Nigeria’s football legend, Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha may be in for huge trouble as a Lagos High Court in Igbosere has issued a bench warrant for the arrest of a former Super Eagles captain for alleged tax evasion.
Justice Adedayo Akintoye made the order on January 29, following an application by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice after Okocha allegedly failed to appear in court for a 2017 income tax evasion charge.
The ministry filed a three-count charge against Okocha on June 6, 2017, which accused Okocha of “Failure to furnish return of income for tax purposes with the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service contrary to Section 94 (1) of the Personal Income Tax Act Cap P8 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004 (As Amended).
“Failure to pay income tax contrary to Section 56(a) and (b) of the Lagos State Revenue Administration Law No. 8 of 2006.
Prosecuting Counsel Y. A. Pitan, who moved the application for the warrant on January 29, told Justice Akintoye that the case came up for the first time on October 5, 2017 but Okocha failed to appear in court, even though service had been effected on him. He said Okocha still didn’t appear after several adjournments.
In a bench ruling, Justice Akintoye granted the application and issued a bench warrant for Okocha’s arrest. The judge adjourned further hearing till last February 19. When the case came up on February 19, the prosecution had still not effected the warrant, following which the court ordered that on the next adjourned date the order should have been executed. Akintoye adjourned further hearing till April 15.
Okocha made his official debut for Nigeria in their 2–1 1994 FIFA World Cup Qualifier away loss against Ivory Coast in May 1993. It was not until his second cap and home debut that he became a favourite with the Nigerian supporters.
With Nigeria trailing 1–0 against Algeria, in a match they needed to win, he scored from a direct free kick to equalise, before helping the team to a 4–1 win, eventually securing qualification to their first World Cup. In 1994, he was a member of both the victorious 1994 African Cup of Nations squad and the World Cup squad who made it to the second round before they lost in a dramatic match against eventual runners-up Italy.
In 1996, Okocha became a key member of an arguably more successful Nigerian side, their Olympic gold winning side at the Atlanta Games, later nicknamed the Dream Team by the Nigerian press after the USA 1992 Olympic gold winning basketball team.
In the 1998 FIFA World Cup hosted by France, Okocha played for a disappointing Super Eagles side who failed to live up to expectations again reaching the round of 16, albeit with less impressive performances save for their 3–2 opening win against Spain.
This did not destroy interest in Okocha, who had entertained fans with his trademark skills and dribbles and went on to be named in the squad of the tournament.
Okocha again joined the Super Eagles in the 2000 African Cup of Nations co-hosted with Ghana. He scored three goals in the tournament, two in the opening game against Tunisia, and then given a standing ovation by the nearly 60,000 attendance when he left the field.
He made a return to the Super Eagles in his testimonial against an African select side in Warri. The game featured former players Daniel Amokachi, Alloysius Agu, John Fashanu, Benjani and Sulley Muntari. Nigeria won the game 2–1 with Okocha scoring the winning goal after appearing for the side in the second half. In March 2004, he was named one of the top 125 living footballers by Pelé.
Okocha is from Anioma, a subgroup of Igbo ethnic derivative. His older brother Emmanuel is also a former footballer who played for the Nigerian national team. He has a nephew, Alex Iwobi, who plays for Arsenal and Nigeria