Sports commissioner Aya explains why Cross Rivers owes Pelican Stars

For the third time since 2016, the players and officials are in a race against time to secure their entitlements for 10 months

Commissioner of Sports in Cross Rivers State, Offa Aya, has admitted the state government is indebted to the players and officials of Nigeria Women’s Premier League (NWPL) side Pelican Stars.

Players of Pelican Stars stormed Governor Ben Ayade’s office in protest over 10 months of unpaid salaries on Monday, having been last paid in June 2019, despite the fear of contracting the coronavirus.

Goal understands it was not the first or second time that the club has been in this situation, having previously been owed up to seven months of salaries in 2015, and another five months without pay in 2016.

The Calabar-based outfit regained promotion to the NWPL for the 2020 season following their relegation to the second tier in 2018.

The indefinite postponement of the NWPL, earlier scheduled to kick off on March 25, has now forced the players to stage a protest in a bid to cope with a possible lockdown during the pandemic.

During the protest, the players displayed placards bearing inscriptions like “please our digital governor come to our aid,”, “due to hunger, one of our players is hospitalised,” and “we are breadwinners of our families!”

While chanting songs like “we need money for sanitary pads”, captain Odo Williams said: “We came to visit our father, which is the governor to tell him that we have not been paid our ten months salary.

“One of our players, Awotunbo Shola, is in general hospital suffering from ulcer and it is because of hunger. We need money.

“The situation is so bad that we have to go to our management to ask for money for the pad.”

However, Aya expressed sympathy about the plight of the players as he assures they will resolve matters in the coming days while appealing for the support of the teams.

“We have issues of unpaid salaries with some teams including Calabar Rovers and not just about Pelican Stars,” he told Goal.

“We’ve been able to sort out some of the teams since we started last Thursday. Unfortunately on Monday, the players of Pelican came to the governor’s office to stage a protest and I tried to address them but they did not want to listen to me.

“The team was owed and they need to be paid between now and next week. The government on its own, even at the Federal level can no longer cope with funding of sports and that’s why we have been appealing for individuals, firms and private organisations to come and adopt the teams.

“We need assistance and people who can be of help to the government in catering for the team with provisions of various items including, jerseys and many more.

“They are our daughters and we are keen to see that their talents are been showcased to the world.”

Goal learnt the players continued with their protest at the Governor’s office on Wednesday amid the spread of Covid-19, despite Nigeria already recording six deaths from 254 positive cases.

Pelican won their last and a record eight Nigerian women’s crown in 2010 and will open their campaign against Nasarawa Amazons in Calabar.