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Justice Okorowo Judgement Threatening Possible Legal Fall of Nigeria’s Football Structure


Since the Annual General Assembly of the Nigeria Football Association, NFA, in Makurdi, resolved to change the name of the association to the Nigeria Football Federation in July 2008, the wave of criticisms has refused to go down. Every day and at every opportunity, comments and concerns relating to the flagrant disobedience of the laws of the land and various Supreme court judgements that abound totally ignored by current and past football administrations

Fourteen years after, it is now obvious that the Makurdi change which defied the laws of the land was carried out without legal backing and has become a keg of gunpowder waiting to explode with just a touch of one legal pin. And the entire football structure in Nigeria will crumble to its foundation like a pack of cards.

The illegality manifested during the regime of the Sani Lulu-led NFA that changed the name to NFF was highlighted by Justice Donatus Okorowo when ruling in a case between Dr Sam Sam Jaja against the Nigeria Football League Limited (NFLL), Nigeria Football Association (NFA) and others in 2012. Jaja had approached the court to contest his disqualification from contesting the election for the Chairmanship by the Tony Rafua-led NFLL electoral committee in 2012. He also wanted the court to decide whether the NFF can legally administer football in Nigeria especially in relation to league or any other aspect of football Federation, when it is the Nigeria Football Association that has been set up by statute to administer football in Nigeria.

Justice Okorowo in his unappealed judgement, had, on Page 48, laid the presumptuous legality of NFF to rest when he declared:

“As set out in the earlier part of this judgement, the Nigeria Football Association was established under Section 1 of the Nigeria Football Association Act as a body corporate with perpetual succession and common seal with power to sue and be sued.

“The primary function is to organize league and other matches for professional or amateur clubs in co-operation with bodies recognized by it. It also has power to set up subsidiary body to assist in performance of its functions. By this provision it is the only body recognized by Nigerian law to manage football.

“The Law did not take reference to it as Nigeria Football Federation. The name under which it is charged to manage football under the law is Nigeria Football Association. It has no power to address itself as Nigeria Football Federation. And the document titled Nigeria Football Federation Statute which purports to confer the name Nigeria Football Federation to the Nigeria Football Association is not a codified law under the Laws of Federation of Nigeria.

“It is therefore illegal for the Nigeria Football Association to answer another name than the name by which it is created as a legal entity.”

This judicial death sentence on the NFF was never appealed by the Aminu Maigari board or the Pinnick Amaju and Ibrahim Gusau boards that came after him. As it stands today, there are no legal Presidency or regime of Maigari or Amaju or Gusau as Presidents of the NFF as all and their boards were not known to Nigerian Laws having not been elected under NFA ACT.  The implication of this is that whatever the three regimes have purportedly done since 2012 are deemed illegal, null and void. In other words, the NFF’s creation of the defunct League Management Committee by Maigari who was the then NFF PRESIDENT and  subsequently given a100-year licence by the Pinnick board and the new Interim Management Committee created by current NFF President , Gusau , are mere exercises in futility.

That explains why the recent confusion ravaging football management in Nigeria may rock the boat if any concerned Nigerian approaches the court to wake up the legally living ghost of the Okorowo judgement. From credible information in the public domain, this may happen pretty soon. And the disregard irony to football administrators is the fact there are , since Justice Okorowo judgement, three  recent Supreme Court  judgements , all  ritually backing Okorowo.   And the disregard or lack of respect /  awareness of Supreme Court Judgements are most disturbing. They  can only be waiting for the house of cards to crumble.

Since 2008, Nigeria’s football administration has become a circus show. Or better still, like the barber’s chair rotating without movement. The confusion reached its crescendo when the then  NFF President, Maigari, through his lawyer and a former Attorney General of the Federation, Olujimi, swore to an affidavit that Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, has come to stay and nothing can change the nomenclature.

Maigari had sworn in the affidavit that NFF have nothing to do with the NFA and that the NFF was a private organisation which only enjoys grants from the  government. The confusion caused by Maigari’s affidavit brought out the dagger from a group of dissidents led by Jarret Tenabe  who had earlier contested election against Sani Lulu. Tenabe seized the opportunity to say that his group was the authentic NFA, the only body recognised by law via the Decree 101 which was and is yet to be abrogated.

Maigari’s blunder as head of the NFF that they were a private organisation almost cost football support from the government. The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice had to write the National Sports Commission, advising it to stop paying subvention to the NFF.

When it became hard for the NFF to get fund to run their programmes, they sent emissaries and their godfathers to beg the then DG of the sports commission, Chief Patrick Ekeji, himself a former national player who didn’t want the game to suffer. And the Commission caved in. Since then, the NFF is only known by FIFA and some undiscerning public while they go to government for their subvention in the name of NFA.

From Sani Lulu down to Amaju, Nigeria was under frequent threats from FIFA banning the country over government’s supposed  interventions. But Justice Okorowo in another judgement punctured the threat from Zurich when he declared that FIFA laws are alien to Nigeria. Justice Okorowo ruled that until the FIFA Statutes which the Nigeria football authorities hold sacrosanct has been domesticated in the nation’s legal statutes, it cannot have force in Nigeria

“It is now clear as day light that the NFF is Illegal, it is not registered and it is not a creation of law. No matter how you want to twist it, FIFA is not a law making body for any country, FIFA is but a charitable organisation registered under the Swiss law, FIFA cannot make laws for Nigeria,” Justice Adokiye Amasiemaka said in his reaction to the Okorowo’s death sentence on the NFF.

The recent inauguration of the ILMC by the Gusau-led NFF BOARD adds to the suspense and drama in the football house. Football watchers across the country are worried as to why the NFF continue to attempt to build legality on mountain of illegality may not augur well for the football structure.

The seeming legal battles which may result in root and branch examination and judgement possibly resulting in uprooting of illegal structures  like  the new ILMC led by Hon Gbenga Elegbeleye and even the NFF itself , should well be avoided if minds to build our football are properly engaged.

The Supreme Court judgements, especially the one delivered by Justice Onnoghen in which he ruled that the Warri Congress that brought Pinnick to office was illegal and declared the Chida Hotel,Abuja,   congress that brought Chris Giwa as NFF president is the legal one clearly makes all occupants from Pinnick to Gusau illegal. And need one say SUPREME COURT IS THE FINAL ARBITER OF LAW IN NIGERIA.

Arising from the Onnoghen  judgement, the entire Pinnick actions in office including Gusau succession are not legal.   And at the league level , recent fresh Supreme Court judgement that rules that LMC set up was fraudulent and that the NFLL, recognised by NFA, is alive and has authority to run the premier league means that the LMC under Shehu Dikko and ILMC under Elegbeleye  are all illegal set ups since in law you can’t build legality on a foundation of illegality.

The question thereof is: Why and how do the NFF, LMC and IMC survive swimming in illegalities since the Justice Okorowo’s judgement? Why was the judgement not obeyed?

Source: Frontpageng


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