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On 26 August 2014 elections were conducted in Abuja into the Board of the Nigeria Football
Federation (NFF) wherein the Ambassador Chris Giwa-led board emerged victorious.? This Board was duly sworn-in and assumed duties at the NFF secretariat.
However, on 30 September 2014 another purported election was conducted in Warri into the Board of the same NFF whereby the controversial board led by Amaju Pinnick purportedly emerged.
The above resulted in the dispute which has engulfed the NFF.
The primary instruments which regulate the conduct of NFF elections
(I) The NFF Statutes 2010 (ii) The Guidelines for the NFF Executive
Committee Elections 2014
(iii) The NFF Electoral Code
An electoral committee chaired by Amoni Biambo was empanelled by the NFF Congress in Warri on 28th November 2013 to conduct elections into the Board of the NFF on 26th August 2014.
This electoral committee conducted the elections of 26 August 2014 in Abuja in which the Ambassador Chris Giwa-led Board of the NFF emerged. This electoral committee upon the conclusion of elections submitted a report on the success of the electoral process.
The relevant instruments which regulates the conduct of the NFF elections provide? for an Appeals Committee to determine grievances arising from the conduct of? any elections; there was not a single Appeal filed against the conduct of the 26 August 2014 elections. The tenure and lifespan of the Board of the NFF is
Upon discovery of a clandestine plan by the defunct board of the NFF led by Alhaji Aminu Maigari to subvert its mandate by conducting another election into the board of the NFF, the Ambassador Chris Giwa-led Board of the NFF, approached the Federal High Court sitting in Jos in suit No. FHC/F/CS/77/2014 and
secured an order which restrained the conduct of another election into the Board of the NFF. This order of injunction was granted on the 19 September 2014.
In flagrant disobedience to the order of injunction the Alhaji Aminu Maigari led Board of
the NFF which had become defunct by effluxion of time proceeded to conduct another election into the Board of the NFF in Warri on 30th September 2014 wherein the purported Board led by Amaju Pinnick emerged.
The court accordingly nullified the election.
Article 1.1 of FIFA Statute and Article 1.1 of NFF Statute are very clear. Both organizations admitted to subservience to national laws of nations. In FIFA’s case, they agreed to be subservient to Swiss laws and the NFF to
Nigerian laws. Article 1.1 of Fifa Statute states: The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is an association registered in the Commercial Register in accordance with Article 60 ff. of the Swiss Civil Code.
Article 1.1 of the NFF statute states: Nigeria Football Federation is a private organization of an associative nature in compliance with the laws of Nigeria. It is formed for an unlimited period. There are several cases where
civil issues in the management of football have gone to courts. The most recent is that of Egypt and Argentina where a court sacked the FA which has been obeyed in both nations.
COURT OF ARBITRATION IN SPORTS: The Board of the NFF went to the Court of Arbitration in Sports in Lausanne, Switzerland against FIFA. A careful study of the judgments of this court remains a legal classicus.
We challenged Fifa’s letter of 29th August 2014 before the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in case number
In its arbitral awards, CAS rightly noted indeed, “NFF election as such and all NFF related NFF deeds have never been challenged before CAS. And surely, the CAS has no direct jurisdiction to review such NFF elections.”
What this means is that the election of 26thAugust 2014 was never challenged before CAS. CAS had earlier held that, “conversely, the panel may not assess the validity of the various NFF elections on the basis of the NFF rules or of
Nigerian law because such appraisal falls outside of the scope of FIFA’s authority under Article 17 of its statute and thus, falls outside of the panel’s scope of review.”
As a matter of fact, CAS pointedly put it in the following words: “the panel does not rule that the election of 26th August 2014 was invalid under its proper law because this finding would fall outside the scope of this panel’s review. Furthermore, the point must also be made that, in its arbitral award, CAS found out that Fifa could not be said to have given recognition
to the purported election of 30th September 2014 in which Amaju Pinnick et al emerged.”
“The purpose of the second challenged letter which states in its relevant part was not (and could not have been) to recognize the election of 30th September 2014 as alleged by the Appellants because under its own rules FIFA does not have the authority to positively recognize the election of its member associations.”
Since CAS did not rule that our election of 26th August 2014 was invalid, and also that Fifa could not be said to have recognized the purported election of 30th September 2014 in which Amaju Pinnick emerged, our election being the first
in time subsists and takes precedence over the Warri election.
Arising from the instruments which regulate the conduct of elections into the Board of the NFF and the material facts narrated above, the issues which call for determination in this dispute are as follows:
1. Whether the elections into the Board of the NFF conducted on 26 August 2014 which produced the Ambassador Chris Giwa-led Board having not been challenged before the NFF Appeals Committee is valid and subsists;
2. The tenure of the Ambassador Chris Giwa-led Board having not been exhausted nor the Board impeached or dissolved, whether another elections into the Board of the NFF can be conducted;
3. Whether the Alhaji Aminu Maigari-led Board of the NFF having exhausted its tenure of office on 25 August 2014 was competent to convene an Extra-ordinary General Assembly of the NFF on 20th September 2014 for the purpose of setting up an NFF electoral committee or at all.
4. Whether the purported NFF electoral committee set upon 20th September 2014 could validly conduct an election into the Board of the NFF on 30 September 2014 or at all.
5. Whether the purported elections into the Board of the NFF conducted on 30 September 2014 where Amaju Pinnick et al emerged was valid.
In line with the provision of Article 4(1) and (3) of the NFF electoral Code, the Electoral committee chaired by Amoni Biambo which conducted the NFF elections of 26 August 2014 which produced the Ambassador Chris Giwa-led Board was elected and constituted on 28 November 2013, a period of nine (9) months before the conduct of the election. The lifespan of the
electoral committee is four years. Thus, its tenure was to expire on 27 November 2017.
This electoral committee conducted the election into the Board of the NFF on 26 August in which the Ambassador Chris Giwa led Board emerged. The Board was duly sworn-in and the committee submitted its report.
Articles 12 of the NFF electoral code and Article 18 of the electoral guidelines 2014 provide the mechanism for ventilating grievances arising from the conduct of any election. Grievances could be ventilated only by way of an appeal to the NFF appeals committee which must be filed within a period of 14 days from the decision of the electoral committee.
It is elementary principle of law that where a statute, law or Guidelines provides a way for the doing of a thing that thing can be done by no other way; In the case instant, the election of 26 August 2014, which produced the Ambassador Chris Giwa-led Board could only be challenged by way of an appeal to the NFF Appeals Committee.
Article 18.2 dispels any doubt when it provides as follows: …All Appeals against the committee’s decision must be lodged ONLY with the election Appeals Committee of the NFF to the exclusion of the possibility of appealing the said decision before any other body…
The Amoni Biambo led electoral committee having conducted the election of 26 August 2014 and produced a report have made a
decision which can be challenged or set aside ONLY through an appeal process. There was, however, not a single appeal filed against
the election of 26 August 2014 which produced the Ambassador Chris Giwa-led Board. The principle of law is that any decision not appealed
against is deemed as valid and subsisting.
The Amaju Pinnick-led Board had argued that the agenda on the 26 August 2014 was to chart a new course for an election and that this was
a directive from FIFA. It is submitted that the decision to hold election on 26 August 2014 was taken by Congress in November 2013.
Assuming without conceding that FIFA could give such a directive, the Congress voted to proceed with the election. All the 44 delegates of
Congress signed the attendance register and are deemed present at all the proceedings of 26 August 2014. The Amaju Pinnick-led Board also
argued that after signing the attendance register, some delegates at Congress moved out to look for Alhaji Aminu Maigari and Musa Amadu who were not at the venue of the Congress. If a delegate at Congress signed the attendance and thereafter chose to move out, he cannot complain that a decision was taken in his absence. Besides, all 44 members of the NFF signed the attendance and participated at the elections.
The Amaju Pinnick-led Board also argued that delegates who were dissatisfied with the proceedings of 26 August 2014 at Chida Hotel venue of the Congress moved to Bentley Hotel set aside and also dissolved the Amoni Biambo-led electoral committee. As earlier stated, the meeting at Bentley Hotel cannot amount to a Congress. It was not convened in compliance with Article 27(2) or Article 29(3) of the NFF Statutes. It was thus, a mere meeting. The decisions of such gathering could not supercede the decisions of a properly convened congress which took place at Chida Hotel.
Assuming, but without conceding that the meeting at Bentley Hotel was a properly convened congress, the NFF having set up an Appeals panel which is an instrumental framework to settle electoral dispute in line with Article 4(3) lacked the power to usurp the functions of the Appeals panel. That meeting could not be the complainant and the judge all at the same time assuming but without conceding.
Furthermore, that meeting could not prevent the Amoni Biambo-led electoral committee from conducting elections into the Board of the NFF
because the electoral committee had already conducted the election; it is elementary principle of law that a completed act cannot be restrained. The purported dissolution of the Amoni Biambo-led electoral committee was an after thought as it came too late.
The Ambassador Chris Giwa-led Board having been elected and sworn-in on 26 August 2014 would vacate office on the 25 August 2018. This
thus means that as of 30 September 2014 when another election was purportedly conducted into the Board of the NFF which produced the
Amaju Pinnick-led Board, the tenure of office of the Ambassador Chris Giwa Board was not exhausted. There could therefore not be another election into the Board of the NFF. Any such purported elections ought to be pronounced illegal. It is axiomatic that there cannot be two captains in the same boat as this will be a recipe for anarchy, as exemplified by the case instant.
The Ambassador Chris Giwa-led Board of the NFF believes strongly in the Rule of Law. This is exemplified by its exercise of restraint and
recourse to the instrumentality of the law when the functions of its office were usurped by Amaju Pinnick et al. It is this strong believe in the Rule
of Law and obedience to Constitutional authority that made it submit to the immediate past President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when he sought intervention to resolve the dispute. Unfortunately, he took no steps thereafter to resolve the dispute.
It is this same strong believe in the Rule of Law and deference to Constituted authority that makes us hope that justice will be done by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. A selfish cabal should not be allowed to ruin our footbal industry. A stich in time, it is said, saves nine!
Alkammawa writes from Sultan Muhammadu Bello Road, Kaduna, Nigeria