As is already well-known nationwide Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba took over the mantle of leadership when the State’s finances were in a precarious position with huge outstanding debt owed to financial institutions workers, contractors and suppliers.
FC Taraba and Taraba Queens, which were both in the epic football leagues of the country, were no exceptions as they were owed several months of outstanding salaries and Bonuses.
The Executive Governor did not get to know the magnitude of the debts owed the football clubs until the League Management Committee threatened to sanction FC Taraba on grounds of non-payment of remunerations of the players and their Technical Crew.
It was as a result of this threat that sometime in October this year, the Executive Governor was confronted with the real state of affairs regarding the unpaid remunerations of the players of FC Taraba.
On further enquiries by the Governor, it was realized that substantial proportion of claims of outstanding remunerations of FC Taraba were infact sums payable to staff of the State Ministry of Youths and Sports, some of who were receiving (in addition to their normal salaries) as much as twice their normal remunerations in the Ministry.
There were also reports of the over-bloated size of players, some of whom were said to be non-existent.
It was in the light of the above that His Excellency, the Executive Governor directed the Chief of Staff, Government House Administration, Mr Rebo Usman, to set up a fact-finding committee to look into the management of FC Taraba and correctly ascertain the ACTUAL amount owed players and the Technical Crew.
The Chief of Staff inaugurated the Committee on 8th October 2015 and gave them four (4) weeks within which they should submit their report. The Committee in the course of their assignment requested for an extension of their deadline to two (2) weeks and finally presented their report on Wednesday 2nd December 2015 to the Chief of Staff, Government House Administration.
The Chief of Staff, in his remarks, acknowledged highlights of the findings and promised that Government would deal decisively with issues that brought about the near collapse of FC Taraba, and fashion out ways of settling the outstanding remuneration of the players and technical crew. He assured the public that as soon as the Governor returned from his trip, he would brief him adequately for his necessary action on the findings.
It is worthy of mention here that as the Committee was being put in place, His Excellency the Executive Governor directed that funds should be released for settlement of one month’s salaries of the players and the Technical Crew.
The Chief of Staff personally visited the players in the company of the then newly appointed Club Chairman and Ministry officials to explain to them steps that Government had taken to ascertain the actual sums owed them.
He informed them about the one-month salaries that would be paid to them as the stop-gap measure and appealed to them to exercise more patience as it would be necessary for Government to ascertain the actual position of the outstanding sums in the light of extreme cases of mismanagement of the club.
While the return of the Governor was being awaited, on Friday, 4th December 2015, just two days after receipt of the Committee report, FC Taraba players besieged the Government House in protest over the non-payment of their backlog of salaries.
They gained access to the Government House through trickery as they arrived individually, and since they were well known in the State, were allowed entry by security personnel at the gate.
Before it was realised that the players were up to something else other than what they told the security personnel, a substantial number of them had gained entry into the Government House.
It was at this point that they blocked all vehicular routes within the Government House. The Chief of Staff, Government House Administration was after that alerted about the development and he promptly came out to address them.
To the greatest surprise of the Chief of Staff, when he went out to meet them and asked why they were there, they responded by telling him they were there to collect the eleven months arrears of their salaries.
He then questioned why they had to conduct themselves in this manner when the Committee set up to ascertain the actual outstanding salaries owed them submitted their report just two days earlier.
All pleas to make them understand that they needed to allow the government time to digest the report and schedule settlement of their arrears fell on deaf ears.
When the players started getting unruly with the Chief of Staff, he withdrew to his office and pleaded with four of the leaders of the players to follow him to his office for a meeting.
It was in his office that he made their leaders understand that processes had to be followed before payments would be made to them on the strength of their outstanding salaries that had been ascertained by the Committee.
He pleaded with them to prevail on their colleagues to vacate the Government House premises and await the return of the Governor. It was at this point that the players agreed to leave the Government House premises.
It must be explained at this stage that reports that made rounds on this incident that took place to the effect that soldiers attached to the Government House man handled the players was grossly exaggerated.
The Governor returned from his journey on Sunday evening, 6th December 2015 and was pre-occupied by the flag-off of commercial flights into Jalingo the following day, Monday 7th December.
On Tuesday he had to travel out of the State again so the Chief of Staff, who accompanied him to Yola to take his flight to Abuja, briefed him on the Committee report, and he directed that since he would return in a week’s time, modalities for settlement of the players should be worked out after payment of November salaries.
Unknown to the Governor, while he was on his way to Yola, the players had moved to the Government House again.
This time around, they did not gain access to the premises. It took the intervention of the Chief of Staff who spoke to the players on phone from Yola before they dispersed.
But on Monday 14th December, the players returned to the Government House again, this time around, with mattresses, and vowed not to leave until they were paid the full amounts owed them. All pleas by top government functionaries to pacify them to leave the House and await the government decision on the Committee report on the return of the Governor fell on deaf ears.
On the whole, it must be appreciated that if the Government of His Excellency, Arc. Darius lshaku were not interested in settling the outstanding emoluments of the players, and the Governor would not have instructed that a Committee should be put in place to determine the actual amount owed the players.
The Governor’s directive to release funds to pay them their one month salary while the Committee carried out their assignment was a testimony of his commitment to addressing the plight of the players.
Why would the players besiege the Government House just two days after the Committee report was submitted, and in the absence of the Governor?
It is only hoped that this action of the players is not being fuelled by some of the Government officials responsible for the shady financial deals uncovered in the report as some of them.
These include the club Consultants, who had refused to appear before the Committee to explain their roles in the present state of affairs in FC Taraba, which the Committee report revealed had no financial records and operated without a single bank account.
The Encounter Between Military and FC Taraba Players
What happened was that the Military Commander in charge of soldiers deployed in the State capital had come to the Government House for his routine visits and needed to see the Chief of Staff as both the Governor and his Deputy were not in town.
On his return after seeing the Chief of Staff, the FC Taraba players attempted to prevent the commander from walking out to their vehicle that was parked outside the gate of the Government House.
It was at this point that the soldiers decided to push the players off the passage to allow their commander move ahead.
It must be appreciated that if the soldiers had manhandled the players, some of them would have ended up in hospitals. The picture painted by the media on the encounter of the players was blown beyond proportion.