By Onochie Anibeze
In just few minutes, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim understood the politics that has been fueling crisis in Nigeria’s football and he initiated peaceful resolution.
What came to the fore was clear. Many of the court cases against NFF were a blanket cover on the real cause of the problem. The National Sports Commission had been NFF’s foe. They backed some people to go to court to challenge the election and those who went on their own later enjoyed support from them.
The sports ministry and National Sports Commission did not endorse those who emerged on board of the Nigeria Football Federation and have since then tried to get them out through all sorts of means including litigation. The Police once chased the NFF members out of their office and while avoiding arrest the Nations Cup qualifier against Guinea took place in Conakry.
Eagles had no preparation and lost. When FIFA congratulated Maigari over his election, Maigari sent a copy of the letter to the ministry. That copy got into the hands of the police in Abuja who arrested Maigari and his entire board for allegedly forging the letter from FIFA. They were detained but later allowed freedom on bail. Later, FIFA President, Sepp Blater wrote to Nigeria to confirm that he actually wrote the letter congratulating Maigari.
Anyim got all the clue on the crisis when football officials went to his office late Monday night and told their side of the story. Before then the ministry had made a presentation to Anyim on why the board of NFF should resign, citing the January 20th judgment by Justice Okorowo that the Nigerian constitution did not recognise Nigeria Football Federation but Nigeria Football Association. Sports minister Bolaji Abdullahi withheld their monetary allocation and told Aminu Maigari and his board to resign.
They refused on the grounds that they won a clear election endorsed by CAF and FIFA on the one hand and that they had appealed against the January 20th judgment on the other hand. They wondered why the minister did not consider the appeal and asked them to resign. It was this matter that dragged the board and the minister to Anyim’s office Monday night.
After listening to both parties Anyim, we gathered, got a better picture of the problem and reportedly asked them to seek peaceful resolution that would accommodate everybody especially those in court with them. However, Anyim noted that ordering NFF to resign was uncalled for.
Interestingly, Sam Sam Jaja, a former Referees Association chairman who is well known as a man of peace, sued the NPL for disqualifying him from contesting the chairmanship election and joined the NFF. It was while delivering judgment that Justice Okorowo described NFF and NPL as illegal bodies. Interestingly, the election that Jaja contested against and which produced Davidson Owumi as chairman had since been nullified by a court.
Football is governed by statutes and fifa abhors taking football matters to law courts. Those who do flout their statutes and risk sanctions. The Makurdi Annual general Congress voted to change NFA to NFF and that is the name FIFA, the world football governing body, recognises. And the bill repealing decree 101 that recognises NFA is before the National Assembly.
“Anyim was, therefore, made to understand that the real issue was not in the name of the federation but some politics for which the minister wanted to assert himself,” a football source said, adding “all is just the control of the NFF”. A top member of the NFF simply put it this way: I think that the minister now knows the truth and to be fair to him he was apologetic and we are now together. The important thing now is that we have resolved this matter for now. The problem is that when another sports minister comes they will set him up against us and we start battling cases instead of concentrating on getting results for Nigeria”.
It was the same matter that Anyim settled that the minister had sought to visit FIFA in Zurich.
One time House of Representatives member Sani Toro had frowned at the proposed visit, saying that the minister did not need to travel to Zurich for “what we can resolve at home”.
Following Anyim’s directive that the matter be resolved and those in court accommodated NFF and other parties agreed to the following:
The NFF shall allow the notice of appeal in respect of judgment in suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/170/10 delivered on the 20th of January 2012 to abate.
All parties also agreed to ensure that all ongoing process regarding proper documentation of both the league and the board are completed.
*NFF to withdraw his suspension and banning and to publicise such
*NFF to pay reasonable compensation to him
*NFF to pay his outstanding referee allowances subject to verification
Dr. Sam Sam Jaja
*NFF to appoint him as Honourary member of NFF
*NFF to reverse his disqualification
*A letter of unreserved apology to be tendered by the NFF
*That Jaja will not enforce the judgment in suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/170/10 of January 20, 2012.