By Fred Edoreh
While Nigerians are celebrating that the Federal Government averted FIFA’s suspension of the Nigeria Football Federation, the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, is seemingly upstaging the Presidency on its intervention, insisting that the crisis can only be resolved through the regular courts of Nigeria and his Elders Stakeholders Reconciliation Committee.
To stave off the ousting of our national teams, club sides and players from all engagements and transactions in international football, the Presidency communicated with FIFA to affirm its recognition of the Amaju Pinnick Executive Committee, assuring the protection of its access and control of the secretariat in observation of the treaty which Nigeria signed to become a member, while it monitors the cases in court.
However, Minister Dalung has, in a public statement, described the action of the Vice President who led the negotiations with FIFA, in his capacity as Acting President, as merely an “opinion of men” and impudently against the rule of law, with suggestions that he lacks the knowledge, experience and competence to so intervene.
“ I will prefer to stand with the Rule of Law instead of the opinion of men. This administration was elected on the change mantra meaning that impunity has no accommodation anywhere,” Dalung charged in the statement.
While the Presidency wrote through the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff to inform FIFA of its intervention to meet the August 20 ultimatum, Minister Dalung apparently countered with another letter to FIFA, insisting on effecting a non-existent Supreme Court judgment and asking for 21 days extension for the Elders Committee to complete its work.
His reminder of being a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court tends to contest the competence of not only Vice President Osinbajo who was Attorney General of Lagos State but also Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation, on matters of law. When the life span of the exparte order obtained by the Chris Giwa group elapsed by virtue of the provisions of the Civil Procedures Act, the Attorney General wrote him to convey the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari on the need to respect FIFA Statutes and restraint from effecting one-sided court orders, but Minister Dalung publicly questioned the directive describing it as name dropping and the action of the DSS in escorting the Pinnick board back to office as “excessive impunity.”
When the DSS temporarily withdrew from the NFF Secretariat on Wednesday, August 8, the Giwa group got police escort to chase out the Pinnick board and took over. They were however dislodged the very next day when the DSS returned.
With the congress of the NFF, CAF, FIFA, the Court of Arbitration for Sports as well as the Nigerian Presidency going in line with FIFA Statutes, Dalung has continued to champion the opposite direction. While he continues to trump his so called Supreme Court judgment, the fact is that there is no such thing. The court only ordered the re-listing and expeditious hearing of the matter at the lower court. If there is, there obviously would not have any need to seek an exparte order.
It is curious why Dalung has remained indignant to the fact that the governance of the NFF and its participation in international football cannot be by the exclusivity of Nigerian laws and regular courts but with convergence with the statutes and code of ethics of the world football governing body as observed by other nations.
The back and forth and continued disregard for the position and directives of the President, the open challenge of both the action of the Vice President and the advice of the Attorney General, including also seemingly pitching the police with the DSS in the process, suggests disorder in the executive arm of government, with impressions that the Presidency is unable to control its ministers or that Minister Dalung is beyond reproach.
It is suspected that Dalung’s belligerent insistence on only his terms is to the extent that it allows him unfettered arbitrariness in the affairs of the NFF, the leverage by which he instituted a fund raising for the Super Eagles to the World Cup without the involvement of the NFF.
The prevailing reign of conflicts under Dalung is not limited to the NFF as the Nigeria Basketball Federation and a number of other sports have also been brought into leadership disputes and strained relations with their international bodies.
The International Association of Athletics Federations, for instance, has found it strange that an overpayment of $150,000, instead of $15,000, made to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria as grant for 2017 was said to have disappeared from its Central Bank account as at when the board was not in place. Ostensibly to solve the riddle, Dalung set up an investigation on how the money got missing but, with no report made public, he has reportedly conferred with the IAAF that the ministry will pay back in installments.
With so much damage being done to the sanctity and effective running of our sports federations and the image of our country and government in the comity of nations, the question for most Nigerians is: for how long shall be continue this way?
*Edoreh is a Lagos based journalist