Despite a court warrant of arrest by an Igbosere High Court over alleged tax default, the ex-Super Eagles star, Austin Okocha, (a.ka. Jay-jay), joined former captain of Barcelona FC of Spain, Carles Puyol to present the UEFA Champions League Trophy to the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode at the State House, Alausa, Ikeja yesterday.
An Igbosere High Court presided over by Justice Adedayo Akintoye, had barely two days ago issued another bench warrant on the ex-international over his refusal to appear before the court on alleged tax evasion.
The court order came following Okocha’s alleged failure to settle a 2017 income tax evasion case brought against him by Lagos State Government.
The judge first made the order on January 29, upon an application by the State Ministry of Justice.
The ministry told the court that Okocha also failed to appear in court since 2017 when the case was filed against him.
His appearance at the alausa shocked not only many football fans but officials and others, who expressed surprise that he could visit the seat of power despite an existing warrant order on him.
However, Okocha, claded in a white shirt over a pair of black trousers, declined interview from journalists that had sought to seek his reaction to the bench warrant.
Okocha, who was all beaming smiles all through, joined Carles Puyol and others to present the trophy to Ambode, who was represented by Chairman, Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC), Dr. Kweku Tandoh.
Ambode, expressed excitement with the fact that the organisers of the tour considered Lagos as one of the states to visit.
He added that the development was particularly gratifying more so that the synergy between sports and entertainment as well as tourism had been massively played up in the last four years.
The governor also lauded the contribution of Puyol and Okocha to the development of the round leather game in Nigeria and worldwide, saying they deserved to be appreciated and celebrated.
“I must say I am very pleased with the organisers of this Trophy Tour for deeming it fit to take the UEFA Champions League Cup to Lagos. We are particularly excited because our administration has focused on the synergy between sports, tourism,
entertainment and the arts, among others and the people can see the positive effects of our efforts in that regard.
“We are pleased to also welcome Barcelona FC and Champions League legend, Carles Puyol to Lagos, as well as our legend, JayJay Okocha to Lagos House. Many of us underrate this legend that we have and just yesterday, I understand Puyol had a very difficult time on the field of play in Uyo when JayJay had to give him a few tricks.
“Unfortunately, JayJay did not get to play for Barcelona; he would have lifted the Champions League but I must say we appreciate what Okocha has done for Nigerian football. If you have a player that is sometimes compared to Messi, Maradona and spoken about in the same breath, then we know we have a star in our midst and so I like to thank JayJay for his contribution to football,”, Ambode said.
He said in order to ensure a successful Trophy Tour, the relevant security and government agencies have been contacted, assuring that all the activities lined-up as part of the tour would be hugely successful.
While wishing the team a successful tour in Nigeria, the governor said the government would be glad to receive the trophy back in the state in the nearest future
He also assured that the government remained committed to make Lagos the sports hub not just in Africa but the entire world.