In a surprising turn of events, the Bayelsa State Government has vehemently denied reports suggesting that the state-sponsored football team, Bayelsa United, inked a new shirt sponsorship deal with Halkin Exploration and Production Limited for the remainder of the 2023–24 Nigerian Professional Football League season. The government has labeled these reports as embarrassing and insists that it neither approved nor endorsed any such deal for the ongoing football season.
Halkin Exploration and Production Limited, entangled in controversy over the alleged acquisition of Oil Mining Lease 46 (Atala Oilfield) belonging to the Bayelsa State government, has been at the center of the storm. Governor Douye Diri strongly opposed the revocation of the OML 46 license by the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in April 2020, asserting the oilfield’s significance as a “prized asset of the state.”
A statement released by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, on Wednesday deemed the reports on the kitting deal as mischievous, distancing the governor from any involvement. While Governor Diri has been a proponent of private sector investment in sports, the statement clarified that his administration would not tolerate any arrangement that bypasses due diligence and due process.
“The State Governor, Senator Diri, expresses surprise and embarrassment over reports of a new kit sponsorship deal signed by the state-owned football team, Bayelsa United. The governor wishes to unequivocally place on record that he is not aware of any such deal involving Bayelsa United and Halkin Exploration and Production Limited,” the statement read.
Governor Diri has directed the Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Daniel Igali, and Bayelsa United chairman, Ebiki Timitimi, to immediately halt the process pending a thorough investigation. The preliminary inquiry revealed a lack of due diligence and necessary approvals from relevant authorities in the controversial deal.
The government, in a cautionary note, urged its boards, agencies, and parastatals to avoid unilateral actions on matters concerning the state to prevent unpleasant consequences. This development underscores the importance of transparency and adherence to due process in public-private partnerships.