A Court Order, A Congress And A Suspension

By Toyin Ibitoye

A court order, a congress and the hammer of FIFA falls on Nigeria for the umpteenth time, leaving confusion in its wake.

Sadly, this is the summary of the Nigerian game at a time when she should be counting the gains of participating at the biggest football stage in the world and building on the legacy of being one of Africa's best representatives in Brazil.

Now, the confusion and consequences of our present realities cannot be quantified.

What happens to the U20 Women team, the Falconets, should this suspension remain in place beyond Tuesday, July 15? What about the Golden Eaglets, who were World Champions just last year and should begin the African qualifiers for 2015 edition against Congo DR next weekend?

What can we also say about the Flying Eagles ahead of the African Youth Championship qualifiers and the Super Falcons who are due in Namibia in a few weeks for the African Women Championship, which also serves as the 2015 FIFA Women World Cup qualifiers? Not forgetting, of course, the 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifiers that should begin in September.

Not to sound like an alarmist, I am too sure that we will resolve our issues before some irreparable damage is done to our football by this latest suspension… but I worry about who blinks first? Will it be the National Sports Commission(NSC) representing the Nigerian government or FIFA?

I really do not envy the Sports Minister and Chairman, National Sports Commission, Dr Tam Danagogo. He is clearly torn between the devil and the deep blue sea.

If things go wrong at the end of the day and Nigerian football gets the short end of the stick by the time the dust settles, then the present leadership of the National Sports Commission would have carved their names in mud.

The initial statement of the National Sports Commission and assurances of the Sports Minister earlier last week that the FIFA hammer will not fall, gave way quietly later in the week to a more somber appeal for calm that the hammer was only procedural and will soon be lifted.

I do really hope that the suspension is lifted soon but I am not as optimistic as Dr Danagogo would want every Nigerian to be.

Let me point out this fact.

The FIFA Emergency Committee, it was that decided to suspend Nigeria.

Who are the members of this committee? Sepp Blatter(Chairman),Michel Platini(member), Issa Hayatou(member), David Chung(member), Jeffrey Webb(member), Eugenio Figueredo(member) and Sheik Salman Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa(member)

At least, from this roll call, you can identify some of those persons and their pedigree.

You can use google to check out the pedigree of the others.

The FIFA Emergency Committee is easily the strongest committee in FIFA. Its seats the Vice Presidents of FIFA (who are the Presidents of the different football confederations in the world) and has the FIFA President himself as it's Chairman. It is a group of super heavyweights who clearly know what they are doing.

If the suspension slammed on Nigeria is to be overturned, the National Sports Commission and Dr Danagogo will have to convince these men and the FIFA Executive Committee beyond any iota of doubt that what is happening in Nigeria is not overtly or covertly a result of government interference, and is also not a violation of the rules governing Association Football in the world.

I have tried to agree with the position of the Sports Minister that he is just trying to obey the orders of the Court and that it was the Extra Ordinary Congress of the NFF on July 5 in Abuja that dissolved the Maigari Board. Truth is - it is not adding up.

The court ordered that the NFF Executive Committee, management and General Assembly (congress) should not parade themselves as the administrators of the game in Nigeria yet some members went ahead to organise the congress and the Sports Minister was in attendance, giving a welcome speech to inform the delegates that the Federal Government was behind them? It's not adding up!

The Sports Minister, in obeying the order of the court, named Lawrence Katken as the acting General Secretary of the NFF and almost immediately, within minutes, Katken was calling an Extra Ordinary General Assembly.

Didn't anybody point out the statutes of FIFA and the NFF to those who advised all these actions? I have reproduced Article 29 of the NFF statutes(2010)here to show how an Extra Ordinary Congress is called.

Article 29 Extraordinary General Assembly

1. The Executive Committee may convene an Extraordinary General Assembly at any time.

2  The Executive Committee shall convene an Extraordinary General Assembly if one-fifth of the Members of NFF make such a request in writing. The request shall specify the items for the agenda. An Extraordinary General Assembly shall be held within three months of receipt of the request. If an Extraordinary General Assembly is not convened, the Members who requested it may convene the General Assembly themselves. As a last resort, the Members may request assistance from FIFA.

3  The Members shall be notified of the place, date and agenda at least one month before the date of an Extraordinary General Assembly.

4  When an Extraordinary General Assembly is convened on the initiative of the Executive Committee, it must draw up the agenda. When an Extraordinary General Assembly is convened upon the request of Members, the agenda must contain the points raised by those Members.

5  The agenda of an Extraordinary General Assembly may not be altered.

Yet just within a few minutes of his appointment, the acting General Secretary was calling an Extra Ordinary General Assembly. Who decided on the agenda? Who called the assembly? What about the one month notice to members communicating, place, date and agenda? All of these in a few minutes? It's not just adding up.

In also appointing an acting General Secretary for the NFF, didn't the Sports Minister know he was flouting a key statute of FIFA?

Didn't Dr Danagogo know that the powers to appoint a General Secretary of the NFF lie with the Executive Committee and that the NFA Act that empowers him to do such (although still in partial use in Nigeria) is outdated and frowned at by FIFA?

In fact,a former Sports Minister Bala Ka'oje had written to FIFA in the past that the NFA Act is no longer in use in Nigeria and we were fully in compliance with FIFA statutes.

So how do we defend ourselves before FIFA, who have insisted that all that happened in Abuja at the Extraordinary congress of July 5 is null and void?

FIFA have also written Lawrence Katken, stating clearly that they do not recognise him.

As was the case in 2010, I hope someone is not convincing the Federal Government to damn FIFA and face the consequences.

While calling up my sources in the process of putting this write up together, I stumbled on an interesting fact from a top and very credible government source who confirmed to me that indeed Mr President gave the orders for the Maigari-led NFF Board to be swept aside.

"There were too many unsavoury reports about them (Maigari led NFF Board). The Senate President, the Sports Minister and I also think the Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil in their reports did not say nice things about them. I do not have the details but I know that was the origin of their problems and then the bonus row after the Argentina game was the height of it.

"You would notice that after that row, the Sports Minister stopped involving the NFF in all his interactions with the team. He started dealing with the team directly. In fact when he arrived with their appearance fee and shared it to the players on the eve of the France game, the NFF were not informed.

"When Mr President called the team personally, he also did not involve the NFF, so it was a sign that he wanted them out."

For me, this was an unfortunate turning point for the NFF board that can rightly lay claim to being one of the most successful boards in Nigeria's history.

"I cannot fault your source but if he is correct, then it is really sad,” a board member opened up to me.

"Six times, we have led different football teams to Aso Rock for Presidential receptions where Mr President openly commended us, and even on one occasion promised that the budgetary allocation in Sports deserved to be increased. So in one month, all of those achievements are useless and on the basis of one-sided reports we have become outcasts?

"Even if there are instructions to get rid of us, it should have been tactically and neatly done without drawing the attention of the world to ourselves and causing more embarrassment to the nation.

"The elective congress in Warri is next month, they can wait for us there but if they do not want to do that, they could find a way to make us leave the scene quietly without flouting the rules,” the board member summed up.

Another source within the Sports Ministry told me that things were rushed and the Sports Minister could have been more patient with his moves.

"Some of those close to the Sports Minister warned him against moving too hastily but it seems he was in a hurry to impress Mr President who wanted the NFF guys out.

"In fact, if not for the intervention of Dr Amos Adamu, the acting General Secretary Lawrence Katken would have inaugurated the Electoral Panel and the Appeals' Committee. New dates for elections would been have fixed and a new board in place before you know it.

"It was Dr Adamu that stepped in and said they should be patient because these actions have very serious implications with FIFA and Nigerian football.

"I agree with you that things could have been better managed.

"Even you that is defending this present board, is this not how they also came to power? Is this not how it happened in 2006 and 2010?" my source queried.

I do not want to be drawn into the arguments of the past just yet but I think the biggest problems of Football Administration in Nigeria is a lack of genuine interest in the development of the game and a lack of desire to understand and apply the principles governing the game as expressed in the statutes of FIFA.

I do not think that if any football official is found guilty of any inappropriate act like embezzlement of government funds or some other crimes, and the State has enough evidence to prosecute such a person, no matter what standing he has with FIFA, that if Government acts and sends such an official to jail, FIFA's hammer would fall.

Government invests so much in football especially in Africa and it reserves the right to support any person it chooses to run the game or withdraw such support anytime it deems fit but to avoid confusion let there be order, processes and adherence to rules when all these things are done.

I ask... what is the way out of this logjam?

On the short term, I believe that the Plateau High Court could provide some soft landing especially for the National Sports Commission (NSC) and Sports Minister Tam Danagogo.

If the court vacates its order any time soon, the Aminu Maigari-led NFF could be allowed to quietly return to work while a tidier way is planned to either ease them out or vote them out of office at the elective congress next month.

The prospect of a Nigerian government delegation meeting with FIFA and convincing them to lift the ban just like that looks too bleak - unless the Nigerian delegation produces some magic to hoodwink FIFA into believing that the many breaches of its statutes are not serious enough to lead to a ban. This will however be a bad precedence.

On the long term, I believe that it is time for us to be sincere with ourselves and revisit the operating document in use for Football Administration in Nigeria.

What we have in use at the moment is a corrupted instrument that is a fusion of the NFA Act and the NFF Statutes.

Until we have the right instrument, which should be wholly FIFA Statutes based, in operation for football administration in Nigeria we will keep having this sort of issues  and clashes between Nigeria and FIFA time and time again.

It is time to stop this confusion.

Let me borrow the words of my friend Colin Udoh... please feel free to disagree with me

Culled from www.sl10.ng
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