Contrary to reports making the rounds that the 2013 Africa Nations Cup in South Africa could not be beamed on Nigerian television stations because of the high cost demanded by the Broadcast rights owners, LC2, the company's Nigerian partner, Dan Ngerem has debunked the claim, stressing that the blackout was occasioned by a breach of trust on the part of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON.
Nigerian fans cheer their team during the 2013 African Cup of Nations semi-final football match Mali vs Nigeria on February 6, 2013 in Durban. Nigeria won 4-1. AFP PHOTO
Ngerem disclosed to Saturday Vanguard sports that the problem actually started in 2004 when he paid about "N150 million to the NTA for exclusivity in airtime for the 2004 AFCON broadcast on NTA apart from the money used to purchase the TV Broadcast rights."
According to Ngerem, "We did sell the Platinum package to MTN Nigeria as Title Sponsors and we also sponsored NTA crew headed then by Hameed Adio and people like Paul Ogazi ( which by the way was not part of our original budget but we were blackmailed into sponsoring their crew after paying them their full money upfront."
He said that apart from diluting the agreement both parties reached on the deal, the NTA allegedly went ahead to collect money from a rival telecommunication firm and allowed its presenters to wear caps with the logo of the rival firm.
The former president of the Athletics Federatiion of Nigeria, AFN said that apart from the breach of contract agreement, the television stations under the umbrella of BON refused to render account of the Nations Cup and he had no alternative but had to head to the courts for justice.
He said he won the case at both the High Court and Appeal Court and is awaiting for them to go to the Supreme Court where he is confident the ruling will not be different from the earlier two.
"We are asking for ten million naira and another five hundred thousand Naira as costs from them for breach of Hensen/LC2 broadcast rights. It is not really the money but the principal of it so that media owners will start to do the right thing in Nigeria,"he stressed.
He added that "Even if this is a small contribution to the course of justice in Nigeria, I would be a happy person."
It was gathered that the difference in the cost for beaming the Nations Cup matches to Nigeria could be as a result of the unpaid money to LC2, which the company insisted must be paid before the matches could be beamed by BON affilates. Even after government officials agreed to make part payment of $3.5 million to LC2 so that Nigerian TV stations could beam the matches via an sms message to Ngerem, the firm refused to bulge, advising BON instead to summon CAF President, Issa Hayatou to give Nigeria a special status like South Africa and the Maghreb nations are enjoying.
"I called to inform to you that I have processed the recommended $3.5m be released as part payment to LC2 by the Ministry of Information for the TV coverage of AFCON for Nigeria. Please give positive ear to BON. Be assured of prompt settlement as long as I am in charge," the message to Ngerem read. Not wanting to suffer what they suffered in the past as BON and the television stations reneged on their agreement, Ngerem replied thus: "Nigeria should use that money and summon Issa Hayatou and CAF so that Nigeria can be given special status like South Africa and the Maghreb region. Most Nigerians in sports are ignorant and fraudulent. Nigeria is an unserious country, except for John Momoh and Channels, most others are fraudulent, no integrity," Ngerem wrote.
"In summary, while some of the media stations are carrying the major campaign of calumny and bad publicity against LC2 and its partners, we must all realsie as Nigerians that we have some bad eggs amongst us that want to reap where they did not sow and, do not follow international best practices.
"Bottomline is that, the AFCON blackout of Nigeria in 2013 has its genesis from the lack of credibility and accountability of some of the major broadcast stations dating back to 2004 and ochestrated by a few people that have formed themselves into a cabal for private greed and gain and, with active connivance/participation of BON.
If BON is really a serious organisation, why did they not start and anchore their energies in making sure that the Nigerian Football League TV broadcast rights is fully optimised and commercialised," he queried?
Surprisingly, two key ministers, Labaran Maku of Information and Bolaji Abdullahi of Sports expressed different reasons for the shameful blackout of Nigeria from the Nations Cup. While Maku supported BON's claim that the right owners LC2 were fleecing Nigeria, Abdullahi told Sports Writers in Lagos that BON was owing the right owners for works earlier done.