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Scrabble federation battling to stop world champion Jighere from quitting sport

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• Star blames corruption, administrative incompetence, unpaid winnings for decision

Athletes take to sports for the fame and also the opportunities it provides for them to make decent livelihood. When one becomes a world champion, he is expected to savour the fame as well as the financial independence that comes with the status. But that has not been the case with Nigeria’s Wellington Jighere, who is the current world scrabble champion.

The multiple award-winning player on December 1 took to his Twitter handle to announce that he is quitting the sport that has given him so much fame. His decision, he said, is hinged on his inability to meet his daily needs despite the many championships he has won locally and internationally.

He said he made the decision because “other than the fact that the remuneration/effort ratio isn’t balanced, it would interest you to know that this decision was all but made for me.”

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Alleging that he has not been able to collect most of his local and international prize monies, the world champion said, “corruption and ineptitude at the topmost level of scrabble management in the country made this decision for me.

“How do you explain to your loved ones and dependents that the $5,000 they celebrated you winning at the Akpabio International Classics has remained unpaid since 2017?

“How do you explain to your creditors and expectant dependents alike that you’re a world champion in your chosen field and yet cannot rise up to the least financially demanding occasion because someone somewhere embezzled the funds that’s meant to ameliorate your plight?

“How do you keep on performing in your chosen field when remunerations dating back to 2010 are still unpaid? Yes, the Ghanaian Scrabble Association still owes me a balance of another $5,000 for the African Scrabble Championship they hosted and I won in 2010.”

He also alleged that officials also withhold some of his winnings from representing Nigeria in competitions, “and even go as far as to “tax” you a whopping 30 per cent for any cash gifts/largesse arising from such victory?”

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He said after reevaluating his scrabble career, he has chosen to quit the sport to try his intelligence in other ventures that would be financially beneficial to his family.

REACTING to Jighere’s decision, Nigeria Scrabble Federation’s Technical Director, Faruq Umar, said it was unfortunate that the world champion chose to end his career this way, adding that the federation is still trying to persuade him to come back to the sport.

He added, however, that the federation is not responsible for the world champion’s woes, saying that some of Jighere’s allegations are things beyond the body’s control.

“The African championship in Ghana in 2010 happened before I became the technical director, but on the issue of cutting his winnings, I can say that it is statutory.

“There is what we call development levy, which says that a certain percentage of a player’s prize money, usually 10 per cent, is given back to the federation.

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“If we sponsor you to an international competition, 50 per cent of your winnings comes to the federation.

“On the Akpabio Championship of 2017, his outstanding money is $3,100. The championship was organised by scrabble stakeholders in Akwa Ibom, but unfortunately some of the people who pledged donations for the organisation of the competition could not redeem their promises. The initial money he won was $10,000, but he has received $5,000.

“Like every other athlete in the competition, he was given N200,000, which is not part of his prize money.”

Umar disclosed that the scrabble federation has been trying to dissuade Jighere from quitting the sport that has given him fame, adding, “He has no issue with the federation and there is no disciplinary issue.

“As a federation, there are certain monies the organisers of every competition should pay to us, but there is nothing we can do if they fail to meet their obligations. Jighere has been a good ambassador to the federation and we hope he will change his decision to walk out on the sport.”

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