The Bayelsa State Government has said reports of the state-sponsored football team, Bayelsa United, signing a new shirt sponsorship deal with Halkin Exploration and Production Limited for the rest of the 2023/24 Nigerian Professional Football League season were embarrassing.
The government said it neither approved nor endorsed such a deal for the team in the ongoing football season.
Halkin Exploration and Production Limited had been at the centre of the controversy surrounding the alleged acquisition of Oil Mining Lease 46 (also known as the Atala Oilfield) belonging to the Bayelsa State government.
Governor Douye Diri kicked against the revocation of the OML 46 licence by the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in April 2020, describing the oilfield as a “prized asset of the state.”
A statement issued by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, on Wednesday said the reports about the kitting deal were mischievous as they were presented as having the governor’s consent.
The statement noted that while Governor Diri has been a strong advocate of private sector investment in sports, his administration would however not accept any arrangement that ignored due diligence and due process.
The statement read: “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.
“Governor Diri has consequently directed the Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Daniel Igali, and the Bayelsa United chairman, Ebiki Timitimi, to immediately halt the process pending the conclusion of a full-scale investigation into the matter.”
The statement explained that preliminary investigation revealed that due diligence and the necessary approvals from the relevant authorities were ignored in the deal.
The government cautioned its boards, agencies and parastatals against acting unilaterally on matters concerning the state to avoid unpleasant consequences.