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Justice for Izu Joseph


Izu Joseph

‘We do not speak ill of the dead.’ That is a socio-cultural mores, as well as the honourable thing; the dead cannot defend themselves, after all. It is also a tacit acknowledgement of the end that awaits us all, one which ought in that moment to make us circumspect.

Yet it seems that, for Shooting Stars FC, there are no such considerations, and even a lack of basic human feeling. They stand in the wrong over the death of their former player, Izu Joseph, specifically in their conduct toward the family and memory of the deceased, and the evidence against them is damning.

Some background is probably necessary. In October 2016, former Shooting Stars defender Joseph was tragically shot dead while holidaying in his home state of Rivers. Aged 24 at the time, the unfortunate incident threw his family into disarray: he was the official provider for his immediate family, comprising a wife and daughter, as well as his aged parents.

What has followed has been a show of shame, as the management of Shooting Stars have given a lesson on how not to honour their fallen player. There have been various claims and counterclaims, but basically it boils down to this: before his demise, the player signed a contract with the club for two years, from 2015 to 2017, during which it was agreed he would be paid 300,000 Naira a month. The contract to this effect was, as is customary, lodged with the League Management Company (LMC).

Yet, for some reason, the player was only paid 150,000 Naira for three months of his contract: from January to March. The entirety of his entitlements for the 2015 season, amounting to 1.56 million Naira, were owed, as well as his entitlements from April to October, when he passed away.

In order to do right by the player and per the terms of his contract, a grand total of 4.11 million Naira is meant to be paid to his family. However, the club have only made two payments of 150,000 Naira to the father of the deceased.

In order to arrive at this total, it was necessary to consult the LMC, as the club themselves insist that they only owe 2.3 million Naira. This is, by all calculations, a misrepresentation of the facts.

This raises a number of questions, and cuts to the heart of the unprofessional nature of the club. Did the management of Shooting Stars not intend to pay the player for the duration of the contract? If they did, do they consider that his death absolves them of this responsibility?

On a more fundamental level, is a worker not deserving of his remuneration? Consider the point that what is being asked for is for the duration that the player was alive, and not the entire duration of his contract, as good faith would dictate anyway.

More than the mathematics of it, the (in)humanity is troubling. Following death, there is necessarily a period of grieving, after which the bereaved find closure and try to move on from the ordeal. In their conduct, Shooting Stars are drawing out an episode that the family of Joseph would like to put behind them, constantly picking at the scab of a deep wound.

As touched upon earlier, the player had a family to support while he lived. His daughter, of school age, needs funds to further her education, while his widow requires attention as well. Similarly, in their bid to find the underlying cause of the player’s killing (a quest which the club has not seen fit to support, even on a moral level), the family has legal bills to pay. Is their plight not enough to touch the hearts of those who run the club?

But club spokesman Jubril Arowolo had this to say when reached for comment: “The club is making strong efforts to make this payment. So far we are paying from the subventions the club has received from the government. We understand the pain and grief of Izu’s family. Shooting Stars SC will definitely fulfil its obligations to the player’s family.”

It would appear that they do not understand, really. The avenue by which the club is funded is not relevant to the discussion; neither is what the club ought to pay charity. It is, and has always been, an entitlement. The club is obligated to do the right thing, and to do it at the right time.

The issue here is one of justice.

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