Tag: nigeria football

Delta State to Fund 6 Football Clubs: The Way Government sees Things

 

For the second consecutive season, 20% of the clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) will be privately-owned. Last season’s quartet comprised of Giwa, Ifeanyi Ubah, Ikorodu United and MFM; but with Giwa’s expulsion and Ikorodu United’s relegation, two other privately-owned clubs, ABS and Remo Stars, have gained promotion to the top-flight. In this era of calls for government to leave the running of professional football clubs to the private sector, the fact that up to four of the 20 teams in the NPFL are privately-owned represents an improvement from the recent past.

The government of Delta State made headlines recently with reports it had increased its number of clubs to six ahead of the new season. Unsurprisingly, the decision was made even more controversial by the fact that its flagship club, Warri Wolves had just been relegated amid complaints of poor funding and indebtedness to players. How then can a government that seemed unable to adequately fund one club suddenly decide to fund six? One would have expected Delta State to learn from the Rivers State example – where the government merged two hitherto struggling clubs (Dolphins and Sharks) to form Rivers United, which finished the season as runner-up and qualified for the CAF Champions League.

However, it is interesting to note the reaction of the Chairman of Delta State Sports Commission, Tony Okowa to the controversy. He was quoted by The Guardian as saying that: “The way government sees things is quite different from the ordinary man on the street”, and that government “took so many things into consideration before arriving at the decision to get two new slots for Ika Rangers and Isoko United in the Nationwide League”. He expressed the view that the clubs will serve as avenue for youths in the different parts of the state to showcase their football talents.

At the beginning of the 2015/2016 season, the government acquired two new clubs – Delta Stars and Delta Force – in addition to Warri Wolves and the female team Delta Queens. Thus, the latest addition of Ika Rangers and Isoko United takes the number to six. With the six clubs spread across the three senatorial districts of the state, it is apparent that the aim is to give wide-spread football opportunity to the youths of the state.

Even though one would be reluctant to fault this socio-political objective, there are reservations about its sustainability. For instance, the same Delta Force that was revived by the current administration had been disbanded by the former. Thus, it is not improbable that a subsequent administration could see the funding of six football clubs as more of a liability. In fact, the short-term thinking in the decision to fund six clubs is evident in Mr Okowa’s further statements that: “Both Warri Wolves and Delta Force, who are in the Nigeria National League (NNL), will continue their battle for promotion to the elite division, and we expect the three clubs in the Nationwide League, Delta Stars, Ika Rangers and Isoko United to battle for promotion to the NNL. If that happens, then, government will decide on what to do with them, either to sell them or retain them. But for now, the clubs will serve as avenue for youths in Delta North, Delta Central and Delta South to showcase their football talent.”

Another interesting fact is that the financial burden may not be as heavy as first thought. According to Mr. Okowa, the budget for Warri Wolves alone last season (before the club was relegated from the NPFL) was N300 million; whereas the budget for all six clubs, including Warri Wolves, is about N277 million.

With the number of stadia that are currently underutilized across Delta State, creating a platform for youth to develop and showcase their football talent is not a bad idea, particularly if the ambition of the clubs does not go beyond that of developmental teams. Nonetheless, questions abound as to the sustainability of the initiative, particularly where teams gain promotion towards the elite league. There are also sporting integrity questions to be answered under the club licensing system if teams owned by the same entity are presented to participate in the same competition. In addition, there is no forgetting the issue of outstanding debts owed by Warri Wolves. These are some of the issues the Delta State government must resolve.

 

 

Case Review: State FA is not a Juristic Person (Osiwa Igbuya v. Delta State Football Association)

The State Football Association (State FA) is a common feature in the football administration system in Nigeria. They are basically sub-units of the Nigeria Football Association (nowadays referred to as “Nigeria Football Federation”), present in each of the 36 States of the country as well as the Federal Capital Territory. Article 10(1)(a) of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Statutes 2010 recognizes each State FA as a member of the NFF.

In the case under review, the National Industrial Court (in Suit No: NIC/EN/32/2011) determines the juristic personality of the State FA in Nigeria i.e. whether they can sue or be sued. Generally, the National industrial Court has exclusive jurisdiction in civil matters relating to labour, employment, trade unions, industrial relations and their governing enactments (section 254C of the Constitution).

Brief Summary of the Facts

In 2009, the government of Delta State dissolved some of its state-owned football clubs, one of which was Okpe United FC. The Chairman of the club, Mr. Osiwa Igbuya however continued on his own to fund the club, which even made it to the final of the Delta State FA Cup in 2011.

Mr. Igbuya however sued the Delta State FA, claiming that the State FA had a statutory duty to continue funding the club. He claimed a refund of the sum of N96,219,000, which he had spent in funding the club since 2009 (which included payment of salaries and allowances of players and officials of the club).

The Delta State FA then filed a preliminary objection, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction. One of the grounds on which the argument was based was that the Delta State FA was not a juristic person and thus could not be sued.

Arguments

In raising the preliminary objection, the Delta State FA argued that it was not a juristic person; hence, could not be sued. It was further argued that a person who is made a party to an action either as Plaintiff or a Defendant must be a legal person or, if not, a body vested by law with power to sue or be sued. The State FA therefore asked that the suit be struck out, since lacking juristic personality, it was the only defendant.

Mr. Igbuya, on the other hand, argued that a State FA is a juristic person because it is recognized as a state branch of Nigeria Football Association by the Nigeria Football Association Act, section 7(2)(b) of which makes the Chairman of each State FA a member of the National Football Association Council.

Decision of the Court

Upon examining the Nigerian Football Association Act, the court found that there was nowhere the Act stated expressly that a State FA was a branch of the Nigerian Football Association. While section 7 established the National Football Association Council, subsection (2)(b) thereof – in making each State FA Chairman a member of the Council – merely contemplated the existence of state football associations, which would then become members of the Council.

The court also found that there was nowhere in the said Act where the specific mention of the State FA was made as a body created under the Act or to have such powers or functions of the NFA under the said Act.

The court further noted that the argument of Mr. Igbuya that in cases such as Irabor & 2 Ors vs National Executive Council of Academic Staff Union of Universities (2011) NLLR (Pt 68) p. 287, ratios 2, 3, and 4, it was held that unincorporated bodies could sue and be sued. However, the court held that the distinguishing factor was that in that case, the NEC was a creation of the Constitution of ASUU and therefore its organ was actionable as a body that had clear responsibility to carry out the functions of ASUU; whereas the State FA is not an organ or body responsible for the carrying out of the functions of the NFA but rather only one of the numerous members of the National Football Association Council.

The court thus decided that the Delta State FA was not a juristic person and therefore could not be sued.

Comments/Conclusion

Perhaps one could argue that given the important roles they play in the administration of football in Nigeria (including organizing state leagues, State FA Cup, coordination and security arrangements during league matches, membership of the NFA Executive Committee and NFA Council, nomination of candidates for NFF presidency, etc.), there is the need for more in-depth provisions on the status and functions of state football associations in Nigeria.

Ultimately however, the fact that Mr. Igbuya picked to sue the Delta State FA, whereas the origin of his claim was that the Delta State Government had dissolved Okpe United, indicates the blurry and indistinct relationship that exists among government, sports ministry and the football association, both at the Federal and State levels in Nigeria.