The curious case of a crisis-laden Nigeria Football Federation

by Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam, AIPS Young Reporter

Abuja, August 28, 2018 – For now, Nigerian football has seemingly found relative calm – and is trying to make up for lost time – after enduring another episode of the chronic leadership crisis haunting the Nigeria Football Federation, the NFF.

Following a suspension threat from FIFA, the Federal Government of Nigeria waded in to ensure that power was restored to Amaju Pinnick, who is duly recognised by the world football governing body as the “legitimate” president of the NFF – a stance which ambassador Christopher Giwa has bluntly refused to accept.

The coup – As the World Cup was ongoing in Russia, Giwa, who believes he is the one true leader of the NFF, took over the NFF Secretariat in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital on July 2. He lasted three weeks in office before operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), who were reportedly backed by an order from the presidency, brought back normality. Not long after, however, Giwa returned to the NFF headquarters, and this time FIFA swiftly responded with a warning. The warning was adhered to and Nigeria avoided a ban on August 20.

Communique – But barely four days later, on August 24, the Giwa-led NFF board released a communique of their extra ordinary general assembly held in Abuja that day. It stated: “In view of the inability of the Executive Committee to function since its election on August 26th, 2014, as a result of usurpation of its mandate, Congress approved that the effective date of the commencement of the tenure of the Executive Committee shall be July 2nd, 2018, when the judgement of the Supreme Court and the orders of the Federal High Court, Jos were enforced.”

Festus Keyamo Chambers – Festus Keyamo (SAN), the counsel to the NFF released a six-page statement on August 26 emphasising that “there is no Supreme Court Order or any other subsisting order restraining Amaju Pinnick from acting as president of the NFF or installing Chris Giwa as president of the NFF”.

After elaborating on that, his last paragraph stated: “And lastly, for the information of the public, the tenure of office which is the subject of dispute of the case filed by Giwa’s group since 2014, lapses on the 26th of August, 2018 – being today.”

Elections – This current NFF crisis dates back to 2014. An Elective Congress for the federation was initially scheduled for August 26, but due to a series of events that saw the arrest, impeachment, reinstatement and resignation of the then NFF President Aminu Maigari, FIFA approved the NFF Executive Committee’s decision to still hold the Congress on that day but without elections. The Congress was “to consider a new roadmap for the elections” which must be held “no later than two weeks after the Congress”.

Giwa – On the morning of the Congress, trouble ensued as three members of NFF Executive Committee; President Maigari, General Secretary Musa Amadu and Exco member Chris Green were all invited to the DSS offices and detained.

In the midst of the confusion, Amadu was later released and Congress went ahead to conduct an election which produced Chris Giwa as president despite the absence of a significant number of delegates. According to reports, 39 delegates had left the venue to go look for their detained officials.

Pinnick – The Maigari-led NFF board then held another Congress on September 20 where they agreed on a new road map for elections to be held on September 30.

FIFA recognises the election of September 30 which, with the active participation of all 44 delegates, acknowledged Amaju Pinnick. Although Giwa had gone to court prior, and obtained an injunction barring the NFF from any fresh elections, the NFF eventually argued that it was not properly served that Order in defence of contempt charges.

The court agreed, but ruled that its previous Order, which recognised Chris Giwa and his board, be respected pending the determination of the main suit, thereby nullifying the elections which brought in Pinnick. When FIFA reacted with the threat of a ban, Giwa withdrew the case from court and gave room for an out of court settlement. Giwa had the case re-instated when the out of court settlement did not materialize.

Supreme Court – Giwa claims that the Supreme Court, which directed that the case be re-tried from the beginning, has given him the authority to re-occupy the Glass House as president. But FIFA does not recognise him as such.

Giwa’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport was dismissed on grounds that FIFA were right not to recognize his election because of third party influence and lack of quorum.

However Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung has continued to publicly express his support for Giwa.

“As a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, who took oath of office to protect and defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will prefer to stand with the Rule of Law instead of the opinion of men,” Dalung said in a statement.

Is it over? – In the meantime, there is peace. But only time will tell if it will last. An aggrieved Giwa still feels he has a case. On June 5, he was granted an Ex-parte Order asking Pinnick’s NFF board to vacate the Glass House. In court on July 10, the judge did not rule on the motion to vacate the Order and the case was adjourned to September 25. Meanwhile the NFF are due to hold elections on September 20.

Based on the communique from the Giwa-led NFF, their tenure only began less than two months ago and they are now looking to “ focus on the national teams to excel in the upcoming competitions”, “expedite action on the resumption of the various leagues”, among other things.

So just maybe the storm is not over yet, but FIFA stated clearly in their statement that they “will continue to closely monitor the situation in order to ensure that FIFA’s rules and regulations are fully adhered to”.

NFF Bill – FIFA does not tolerate government interference in its affairs, but as long as the Nigeria Football Federation remains a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, government interference will remain the bane of Nigerian football.

To curb this, the National Assembly in Nigeria will have to pass the much-awaited NFF Bill into law. The Bill domesticates the NFF statutes as approved by the NFF Congress and endorsed by FIFA as the supreme laws for governance of the functioning, organization, administration and operations of the Federation.

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