The one-year old marriage between Oceanic Bank and former English football star John Fashanu, which gave birth to the Oceanic/Fash Football Challenge, a television reality show, has hit the rocks over a N25 million Dangote contribution that Fashanu allegedly did not turn in.
The programme will, however, continue, with former Super Eagles captain Austin Okocha becoming the new face of the programme when it is back on air. A new consultant, Larry Izamoje, the owner of Brila FM sports radio, is currently working with other consultants to ensure continuity and quality.
Sources within Oceanic Bank told Saharareporters that the decision to drop Fashanu was based on allegations that he collected the sum of N25 million from billionaire businessman Aliko Dangote, who is renowned for his manipulation of cement and sugar importation in Nigeria. Dangote, who graced the grand finale of Football Challenge recently, was reportedly disappointed when the Managing Director of Oceanic Bank, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, failed to acknowledge his support of the programme.
Dangote is said to have asked Mrs. Ibru why she failed to acknowledge the receipt of N25 million he had given to the show through Fashanu. With that knowledge, a furious Ibru was said to have called for the immediate termination of the agreement between the bank and Fashanu.
In several interviews with Sahara Reporters Fashanu emphatically denied collecting any amount of money from any organization or any individual on behalf of Football Challenge. However, he admitted that one of his "top marketers" picked up money from a "company" which he said wasn't "Dangote or Oando".
Said Fashanu, once known as “Fash The Cash” for his profitable professional contracts, or “Fash The Bash” for his robust playing style, said, “Yes, I have parted ways with them but I can tell you it is not because of any scandal. I have a one-year agreement with them and that ended in January and I have moved on with my life. These people should not be badmouthing me; I did not collect money from anybody. I wish them well with their project. Oceanic was very nice to me and I fully support the continuation of the show under my franchise "Blacksea" I have moved on, I have a contract with ALGON, it is a five years deal; I have a deal with Rivers and Kano States, and they should leave me alone. I repeat, I have never collected any money from anybody, I repeat, I am not a marketeer”.
Fashanu, a former star of the English Premier League, is not new to financial scandals, although he has usually emerged unscathed. Shortly after he relocated to Nigeria, he became involved with some business partners who alleged that he had deceived them into parting with a lot of cash over a “Tyre Protector” business deal, which was reported on Saharareporters.
At that time, Fashanu told the press that those partners, Titi Onyekweli and Kayode Thomas, were out to tarnish his image. “Both of them have been threatening my life. Four months ago in Central Lagos, Titi roughed me up, but I told my security men not to touch her, that I am a man and could take her beating. I raised my hand for her to beat me and when she was tired she let my shirt go. I don’t have any problem whatsoever with Titi. She says she wants her $27,500 back but that is not correct because I never did any business with her. Apparently, she gave the money to Kayode when they were going out and now that he has left her to marry someone else, she’s transferring her aggression to me.”
During Fashanu’s active soccer career in England, he also suffered match-fixing allegations. In 1994, The Sun newspaper in London ran an exposé on match-fixing on Bruce Grobbelaar, then of Liverpool Football Club, Hans Segers of Wimbledon FC, Malaysian businessman Heng Suan Lim and Fashanu. The four were arrested March and charged with conspiring to fix matches between Feb. 1, 1991, and March 15, 1995. While those charges carried a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and/or an unspecified fine, the defendants were all cleared of any wrongdoing. Fashanu’s wife, Melissa Kassa-Mapsi, was originally arrested and charged along with the four men, but the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charges against her.
In another incident, shortly before he moved to Nigeria, the News of the World said its undercover journalists had given Fashanu a £5,000 “deposit” towards rigging a match. It alleged that in secretly filmed meetings, Fashanu charged £70,000 each for a goalkeeper, striker and defender to fix a result and that he demanded £40,000 “to keep me running around and an advance of £40,000”.
But Fashanu denied the allegations. He said he had agreed to the meetings because he wanted to find out if the people who had approached him were journalists or from “the Mafia”. He admitted he had accepted the £5,000 but that he took the cash straight to the police. The Metropolitan Police confirmed Fashanu had indeed reported the incident to them.
Oceanic Bank has not made an official statement on the split with Fashanu.