Rivers United players, led by their captain Festus Austin, are pleading with the State Governor Nyesom Wike to settle their outstanding financial entitlements to enable them concentrate and challenge for the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) title this season.
The players claim they are owed backlog of match bonuses for over two seasons and contract fees since last season.
The Stanley Eguma-tutored side are currently second on the NPFL standings with 36 points from 21 matches, just one point behind leaders Plateau United.
In an interview with a radio station in Port Harcourt monitored by www.busybuddiesng.com, Austin described the situation as a ‘big issue’, while pleading with Governor Wike to come to their rescue.
“That has been a big issue in the team,” the veteran defender said. “Since the start of this season, the players have been asking for their money regarding the contract fees and two seasons match bonuses, as well as the current season’s match bonuses and contract fees.
“I just want to use this opportunity to beg His Excellency (Nyesom Wike) to see how he will look to our case and release the money so that it can really push us to be on top of the table to see how we’ll bring the league trophy to Rivers State.”
Centre-back Kunle Odunlami and former Super Eagles player added: “What the players know about is only money, there’s nothing you tell the players. If you say ‘players do this’, they’ll tell you ‘hey, you have not done this, if you do this, you can ask for more’.
“So, right now, I believe if he can help us. I believe Mr Excellency is a man of his words If he can help to release these monies and pay everybody so that we can put our heads together, not that we would be thinking ‘Oh! I’ve not been paid transfer fees’ instead of us to focus on the game.
“But right now, we are just begging and we hope before the end of the month, something better will happen,” the former Sunshine Stars man said.
Owing players their wages is not a new thing in Rivers State. In 2014, players of defunct the Sharks and Dolphins (now Rivers United) slept in front of the Government House in Port Harcourt in protest of 8 months salaries.
The non-payment of players’ wages is also widespread across the league and players have often resorted to the threat of legal recourse and the intervention of international sporting organisations to get their due.
On Tuesday, NPFL club FC Ifeanyiubah were handed a global transfer ban by professional footballers union FIFPro for “repeated non-payment of salaries”.