… Slams Bonus Scandal
In a resounding outcry against the recent shocking incident during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup match between England and Nigeria, the foremost civil rights advocacy group; the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has rallied for justice and accountability.
In a powerful press release on Wednesday, HURIWA’s National Coordinator; Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, condemned the physical assault suffered by Nigerian player Michelle Alozie at the hands of English player Lauren James, urging swift legal action against the responsible party.
According to Onwubiko, HURIWA’s stance is not just a moral imperative but a legal one as well, emphasizing that violence on the field cannot be overlooked and stressing that athletes’ safety and dignity must be upheld at all times.
“The incident involving Lauren James, as acknowledged by England’s manager, Sarena Wiegman, is a stark violation of the principles of fair play and respect that should prevail in sports. No player should resort to violence on the field, and such actions cannot be condoned or dismissed as merely losing one’s emotions. The safety and dignity of athletes must be upheld at all times.
“The presence of case law and legal precedents related to similar incidents in sports underscores the importance of thoroughly investigating actions that may constitute criminal assault or battery. The notion of a “cowardly assault” is a serious matter that warrants proper examination and, if necessary, legal consequences. Additionally, the potential for both criminal and civil liability in such cases further emphasizes the significance of upholding accountability in sports-related incidents.
“The fact that Lauren James has issued an apology shows a level of recognition of her actions and their potential impact. Apologies, while important, do not necessarily absolve individuals from legal responsibilities, especially when criminal or civil actions are involved. The decision to investigate and potentially press charges rests with legal authorities, and it’s essential that they thoroughly evaluate the incident and its implications within the context of existing laws”, HURIWA explained.
In light of the prevailing circumstance, HURIWA called upon the relevant authorities to initiate formal charges of assault and battery against Lauren James, asserting that unauthorized physical contact and violence beyond the scope of the sport must be treated with the same seriousness as they would in any other context, just as the group added that the Nigerian legal statutes distinguish between common assault and assault causing actual bodily harm, and implored that the distinction be applied judiciously.
However, HURIWA’s concerns extended beyond the shocking assault, as the Group also raised its collective voice against the distressing issue of unpaid bonuses and expenses owed to the Super Falcons by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), describing as unacceptable the denial of rightful earnings to players who have wholeheartedly represented the nation. “We demand that those found culpable in diverting players’ bonuses face immediate arrest and prosecution, as their actions violate the players’ rights and dismiss their unwavering commitment”.
While reiterating its unwavering solidarity with the Super Falcons, and emphasizing the necessity for accountability, transparency, and justice, HURIWA commended the FIFPRO for its steadfast support in championing the players’ quest for justice and implored them to continue their advocacy for the welfare of footballers.
Furthermore, in a direct call to the Nigerian government, HURIWA urged the equitable treatment of athletes and the safeguarding of their rights, regardless of potential FIFA sanctions. The association also demanded that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) take resolute action against corruption within the Nigeria Football Federation
“We call upon the Nigerian government to ensure the equitable treatment of athletes and the protection of their rights. The potential consequences of FIFA’s sanctions should not dissuade Nigeria from seeking justice and upholding the principles of fairness. The time has come to send a powerful message that equality under the law prevails and athletes’ rights and well-being must be vigorously safeguarded”.
“More so, the allegations of bonus diversion highlight a disturbing trend of corruption and exploitation within football institutions. We call upon the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) to promptly dismantle any thieving cartels within the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
“Again, the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) must issue an official statement condemning the assault on Michelle Alozie and collaborate with relevant authorities to ensure that charges of assault and battery are filed against Lauren James”.
HURIWA concluded by underscoring its commitment to promoting human rights, justice, and integrity across all sectors of Nigerian society, including sports. The association urged stakeholders to unite against violence, corruption, and exploitation, working together for the advancement of athletes and the nation as a whole.
*Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko*
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)