Protests, violence, allegations and counter-allegations rocked the just-concluded 2021 Nigeria National League promotion playoffs in Enugu as Shooting Stars, Remo Stars, Gombe United and Niger Tornadoes all staged a return to the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Tornadoes emerged champions of the 2021 season after beating Shooting Stars 3-2 in the final of the event on Sunday.
Shooting Stars returned to the elite league after picking seven points from a possible nine in Group B, recording wins over Bendel Insurance and Ekiti United, and a draw against Remo.
Ikenne-based Remo earned two draws and a win to book their spot in the NPFL.
In Group A, Niger Tornadoes emerged winners after one win and two draws to garner five points, to push Gombe United, who also had five points, to second place on goals difference.
The event was however marred by fans violence, protests and bribery allegations.
Violence ensued during the tie between Insurance and Ekiti United which ended 1-1, with videos online, which went viral, showing officials and supporters of Insurance, including a woman, chasing officials around the pitch as they protested a late penalty to Ekiti, which they claimed was an unfair call by the referee.
Insurance were fined N1m by the NNL following the encroachment and assault of match officials by their supporters in the match-day two fixture.
Also, the final Group B match between Remo Stars and Bendel Insurance, which was earlier scheduled for Saturday, was eventually played on Sunday, after suffering series of postponements due to alleged change of match officials on three occasions.
Remo were reportedly at the match venue but Insurance failed to turn up for the fixture on Saturday in protest over the match officials selected.
Before then, there were allegations that Insurance had bribed some officials to win the match against Ekiti United but the Benin-based club denied the allegations, stating that they were “baseless and a poor attempt to bring the club to disrepute by detractors.”
The NNL in a statement described the bribery allegations as absurd and unfounded.
“We are in Enugu to ensure that the best four teams qualify for the NPFL. Those peddling allegations of match-fixing are only being mischievous,” the NNL said in a statement on Friday.
“The report about match-fixing is to say the least, frivolous. There is no truth in that malicious report. All the clubs are enjoying a level playing field and officiating so far has been near perfect.”
During the Group A opening game between Gombe and Elkanemi, officials of the former allegedly invaded the pitch and held up the game, in an attempt to challenge the decision of the referee after Elkanemi took the lead.
However, the NNL fined them N500,000 for their poor conduct.