By Danusa Ocholi
Barely a week after Nigeria’s Super Eagles were knocked out of the ongoing Russia 2018 World Cup finals, following their 2-1 Group D loss to Argentina, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), is in turmoil as a result of the tussle for the control of its soul.
The crisis in the football federation stems from a court ruling directing the current board of the Federation under the leadership of Amaju Pinnick to vacate office for another one to be led by Chris Giwa, who contested an election for the leadership of the Federation against Pinnick, in 2014.
While Sports Minister Solomon Dalung has since ordered Pinnick to obey the order by quitting office with members of the board, Pinnick has rejected the order, saying “court orders are not binding on FIFA, which the NFF is an affiliate of.”
In a statement issued on his behalf by Festus Keyamo, his counsel, Pinnick maintained that “FIFA is only bound by the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sports, CAS, and does not entertain or tolerate decisions by local courts in footballing nations worldwide.”
The Ministry of Youth and Sports had on Monday directed the NFF to comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court which set aside the election into the Executive Committee of the Federation held on September 30, 2014.
The directive was given in a statement by Nneka Ikem Anibeze, Special Assistant on Media to the Minister of Youths and Sports, Solomon Dalung, in Abuja. According to the statement, the Supreme Court verdict restored the orders of the Federal High Court which set aside the purported election of the current Executive Committee of the NFF. The statement reported Dalung as saying that the directive followed a written notification from the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice requesting the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports to ensure compliance.
The statement said: “I have been directed to notify you of the Orders dated June 5th 2018 made by Honourable Justice M. H. Kurya, sitting at the Federal High Court Jos in respect of the above mentioned suit between Yahaya Adama Vs Alhaji Aminu Maigari.”The order states that the election of the NFF held on August 26, 2014 under the leadership of Chris Giwa be recognised pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed in the case.The court order added that the purported ban of the Giwa-led Executive Committee, elected on August 26, 2014 from football activities of the NFF was unconstitutional, null and void.
“It is trite law that court orders are sacrosanct and any acts of disobedience to it constitute threat to the rule of law.
“Consequent upon the above, you are hereby advised to comply with the orders of court made therein which for now, is the valid and binding order of court, in the absence of any other subsisting order or judgment to the contrary.’’
Dalung in an earlier statement, directed the parties involved to comply with the order.
“This is a court order and not from Dalung. I will not want to go to Kuje Prison because of disobedience of court orders.
“Therefore, I hereby comply with the court orders of June 5, while Mr Amaju Pinnick (NFF President) and others are also directed to comply with same.”
Pinnick however rejected the Minister’s order. In a statement released on his behalf by Festus Keyamo, his counsel, Pinnick maintained that “FIFA is only bound by the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sports and does not entertain or tolerate decisions by local courts in footballing nations worldwide.”
A statement from Festus Keyamo’s chamber maintained: “We are solicitors to Mr. Amaju Pinnick and the present Board of the NFF which he heads. We issue this statement on the instruction and directive of our clients which reflect their official position on the matter. The attention of our clients have been drawn to a statement purportedly issued at the behest of the Minister of Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalung directing the NFF to comply with certain court orders effecting a change of leadership in the NFF.
“Our clients wish to alert the general public and the authorities in Nigeria that the so-called directive by the Minister of Sports is null, void and of no effect for the following reasons:
- Whilst our clients respect the sanctity of court orders, unfortunately the said court orders are not binding on FIFA, the World Football Governing Body. The NFF is an affiliate of FIFA. It should be noted that FIFA has consistently maintained that this same matter has been taken to the highest Court of Sports Arbitration in Switzerland by these same individuals and they have lost. FIFA is only bound by the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sports AND DOES NOT ENTERTAIN OR TOLERATE decisions by local courts in footballing nations worldwide. Hence, FIFA has since upheld the decision of the Court of Arbitration on this matter and recognized the NFF Board led by Amaju Pinnick. Nigeria has a duty to comply with that decision. In addition, for the indiscretion of those individuals like Chris Giwa to approach the local courts, FIFA has since imposed a worldwide ban on them from all footballing activities.The end result is that Chris Giwa and his so-called Board members do not have any locus standi with regards to footballing matters and the Federal Government CANNOT have any dealing with them on any footballing matter. The obvious implication of all these is that if any attempt is made to recognize Chris Giwa and derecognize Amaju Pinnick and his Board, FIFA WILL DEFINITELY IMPOSE A LENGTHY BAN ON NIGERIA from all football competitions locally and internationally and that will spell doom for Nigerian Football.”
If the current imbroglio persists FIFA will intervene and possibly ban the country from international football as it happened in the past.