Scrabble: Banned Lagos coach denies cheating, to fight for justice


Ebenezer Bajela

Suspended Lagos State scrabble coach Effiong Bassey has exclusively told The PUNCH that he received a call from a fellow scrabble player asking him to admit that he cheated at a competition, which led to his ban, but insists he was “wrongly accused of cheating.”

The Nigeria Scrabble Federation suspended Bassey from all scrabble activities for 18 months following an alleged violation of the federation’s rules and regulation.

Chairman, Publicity Committee of the NSF, Akintunde Akinsemola, told The PUNCH that Effiong, a scrabble coach with the Lagos State Sports Commission, was caught cheating during a competition in Surulere, Lagos January 30.

“He violated some of our rules. He actually cheated during a tournament in Lagos,” Akintunde said.

“Effiong, who is a player and a coach employed by Lagos State Government, actually placed his phone on his lap, which is forbidden. It (phone) is contraband anytime we have a tournament. He was using his phone to check for words and unfortunately, his opponent never had any idea about what he was doing. It was a passerby who saw him.

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“The phone was seized and it was discovered that he had everything to do with the game he was playing. The game was immediately stopped, his tally was cancelled, and all the points he had acquired were also cancelled. The case was referred to the disciplinary committee, who found him guilty and forwarded their recommendation to the board, and the board sustained that, and that was the reason I had to come out with a press release.”

But Effiong told The PUNCH that he would fight the 18-month suspension, insisting he was innocent.

He said, “There is an application we have on our phone called ‘Scrabble Expert.’ Every move I make and I miss the word, I write it down on my score sheet. After the game, I check which word I can play.

“It happened that I was checking for the words after my second game, while waiting for my opponent for the third game. While I was checking my words and writing them down on my score sheet, I typed some letters on my scrabble application and my opponent walked up to me and said we should start because others had started.

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“Immediately I put my phone to sleep, I didn’t erase those words. I kept the phone on my seat and arranged the board 25 by 25 to let him know that the tiles were complete. I was leading as at that point,  and he had made 11 turns. As I was about to make my 11th round, a guy, who I guess comes from the same state with my opponent, came around our board watching.

“He saw that I was leading and was going to win. I was absent-minded when he came, but the phone was on my seat, he walked away and came back and told me to stop, asking why I had my phone on my seat. He called the attention of others; when they checked my phone, it was a four-letter word which I last checked before my opponent called me to start, but I had seven-letter words on my rack. There was no way I would track the game and check my phone at the same time.

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“I told them to ask my opponent if he noticed any form of cheating while we were playing. A few days later I received a fellow scrabble player, that I should admit that I cheated, but I refused, why would I admit to something that I didn’t do?

“Well, I will love to fight the case because I was wrongly accused of cheating.”

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