Tag: NFF

CAF Presidential Elections: Much ado about Nigeria’s Single Vote

The 39th General Assembly of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is scheduled to hold on the 16th of March, 2017. This year’s event enjoys the quadrennial significance of bringing another round of elections into the CAF Presidency and the Executive Committee.

From the Nigerian viewpoint, there seems little focus on whether or how the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick could wrest a CAF Executive Committee slot from incumbent member, and President of the football association of the Republic of Benin, Moucharafou Anjorin. Rather, much is being said about who will receive Nigeria’s backing for the CAF presidency.

Ahmad, President of Madagascar FA

In the last seven four-year terms for which he has been in office, incumbent CAF President, Issa Hayatou has faced opposition to his seat only twice, winning comfortably on both occasions. However, he currently appears to face stiff opposition from the President of the football association of Madagascar, Ahmad.

Following his revelation that the NFF would support Hayatou’s challenger, the NFF President has been criticized – by notable figures such as former NFF President, Sani Lulu and current NFF Executive Committee member, Chris Green – for showing his cards ahead of what is a secret ballot election and possibly placing Nigerian football in a precarious position in African football politics. It did not end there. The Nigeria Minister of Sport has recently also issued a press statement arguing that the position of the NFF President is a personal one and does not represent the position of the people and the government of Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the NFF’s Media and Publicity Committee Chairman, Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande, has disclosed that the NFF Board had given Pinnick the discretion over who the NFF would vote for in the CAF Presidential elections. According to him, during an NFF board meeting on February 7, 2017, Pinnick was unanimously mandated to vote for a candidate who will best serve Nigeria’s interest.

Hayatou and Pinnick

So, with the difference in interests or opinions within Nigeria regarding the CAF presidency, one wonders how and to what extent Nigeria will have a say at the election into the CAF presidency. Nigeria is only one of the 56 members of CAF, each of whom is entitled to a single vote at the election.
Although each national association is entitled to a maximum of 3 delegates at the General Assembly, only one of them can vote on behalf of the national association.

The interest of government in the administration of football in Nigeria is archetypal; however, it is the NFF – recognized under CAF and FIFA statutes as the managers of football within Nigeria – that is empowered to determine what the mind of the people of Nigeria is, as far as international football administration is concerned. It is important to note that technically, ‘Nigeria’ is not a member of FIFA/CAF; NFF is!

Given his grip on African football politics over the past three decades, the fear of Issa Hayatou is not illogical. While one may reckon with those who would rather keep their ballot secret, Amaju Pinnick has hardly ever been one to bottle his words. His choice to beat the drums as part of the “courageous” band intent on installing a new generation of leadership at CAF level seems inspired by the change mantra recently witnessed at FIFA and even in global secular politics. Even if this band fails to take-over the CAF seat, they may at least, according to Mr. Pinnick, get the African football authorities to listen to a larger audience, which is in line with democratic ideals. Whatever the case, it appears too much is being made of NFF’s solitary vote in the CAF presidential elections, whereas Nigerian football would could more directly be impacted by the Executive Committee slot, for which the NFF President is contending.

 

FIFA Upholds Ban on Giwa & 4 Others

FIFA has today announced that it has upheld the five-year ban earlier imposed on Chris Giwa, Muazu Suleyman, Yahaya Adama, Sani Fema and Johnson Effiong by the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). The implication is that the ban will now have a worldwide effect.

Similarly, CAF had last year written a letter to the NFF (dated May 27th 2016, signed by its General Secretary, Hicham El Amrani) confirming the extension of the ban to take effect at continental level.

The five men were, on 12 May 2016, banned by the NFF Disciplinary Committee from taking part in football activities for breaches of the NFF Statutes and the FIFA Code of Ethics. The ban is fallout of the 2014 NFF elections and the ensuing NFF leadership battle between Chris Giwa and Amaju Pinnick, with the board  of the latter being accorded recognition by FIFA.

Based on this latest development, it remains to be seen how Mr. Giwa can effectively assume leadership of the NFF or be recognized by FIFA, even if he wins the case in court. The Giwa and Pinnick rival factions are still in court over the validity of the 2014 NFF elections.

NFF Becomes First in Africa to Adopt FIFA DTMS

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has become the first FIFA member association in Africa to sign up for the FIFA Domestic Transfer Matching System (DTMS).

Modeled after the international Transfer Matching System, the DTMS will help regulate and manage player transfers within the domestic league in an online system, which enhances efficiency and transparency.

See more of the story on FIFA.com …

Giwa & Co. – What the Court Actually Decided

From 8th April 2016, the news all over the place was that the Federal High Court (FHC), Jos Division had made an order nullifying the 30th September 2014 election of the NFF that brought the Amuju Pinnick-led board into office. This was followed by a public drama in which the Chris Giwa-led faction occasionally insisted on resuming office amid fears of a breakdown of law and order.

About three weeks later, on 28th April 2016, a video emerged of the Registrar of the court, explaining to an interviewer, that the orders made by the court on 8th April did not actually nullify the election or remove Pinnick from office.

It has now become clear that there has been widespread misinformation on the content and effect of the court order. So, what orders exactly, did the court make on the 8th of April 2016?

Background of the case

The plaintiffs (those who sued), in suit no. FHC/J/CS/77/2014 are Yahaya Adama and Obinna Ogba and they claimed to be suing on behalf of the other members of the Executive Committee of the NFF elected on 26th August, 2014 (i.e. the Giwa-led faction). They went to court with the intention of obtaining an order recognizing the election that supposedly brought them into office.

Meanwhile, on 19th September 2014, the court granted an ex-parte order (a temporary order made by court before the case is heard and finally determined) restraining the defendants from conducting the election scheduled for 30th September 2014. After the elections were eventually held, the court subsequently on 23rd October 2014 made an order nullifying the election which had brought the Pinnick-led board into office, on the ground that the election was held in disobedience of the earlier court order.

However, seven days later, the plaintiffs withdrew their case and the court therefore struck out the suit on 30th October 2014.

The Court order of 8th April 2016

On 3rd February this year, the plaintiffs returned to the court by filing a motion asking the court to restore the case which they withdrew. Their motion asked for three orders, which simply put are:

  1. An order for extension of time to re-list the suit;
  2. An order re-listing the suit, and
  3. Restoration of all orders earlier made by the court before the suit was struck out.

In its decision on 8th April 2016, the court made three corresponding orders, which also simply put are:

  1. an order extending the time within which the plaintiff could apply to re-list the suit for hearing and determination together with all the pending motions which were discontinued and struck out by the court on 30th October 2014;
  2. an order re-listing the suit (which was earlier struck out) for hearing and determination together with all the pending motions which were discontinued and struck out on 30th October 2014.
  3. an order restoring all the orders made by the court when the suit was struck out on 30th October 2014.

The first two orders re-listed only the suit and “pending” (i.e. undecided) motions, while the third order restored all orders made when the suit was struck out (i.e. orders made on 30th September 2014). While there is no confusion about the fact that the order of the court has the effect of re-listing or restoring the suit, the area of misunderstanding or misinformation is the third order i.e. the orders made when the suit was struck out, which the court restored.

Which orders did the court restore?

It is vital to note that the court orders restored were those made “when” the case was struck out and not those order made “before” the case was struck out; those previous orders were not restored.  This distinction is emphasized by the fact that although the request made (as contained in the papers filed) was for the restoration of orders made “before” the suit was struck out, the court obviously deliberately restricted its decision to those orders made “when” the suit was struck out. Thus, by the distinction in the meaning of both words, whereas the plaintiffs had requested for restoration of the orders made prior to the suit being struck out, the court limited its decision to only those orders that were made at the time the suit was struck out.

The orders made before the case was struck out were referred to earlier – the order of 19th September 2014 restraining the conduct of the election and the order of 23rd September 2014 nullifying the election of the Pinnick-led board. It would suffice to say that those orders – having been made “before” and not “when” the suit was struck out – do not fall within the scope of the orders restored by the court on 8th April 2014.

As pointed out by the Registrar of the court, in the orders made when the suit was re-listed, there was none ordering the removal of Amaju Pinnick and members of his board from office. More so, indeed no court of law and justice in Nigeria will make an order removing a man from an office when that person is not even a party before that court, as is clearly the case in this suit. Those who were sued are Alhaji Aminu Maigari and Musa Ahmadu (on behalf of the defunct board of the NFF), the Plateau State Football Association (on behalf of the 36 State Football Associations and that of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja) as well as the Minister for Sports. It is instructive to note that neither Amaju Pinnick nor the NFF is a party to the case. Therefore, to make such an order in the absence of the other party would amount to an ambush and giving unfair advantage to one party over the other. No court of justice and equity will agree to such a request, which is why although the plaintiffs requested for such an order, the court refused to do so.

The order nullifying the election of 30th September 2014

It is essential to analyze the status of this order, which appears to be the main point of attention. The fact that the court had at some point made an order nullifying the Pinnick election is not in doubt. However, there are two key points which show that the order has since been terminated.

The first point is very straightforward. When the court struck out the suit (on 30th October 2014), the court made the following order based on the Rules of the Federal High Court –

“all the orders made previously including the dissolution of the executive committee/board of the Nigerian Football Federation vide the order of this honourable Court dated 23rd day of October 2014 seizes to have life and this matter stands struck out.” (emphasis mine)

Secondly, it is a principle of law that when a suit is restored or re-listed, interlocutory/temporary orders that were made before the suit was struck out are not restored (Parmatex Industrial Project Ltd v. Trade Bank (Nig.) Plc & Ors (2003) FWLR [pt. 162] 1922 @ 1933-4 C.A.). The order nullifying the election was based on the earlier interlocutory order which restrained the conduct of the election. Since the prior interlocutory order was not restored, by extension, the nullification order upon which it was based was also not restored. You cannot place something on nothing.

Conclusion

It is clear from the actual content of the current court order that the re-listing of the suit implies that the case is to start afresh and be heard and determined on its merits. Indeed, when a case is re-listed, it has the character of a brand new case. Since the plaintiffs have requested the court to re-list the case, it is only proper that they should be patient enough to pursue the case till the end, giving the court the opportunity to hear both sides to the case and reach a final judgment. After all, if the court removes Pinnick from office on the very first day the case is re-listed as a suit now pending, what then is left for the court to decide as its final judgment in the case?

The widespread claim of the existence of a court order removing Pinnick from office has no legal basis and is false. New life cannot by any stretch of imagination be given to any order of the court made prior to the striking out of the suit. In particular, there is no existing court order removing the Amaju Pinnick-led board from office. The public was simply misled when the court order of 23rd October 2014 was widely circulated in place of that of 8th April 2016 and the orders the Giwa faction is relying on are dead, by virtue of an established principle of law in Nigeria and, particularly, by the clear and unambiguous pronouncements of the Federal High Court made on 30th October, 2014.

 

Understanding FIFA’s ‘No Court’ Rule

The ‘Giwa vs. Pinnick’ battle for the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Presidency has resumed and resurrecting with it is an order of the Federal High Court, Jos Division, which set aside the NFF election of 30th September, 2014 that brought the Amaju Pinnick-led board into office. On 11th April, 2016, FIFA issued a letter to Mr. Pinnick – whom it recognizes as the President of the NFF – warning that the implementation of the court decision “would likely be considered as an interference in the internal affairs of the NFF” (contrary to FIFA regulations), as a result of which sanctions would be considered, “including the suspension of the NFF”.

Many have reacted to the letter from FIFA with defiance, insisting that FIFA’s regulations cannot supersede Nigerian laws or judicial process. Such views are incorrect and this post aims to clarify why there is no attempt to subjugate national laws by the FIFA regulatory requirements of independence, non-interference and prohibition of recourse to regular courts.

The FIFA ‘No-Court’ Rule Explained

The FIFA Statutes prohibit members from taking disputes to regular courts of law, except where it is specifically provided for in the FIFA regulations (article 68(2)). Such exceptions include employment-related disputes as contained in the FIFA Regulations on Status and Transfer of Players.

Similarly, the NFF Statutes also include this ‘no-court’ rule in article 69(1).

It is important to understand that this rule does not deny a party with a complaint from seeking justice before a judicial body. The way the rule operates is, simply put – instead of going to a regular court, the aggrieved party should take the dispute to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism. The operation of the rule is similar to an ‘arbitration clause’ in a civil agreement, where the parties entering into a contract agree that in the event of a dispute, they will make recourse to arbitration rather than to a regular court. In fact, thIS FIFA rule must be read together with article 68(3), the latter part of which states that –

“Instead of recourse to ordinary courts of law, provision shall be made for arbitration. Such disputes shall be taken to an independent and duly constituted arbitration tribunal recognised under the rules of the Association or Confederation or to CAS.”

The aim is simply to ensure that football disputes are taken to specialist (sports-specific) tribunals, where they will be determined not only speedily but also with proper appreciation of the governing rules and the specific nature of sports.

The Rule and National Courts

Contrary to what some have argued, the FIFA ‘no-court’ rule does not in any way imply that FIFA regulations supersede national laws or seek to undermine the national judicial process. Rather, as stated earlier, it merely operates like an ‘arbitration clause’ in a civil contract. Thus, it should be enforced just as a court would enforce an arbitration clause which stipulates that disputes arising from the contract will be settled by arbitration rather than taken to the court.

Participation in association football could be viewed as a contract between the members/stakeholders to be self-regulated and be bound by the rules of the association.

Therefore, while it is not the case that the ‘no-court’ rule seeks to strip a national court of its powers or that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, the court usually enforces the agreement by directing the party to take the dispute to the relevant sports tribunal.

Just as parties are encouraged to seek ADR in commercial disputes, the business of professional sport has necessitated the recourse to sports-specific ADR for speedy and specialist resolution of sports disputes.

Suggestions

If we must put an end to the frequent recourse to courts, it is crucial that there exists a viable alternative dispute resolution mechanism within the football (and sports) industry.

This is in two levels:

Firstly, within the football administration, there must be a national Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC).  The NFF Statutes state that NFF shall provide the necessary institutional means to resolve any internal dispute that may arise between Members, Clubs, Officials and Players of NFF – article 4(3). It is on this basis that the statutes further envisage the establishment of an Arbitration Tribunal in article 68. It would suffice to say that this tribunal needs to be a full-fledged, specialist and independent arbitration tribunal.

Secondly, for sports in general, there is the need for the establishment of a national sports arbitration tribunal. On 25th May, 2012, the Planning Committee inaugurated by the National Olympic Committee to develop the legal framework/guidelines for the establishment of a Nigerian Court of Arbitration for Sport (NCAS) submitted its report, the implementation of which is still pending.

Conclusion

It is difficult to doubt that the establishment of a standard alternative dispute resolution mechanism for football will not only curb the frequent recourse to regular courts, but will also induce the courts to see that there is indeed an effective internal mechanism within the industry, to which court-goers should be referred.

The situation is aptly depicted by Adokiye Amiesimaka (Chairman of the NCAS Planning Committee) thus: “In the absence of an independent, neutral and reliable body in the prevailing sports structure to fairly and definitively resolve sports-related disputes, it is commonplace for athletes, administrators and other participants in sports to seek redress in civil courts”.

 

Sunday Oliseh: Last Chance Saloon for Nigerian Coaches

With Sunday Oliseh expected to be unveiled as the new head coach of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, a lot of talk has centred on whether or not he is the right pick, given his lack of top-level coaching experience. Upon retirement, the former captain of the Super Eagles went on to acquire the highest coaching qualification available – the UEFA Pro Licence – held by the elite band of coaches qualified to manage any team in any of the top leagues. However, his coaching experience is limited to the Belgian second division.

Those critical of Oliseh’s lack of coaching experience should perhaps reckon with the success stories of ex-players like Franz Beckenbauer, whose first managerial job was the German national team (then West Germany), with whom he won the World Cup in 1990 after his appointment in 1984. Also, Jurgen Klinsmann and Pep Guardiola were both appointed to manage top teams (Germany and FC Barcelona respectively) without prior top level experience. Their relative successes with those teams and their current pedigree are indicative of why giving Oliseh the Super Eagles job would be a worthy gamble. What he may lack in terms of coaching experience, Oliseh makes up for in terms of coaching qualification. While experience is relevant in practical endeavours such as football, one cannot underestimate the importance of proficiency-based learning, especially given the technical approach to modern day football.

It is noteworthy that the UEFA Pro Licence is based more on managerial ability, whereas the immediate lower level licence, the UEFA ‘A’ Licence would have already taught the holder about matters relating to gameplay on the football pitch. The point here is that a holder of the Pro Licence is expected to be better equipped to manage the personalities and sundry issues relating to the players in the squad. This perhaps accounts for why top coaches are able to cope with characters such as the Mario Balotellis of this world. Undoubtedly, rifts and rumours of rifts with players was part of the undoing of Stephen Keshi during his time as head coach of the Super Eagles. Although reputed to have been a ‘stubborn’ player who many of today’s critics describe as being too tough to bend if given the job, if indeed Oliseh has learnt anything from the coaching courses, he would have learnt the necessary temperamental skills and adjustments, if he is to succeed.

Whether or not the appointment of Oliseh is the right decision remains to be seen; only time will tell. However, beyond all the talk about his coaching qualification or lack of coaching experience, this appointment probably presents the last chance for Nigerian coaches to prove their ability to handle the top job. After the intermittent appointments of Nigerian coaches like Christian Chukwu and Amodu Shuaibu, the new generation of Nigerian coaches have also had their opportunities at the helm. The list includes ex-internationals from the legendary 1994 Super Eagles squad – Austin Eguavoen, Samson Siasia and Stephen Keshi – all of whom failed to hold on to the coaching job with the stability with which they held onto their first team jerseys in their playing days. Beyond this group is the likes of Manu Garba, whose ‘approval rating’ has dropped since his exploits with the Under-17 World Cup-winning squad in 2013 have now been overshadowed by the unimpressive performance at the Under-20 World Cup this year. There were some who had advocated for Manu Garba to graduate along with his youth team players into the Super Eagles role.

Nigeria has kept faith in local coaches in recent times without much success and this may be their last opportunity. In the unfortunate event that Oliseh fails and we have to look beyond him for a head coach for the Super Eagles, it may be difficult to point at any other prime domestic candidate at the moment. The scale would then certainly tilt towards the hiring of a foreign coach, especially as the most successful spell in Nigerian football came under foreign coaches – the climax of the Dutchman Clemens Westerhof era in 1994 when Nigeria attained the 5th position in the FIFA world rankings; as well as another Dutchman, Bonfrere ‘Jo’ who led the Under-23 Dream Team to win Olympic gold in 1996.

One can only hope that Sunday Oliseh succeeds as the head coach of the Super Eagles, not only for the good of the Nigerian game but also for the advancement of Nigerian coaches.