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Emem Eduok (left) with Mfon Udoh at the 2014 Federation Cup Final 


Hardly a transfer season goes by that a Nigerian player is not involved in some murky, controversy-puckered move. 

The most famous, of course, was the world-wide, gangster-style action movie involving Mikel Obi, Lyn Oslo, Chelsea and Manchester United that came complete with forged documents, kidnappings and car chases.

Now, Dolphins striker Emem Eduok has become the most recent member of that infamous club.

After the forward equalled, Jude Aneke's 20-goal league scoring record, it was expected that he would be on his way out of the local league in no time.

And so it turned out. News and photos emerged last week that the forward had signed a contract with Norwegian club Sarpsborg.

True to type, it was not to be long before it all went pear-shaped a few days later, after it turned out that Dolphins, the club which owns his registration, had no idea he had moved, let alone signed a contract worth around $150 000.

And so the club went ahead and agreed a deal worth twice that amount with Tunisian club Esperance, with the player claiming he was deceived into signing the Sarpsborg contract.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
Eduok's Sarpsborg deal was put together by Bright Ogude, CEO of A & B Academy, working in partnership with Norway-based football agent Atta Aneke.

The player's transfer rights was represented to the Norwegians as belonging to the Academy.

According to Thomas Bernsten, Sarpsborg Sporting Director, Eduok confirmed orally and in written documents, that his rights were owned by A&B and not Dolphins.
 
"We asked him orally, and in writing and he confirmed to us that he belongs to A&B Academy," Berntsen told ColinUdoh.com 

Eduok, however disputes that statement, claiming he never signed any such document.

"The only thing I signed was the contract, and I didn't know it was A & B Academy that they put there. It was when I discovered that I told Bright that what he did was wrong and he should go and talk to Dolphins.

"I still have two years left on my three-year contract with Dolphins."

Even if he did sign the document (and so far, the indications are that he did, whether knowingly or unknowingly), it would not constitute a contract with A&B. 

Sarpsborg erred in not performing their due diligence by asking A&B for a copy of their current contract with Eduok, and/or confirming from Dolphins whether or not their contract with the player had indeed lapsed.

Nasiru Jubril, who manages the NFF's FIFA Transfer Matching System, and handles the international transfer department, confirmed that Eduok's documentation shows that he is still a Dolphins player and is in fact registered for the CAF Confederations Cup with the Port Harcourt club.

It is unclear why one or both agents decided to misrepresent the player's status, which has never been in dispute. 

Eduok joined Dolphins on loan from Akwa United for the 2010/2011 league season. Midway through his second season, the move was made permanent and he signed a one year contract with Dolphins.

Last season, in line with an LMC directive that all clubs sign their players, except those under 30, to three-year contracts, Dolphins contracted Eduok for another three years.

The documentation was lodged with both the LMC and the NFF as required by the rules.

Both agents, Ogude and Aneke, were unavailable on the phone. Aneke has not returned numerous voice messages. Ogude's phones are usually either turned off or rings unanswered.

IMPLICATIONS
Art 18(3) of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players states: 
"A club intending to conclude a contract with a professional must inform the player’s current club in writing before entering into negotiations with him. A professional shall only be free to conclude a contract with another club if his contract with his present club has expired or is due to expire within six months. Any breach of this provision shall be subject to appropriate sanctions."

Joe Johnson, General Manager of Dolphins, says the club were never contacted, either orally or in writing, and never gave permission for the Norwegians to speak to their player.

"They did not contact us, they did not ask for our permission to speak to our player. That in itself leaves them open to sanctions," he told ColinUdoh.com.

Jubril says Sarpsborg should have contacted Dolphins or the NFF to determine the true status of the player
"For them to want the player, they must have read about his exploits in the media. Those exploits were with Dolphins. So if any other club comes to tell them they own his economic rights, they should have asked to see documentation or contacted the club or NFF to make certain."

Under the current circumstances, Sarpsborg would be unable to request or get Eduok's International Transfer Certificate (ITC) from the NFF that would allow them register the player with the Norwegian FA.

Here's why.

Since October 2010, the FIFA Transfer Matching System (TMS) has been fully deployed and implemented worldwide and is the only recognised system of handling international player transfers.

In order for an ITC to be issued, FIFA TMS Regulations stipulate that both buying and selling clubs MUST have registered accounts on the TMS. At the time of the Eduok transfer, A&B Academy did not have TMS account, meaning they could not legitimately transfer a player abroad

"It was after the contract had been signed that Bright Ogude came and requested to have a TMS account created," Jubril said. "We did that as we are obligated to. But when he said he wanted to transfer Eduok, we asked for the contract papers between him and the player.
"He claimed he only had a verbal agreement. The TMS does not recognise verbal agreements. And we have a valid contract at the NFF between Eduok and Dolphins."

Art 4(2) of the TMS Regulations lists compulsory documentation that clubs must provide in order to have a newly-transferred player registered by their national association.
Among others, this includes 
– Indication of whether there is a transfer agreement with the former club
– Start and end dates of player’s contract with former club

Assuming Sarpsborg have a written agreement with A&B to transfer the player, they would still need a contract specifying start and end date between Eduok and A&B. 

No such document exists.

VERDICT
1. Sarpsborg appear to have been deceived into signing a player from a club/academy that never had any legitimate claim to him.

2. Sarpsborg themselves could be in hot water for negotiating with and signing a contract with a player without the written permission of his club in violation of FIFA Transfer Regulations Art 18(3). This potentially renders the contract null and void.

3. Bright Ogude and A&B Academy could also find themselves facing sanctions for misrepresentation and possible fraud. It is likely Emem Eduok could find himself in the same boat and facing a ban.

4. Dolphins remain free to negotiate with, and transfer Emem Eduok to any club of their choice. In this case, they appear to have done so with Esperance.

POSTSCRIPT
Although well within their rights to take action against A&B Academy and its CEO Bright Ogude, Dolphins are unlikely to.

A&B Academy and Sports Club is a division of A&B Group of Companies which is jointly named after two former Sports Commissioners in Rivers State due to their relationship with Ogude.

Both men are powerful figures in the two major parties in the state's political landscape. One is an APC chieftain, the other PDP. 

In the larger scheme of things, officials of Dolphins are lightweights in comparison and will be in no hurry to pit their puny frames against Klitschko-size opposition.

The path of least resistance is thus the one that holds the greater, and safer, appeal.

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