (Enugu Rangers) 13
2002  Enyimba (Aba) Joetex Frimpong (El Kanemi Warriors) 16
2003  Enyimba (Aba) Chibuzor Ozurumba (Iwuanyanwu Nationale)

Endurance Idahor (Julius Berger)

2004  Dolphins (Port Harcourt) Kabiru Alausa (Julius Berger) 13
2005  Enyimba (Aba) Timothy Anjembe (Lobi Stars)

Joseph Akpala (Bendel Insurance)

2006  Ocean Boys (Brass) Ikechukwu Ibenegbu (El-Kanemi Warriors) 10
2007  Enyimba (Aba) Aruwa Ameh (Kaduna United) 10
2008  Kano Pillars (Kano) Abubakar Babale (Wikki Tourists/Sunshine Stars) 14
2009  Bayelsa United (Yenagoa) Orok Akarandut (Akwa United) 17
2010  Enyimba (Aba) Ahmed Musa (Kano Pillars) 18
2011  Dolphins (Port Harcourt) Jude Aneke (Kaduna United) 20
2012  Kano Pillars (Kano) Sibi Gwar (Niger Tornadoes) 17
2013  Kano Pillars (Kano) Victor Namo (Nasarawa United) 18
2014  Kano Pillars (Kano) Mfon Udoh (Enyimba) 23
2015  Enyimba (Aba) Gbolahan Salami (Warri Wolves) 17
2016  Rangers International (Enugu) Godwin Obaje (Wikki Tourists) 18
2017  Plateau United (Jos) Anthony Okpotu (Lobi Stars) 19
2018  League abandoned after 24 rounds Junior Lokosa (Kano Pillars) 19
2019  Enyimba (Aba) Mfon Udoh (Akwa United)

Sunusi Ibrahim (Nasarawa United)