Eight-time Nigerian champions Enyimba were the victims of an armed attack on their team bus as they returned home following Thursday’s NPFL victory over Adamawa United.
No players were seriously injured in the attack, as the bus sped off before the assailants could gain access, but some of the travelling party sustained injuries.
The People’s Elephant were making the 830km journey back to Aba following their 2-0 victory in Gombe in the 25th matchday of the domestic league, which has now been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The attack took place at approximately 19:45 local time in Okigwe, Imo State, along the Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia Expressway.
“We were coming back from our league game in Gombe, arriving in Okigwe in Owerri, and we saw some strange fellows on the road,” Egbe told ESPN. “We passed them, but I believe they were there to inform the ones further ahead.
“As we proceeded further we saw others again, and some of them were armed,” he added. “They were telling us to stop, be as we noticed they were not law enforcement, we told our driver not to stop.
“He sped up and one of them stoned the window with iron, so it broke and injured [Olisema].
Pictures shared on social media by People’s Elephant defender Ifeanyi Anaemena showed the players with some minor cuts and in a state of distress.
“Enyimba players [have been] robbed right now in Okigwe road,” he posted on Facebook, moments after the attack. “Players injured but no life lost.
“We are still on the road from Gombe, [League Management Committee] please hear the cry of NPFL players about our travelling.”
A video filmed by the defender in the immediate aftermath of the incident shows bus windows smashed, while Olisema, who had scored in the victory over United, appears to have suffered lacerations to the head and leg.
The players also retrieve the remnants of what appears to be a gun which was used to smash the window.
“We drove away as fast as possible,” Egbe added. “It was very, very scary.”
Defender Timothy Danladi, who was not with the team, is thankful that things were not significantly worse for his teammates, but believes Enyimba shouldn’t have been travelling at that time of night.
“It’s bad to travel at that time,” he told ESPN. “The state where we played was far away, it would have been good for us to have slept in Abuja or Enugu so that we’d have had peace of mind rather than this situation.
“I feel bad and confused, but glory be to God that nobody got so badly injured.”
It was the second time in four years that Enyimba FC had been attacked by robbers.
In 2016, they were attacked while traveling to Kaduna to honour the Super Four game.
In late November, the team bus of Ifeanyi Ubah, another Nigerian team, was also attacked by armed robbers, while Enyimba themselves were the victims of a similar incident in Kogi State in 2016.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of League Management Company (LMC), Shehu Dikko has cautioned Nigerian clubs to avoid night travel due to frequent attacks by armed robbers.
Dikko said that the issue of players risking their life to honour league matches was not permitted by the LMC.
He, however, sympathized with players and officials of the Peoples Elephants saying that more efforts would be needed to safeguard the life of players while on official league assignments.
“I have not been officially briefed on the robbery attack on Enyimba players and officials,” Dikko said.
“But one thing Nigeria clubs have to understand is that they should stop risking the life of their players through night journey.
“The rules are clear on the LMC regulations. I don’t know why it is not followed. Although, I heard the team was close to their base when the robbery attack happened. But this does not remove the fact that teams travelling at night are not acceptable by the LMC.
“Also, over the years the LMC has told clubs to sign deals with airline companies to fly their players to league venues. Some clubs in Nigeria like Akwa United have keyed into this initiative,” Dikko stated.