The remaining members of the victorious squad who have yet to be given houses have called on the government to fulfil its promises to the squad
Stand-in captain of the victorious squad of the Tunisia 1994 Africa Cup of Nations, Austin Eguavoen led three other prominent members of the team to the office of the Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi on Monday to discuss the house pledge the late General Sani Abacha promised them which is yet to be redeemed.
Eguavoen was in company of Samson Siasia, Victor Ikpeba and Ben Iroha on behalf of the other aggrieved members to see the minister and begged him to intervene on the players’ behalf for the Federal Government to redeem its pledge.
Eguavoen in his address to the Minister stated that "It is not our doing that the 1994 squad actually changed the face of Nigerian football. 1980 squad, you cannot just put them aside too, they did it before us, they won the Nations cup right here in Nigeria led by Christian Chukwu and then we followed the same feat in 1994 outside Nigeria that was what makes it a little bit different. And we thank God the present squad won the 2013 as well, it is a record.
"Sir you know records don’t lie. The past president, the present president, sports administrators; when any of our team does well, male or female they show appreciation. Sani Abacha also suit after Shagari did his own in 1980 by promising largess including houses.
"We are a discipline side; we did not make noise about it. After all these years, even some journalist kept asking us, what about your houses? We are patient believing that somehow some day that pledge will still be redeemed. But the difference is that a couple of us got their own houses, it’s not their fault neither is it our own fault, because it was a matter of choice. You could chose in any location where you want your own house.
"Majority of us chose Lagos and some chose Abuja. I think Finidi George chose Port Harcourt. So the guys that chose Abuja got their houses. It was approved actually, but for our own in Lagos, we went there couple of times but for some reasons we could not get them. But we are still hopeful that some day we will get it.
"And I remember two years ago, the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Journathan had a meeting with different industries and luckily I had to speak on behalf of sports men and women and I reminded our president. At that point in time we had just lost Uche Okafor and Rashidi [Yekini] is gone and lately Thompson Oliha. And then one of the words that I used on that day was that now Rashidi is gone, Okafor is gone, the kids are supposed to be the beneficiaries of these properties. And I think the President ordered somebody to follow up, but to an extent nothing worked.
“If our sports men and women today see that government pledges something and it is not redeemed, definitely a lot of them might have a second thought. I think it is only wise that you use your good office to try; though we are still appealing because it is not a right because we are more than thousands of sports men and women in this country, it is a privilege. Having announced it I think there should be a follow up," Eguavoen stated.
The Sports Minister however assured the members of the victorious Super Eagles squad that he would personally discuss their grievances of not receiving the houses promised them with President Goodluck Jonathan.
“When I met Victor Ikpeba in Ilorin last week he mentioned this issue to me. We also met at another event and he reminded me and we agreed to have this meeting [Monday]. One thing that I must say that will delight you based on what you said was that when the unfortunate incident of the death of Thompson Oliha was announced, the Federal Executive Council that we had immediately after His Excellency, Mr President said he heard it on radio that people were saying that the promise he made to the Super Eagles squad of 1994 was not honoured and that government is a continuum. Even promises made by government in 1960 is still promise made by government in 2013. That is to tell you the direction that the mind of Mr. President works on this kind of thing.
“I must commend you for that and I can assure you that I will treat this matter with all the seriousness that it deserves. I believe it is the right thing to do. Government has announced it and government should keep its promise.
“I can assure you that we will make appropriate representations to Mr. President and I believe that he is going to respond accordingly. We will also keep you informed of progress being made. I want to thank you for the commitment you have shown and your dedication to our country. By the grace of God all of us will always look back to the time we have served and be proud of that moment," Abdullahi assured.