Nigerian women footballers at the FCT (Federal Capital Territory) Queens football club are being forced into begging and even prostitution to survive following the failure to pay their wages. The club, which plays in the Nigeria Women Football League, has not paid players, and the situation looks unlikely to change immediately as the chairperson of the club, who doubles up as chairperson of the Nigerian Women’s League, Dilichukwu Onyedimma, says nothing can be done about it as the team is government run.
An investigation by Aderonke Ogunleye of Nigeria’s Premium Times has revealed that players of FCT Queens, a club owned by the Abuja administration and Chaired by Dilichukwu Onyedimma, have not been paid for more than 18 months.
According to one of the players: “The last time they paid anybody was in March last year. Even then they paid a backlog of about three years to some players. For 18 months now, we have not been paid a dime by the club.”
The player’s hostel in Area 10, inside the Old Parade Ground in Abuja, is described as smelly, shabby, and in very poor state with one top player saying: “We have not been given food for almost two years now; we feed for ourselves. Sometimes, we contribute N50 each to buy few things to eat and survive. We eat once a day; yet, they expect us to put in our best on an empty stomach.”
Due to the poor state of the team buses the players have had to sleep on the road on several occasions and the team has no medical insurance or other provision for the players.
Players are supposed to earn from N25,000 ($155) to about N50,000 ($310) per month and to receive a sign on fee which should be ten times the monthly salary, but none has been paid since March last year.
One of the players said: “We are girls but there’s no security for us in camp. We can barely afford sanitary pads. We have families to take care of; we have turned to beggars all of a sudden because we cannot eat. Please, help us tell them to pay us.”
“They promised us last December and nothing happened it’s not fair, they are even forcing some into prostitution.”
Head Coach of the FCT Queens, John Wakilu, said “It’s true they have not been paid for 18 months now, but they (the government) are working on it. They’ll pay; I cannot tell you when.”
The Director of Sports of the FCT Administration, Alim Mohammed, also confirmed the situation, saying he had no control over how the budget is spent.
The spokesperson for Sports Minister, Bala Mohammed, referred all enquiries to the Director of Sports.
Chairman of the Nigeria Women Football League of the NFF, Dilichukwu Onyedinma, who also chairperson of the FCT Queens said, “It’s no story that they (FCT Queens) are owing; don’t forget that it’s a government team.”
“Monies have been processed. The last time (the players) went to public complaint (commission) to find out, they were able to establish the fact that the file and money have been approved and (the authorities in charge of payment) are waiting for the release of funds so that the players can be paid. The issue is being handled by the FCT government.”
According to Onyedinma: “Since I became the chairman, I have been working out modalities with the management, but the onus lies on the owner, which is the government, to take decisions.”
It was Onyedinma who earlier this year claimed lesbianism was not allowed in Nigerian football, saying: “Yeah, we don’t tolerate lesbianism.”