Okocha opens up on ‘failed’ business venture with ‘Soccer Ambassador’
Says ‘I won’t succumb to blackmail’
After several months of silence, former Super Eagles’ captain, Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, yesterday, revealed why he fell apart with his former business partner, Friday Nwankwo-Kujah.
For several weeks, the Nigerian media has been flooded with allegation by Kujah saying that Jay Jay Okocha and his wife, Nkechi, illegally took over a Bureau de change business they jointly-owned with varying number of shares. Kujah, fondly called ‘Soccer Ambassador’ because of his close relationships with some players of 1994 set of Super Eagles, alleged that for 13 years, Okocha pushed him and other shareholders from the said business venture.
However, Okocka opened a can of warm yesterday, describing Nwankwo-Kujah as ungrateful fellow. “I don’t want to join issues with Friday Kujah because I see him as ungrateful fellow,” Okocha told The Guardian.
“So many ex-players no longer want to have anything to do with Kujah because of what he did to me. I took him as a friend, and decided to do business with him on trust. But look at the way he is trying to scandalise my name. I won’t fail to his blackmail,” he stated.
Okocha recalls: “I was playing in Qatar preparing for my retirement from active football when Friday Kujah called me one early morning on phone to suggest that he and one Israelis had a business idea. I told him to wait. But some few days later, Kujah went to meet my wife. I was surprised when my wife called to say that Friday Kujah was in my house. To cut long story short, Kujah said he wants us to start a Bureau de change business. He brought the Israelis from a Mega Plaza.
“I asked both of them how much they would contribute for the business to commence, but they replied that they don’t have any money. They said that their contribution was the ‘business idea’ from their head. I decided to flow along with them based on the trust I had on Friday Kujah. I told them that since they were not contributing any cash into the business, I would only pay them percentage based on money generated. Thereafter, he (Kujah) told me to send $300,000, which I did. He went and registered the company in his name.
Okocha continues: “The business was not yielding any positive result, rather, they kept asking me for more money. And I had already retired from active football. When I returned from Qatar, Friday Kujah couldn’t render anything in terms of profit from the business. Things were going from bad to worse. They took loan from Access bank, yet they couldn’t pay for the house rent, and debts were pilling up. It got to a stage the owner of the building could not take it. He took us to the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and I had to settle the debt.
“One day, the Israelis, who was the Operations Manager, walked up to me to say that I had to give them another $1million for the business to survive. I was sensing great danger ahead. Should I continue to invest my retirement money into such business, when there is no hope of getting profit?. I quickly recalled how some of my teammates in the Super Eagles, and some others before us fell into some wrong hands after their retirement from football. Everything I did with Friday Kujah was based on trust. I even borrowed him the money he used for his accommodation. When it became clear that my business with Friday Kujah was not heading any good direction, I left him and registered my company, Jay Jay Okocha Bureau de change. So, in what way have I shortchanged or owe Friday Kujah money? He is going about scandalising my name, and reporting me to EFCC, but I won’t join issues with him. God has rescued me from his hand, and I have moved on. As I said, I won’t succumb to his cheap blackmail. And I am sure the present crop of Super Eagles players will learn a lot of lesions from this. They must not put their trust on people, especially when it comes to investing their hard earned money on businesses,” Okocha stated.