A former Edo State sports commissioner and current board member, Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Brown Ebewele has revealed the role he played in the resuscitation and survival of Bendel Insurance Football Club, the SportsBay.com reports.
According to Ebewele popularly called the Juju man in an interview with Punch said when he was the commissioner in Edo, he battled with the then Chairman of Insurance Football Club, Igbinowanhia Ekhosuehi who had turned the club into his private property while demanding sponsorship money from government.
Ebewele said the club which was owned by Bendel Insurance Plc were not financially committed to the club which necessitated the then military administrator who then asked the name be changed.
“In Nigeria, people are not ready to tell the truth. The truth of the matter is that Bendel Insurance is a government property and sometimes government wasn’t forthcoming, Igbinowanhia Ekhosuehi as the chairman of the club spent his money to sustain the club when the government wasn’t forthcoming.
“When Colonel Bassey Asuquo was the military administrator of Bendel State, he asked Bendel Insurance Plc, owners of Bendel Insurance FC, their contribution to the club and he was told they were not contributing anything.
“He then said if Bendel Insurance Plc were not contributing anything to the club, why were they using their name? He instructed that the name of the club be changed.
“But instead of changing the name, they went to the Corporate Affairs Commission and registered a brand new company, they registered a new company called Insurance Football Club Ltd, they removed Bendel from the name. That new name was registered by Ekhosuehi as the chairman and two of his children as directors.
“The government did not have any hand in it. They went to the Nigeria Football Federation and changed the name of Bendel Insurance FC to Insurance FC. And of course, the state was not aware of that change; the state was still giving the football club money.
“But I was aware because I was a director in the sports council for over seven years. So, when I became the commissioner, Ekhosuehi brought a bill to prosecute that season, a bill of over N300m to prosecute that season and I asked him a question that if Insurance Football Club Ltd belonged to him and his children, why he was bringing a bill to the ministry for government sponsorship. So, he asked if I was the first commissioner to come, I told him I may not be the first commissioner but that he was seeing the first professional sports commissioner, which was how the whole crisis started.
“But I told him that it wasn’t about where I am from but about someone who had stolen government property. We dragged the matter until I was able to establish my position and we reclaimed the government property and today, it’s called Bendel Insurance FC. So, when they are talking about Bendel Insurance FC, I tell them that I am Bendel Insurance FC, because without me there was no Bendel Insurance FC,” Ebewele said.
Bendel Insurance have over the years been in and out of top flight football in Nigeria. The club briefly returned to elite football in 2019 after spending ten years in lower divisions before they were once again relegated to the Nigeria National League for the 2019/2020 season
it will be recalled that they were relegated at the end of the 2007–08 season after finishing in last place, the first relegation from the top level in team history.
Meanwhile, the Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Phillip Shaibu has said that fans of Bendel Insurance have purchased jerseys worth more than N26 million since the club was rebranded during a chat with journalists.
“We know that football is business and we just said we should try out with the sale of the jerseys and you can’t believe we realised about N26 million from it”, he disclosed.
Shaibu, who said the club would not be run purely as a government club, disclosed that the state government would inject about N300 million into the club as take off grant.
He also disclosed that the new look Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, which is the home of the club, would have a section reserved for sale of the club’s merchandise to fans.
Comrade Shaibu, a registered player of Bendel Insurance, also assured that everything was being done to ensure the club, which gained promotion after many years in the doldrums, but got relegated again, returned to the elite league.