Road Trip Through Strongholds of Robbers, Bandits: The Terrifying Story of Nigerian Local Players

Road Trip Through Strongholds of Robbers, Bandits: The Terrifying Story of Nigerian Local Players

Babajide Orevba
updated at July 10, 2023 at 12:01 PM
In this article:
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NGA Premier League
  • The Nigerian Professional Football League returns in August for the 2023/2024 season with mixed feelings among team members
  • Players tend to avoid games that could potentially take them to places with high security concerns
  • Their fate lies in their own hands as armed robbers, kidnappers, and bandits continue to ambush motorists on the highway

Playing in the Nigerian league comes with total commitment as players often come face-to-face with death while travelling the length and breadth of the country every week.

From bad roads and accidents to security issues occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency, armed robbery, kidnappings, and attacks by unknown gunmen affect the fate of footballers in the country.

Many of these players tend to avoid games that could potentially take them on a long trip to unfamiliar territories.

NPFL, Nigerian League, Enyimba, Akwa United
NPFL players travel the length and breadth of Nigeria to honour matches. Photo: @DailyPostNGR
Source: Twitter

Panic ahead of new season

The Interim Management Committee (IMC) has confirmed that the 2023-2024 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) will commence in August- news that could be sending shivers down the spines of some players.

While the organisers, brands, and fans are excited and anticipating the return of the league, team members have expressed concern over the security situation in the country.

Clubs are made to honour league matches during weekends and in mid-week while embarking on dangerous travels, spending an unprecedented number of hours on the road - sometimes up to two days.

Enyimba superstar Nonso Nzediegwu told Sports Brief:

"The experience has been a tough one. Sometimes you travel for 16 hours. Some players even dodge matches when we are to travel to a state that has security issues.
"Travelling on the road to far places hasn't been easy for us. If the Nigerian authorities can do something for the players to travel by air for distant games, everything will be better."
Nonso Nzediegwu, NPFL, Enyimba, Nigerian League
Nonso Nzediegwu urges authorities to improve travel logistics for Nigerian League players. Photo: Nzediegwu Nonso
Source: Facebook

In 2014, league matches were suspended in Maiduguri due to the sustained Boko Haram attacks at the time, with El Kanemi Warriors playing their home games away from home.

They returned to the Borno State capital two years later.

Travelling up north amid fear

But more than nine years after, team members are still scared to travel by road to certain parts of the country to honour games.

A driver attached to Remo Stars, Adebowale Awomuti, narrated how the team were almost ambushed by armed Fulani Herdsmen one fateful night.

"We were heading into Lokoja when we met the herdsmen. They allowed their cows to block the road and were moving towards our bus. I told the people inside that we must come out as if we want to attack them as well.
"The next thing we saw was that the armed herdsmen ran away, thinking we were holding guns, cutlasses, or other arms."
Remo Stars, NPFL, Nigerian League
Remo Stars team bus spotted at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Lagos, venue of the Naija Super 8. Photo: Babajide Orevba
Source: Original

Remo Stars are based in Sagamu, Ogun State, in the South Western part of the country, and Awomuti added that it takes two days to reach most of the states in the north. He added:

"When we go to Maiduguri it’s two days, Bauchi is two days, Jos is two days. In fact, anywhere after Abuja is two days."

Robbers attack teams on highway

In March 2020, Enyimba’s team bus was attacked by armed robbers as they returned from a league game. The People's Elephants had beaten Adamawa United 2-0 in Gombe and were travelling back to their base in Aba, Abia State, when the incident occurred.

They were attacked in Okigwe, Imo State.

In February this year, players and officials of Akwa United FC were attacked while returning home after a league game.

The incident, according to The Cable, occurred along Ogoni Road, Rivers State, as the team’s convoy ran into a roadblock mounted by the assailants.

It was gathered that the drivers maneuvered out of the trap, which led to the vehicles being pelted with dangerous weapons and the windows smashed.

Newly appointed Akwa United coach, Fatai Osho lamented that the terrible road network in Nigeria is having a negative impact on the teams.

According to him, sometimes teams are forced to sleep over in a state as they travel long distances to honour matches.

"Sometimes, we spend two days on the road. We stop in a state then we continue the next day. There was a time when the LMC came up with a rule, I don't know whether it was documented, that once it is 6pm, we have to stop and continue the journey the next day.
"While at Enyimba I experience that. I think we are going to do better or do well if we can align with all these airlines, so sponsorship can come in and get these tickets at discount rates; that would really help our football. It’s not easy covering those distances, honestly."
Fatai Osho, Akwa United, Nigerian League, NPFL
Fatai Osho wants a better travel package for NPFL teams. Photo: Osho Fatai
Source: Facebook

Enyimba: NPFL 2022/2023 champions

Sports Brief earlier reported that Enyimba Football Club are champions of the 2022/2023 Nigeria Professional Football League season, following their 1-1 draw against Rivers United on June 11.

It was the final match of the Super 6 competition in Lagos, and the People's Elephants battled hard to claim the prestigious title for the ninth time in their history.

Babajide Orevba photo
Babajide Orevba
Babajide Orevba is a CAF accredited Nigerian journalist and HOD of the Local Desk with over 10 years of experience in media landscape.He studied NCE Political Science/Social Studies, AOCOED.