Tag: Nigeria

Case Update: ‘Giwa v. Pinnick’ NFF Leadership Tussle

Having keenly followed the controversial ‘Giwa v. Pinnick’ case since 2014, yours truly was on hand at the Supreme Court today (20th February, 2017) to keep up with proceedings.

The current matter may not necessarily add significantly to the sports law jurisprudence in Nigeria, primarily because it simply entails whether or not the case earlier filed by the Giwa-faction, which was struck out, should be relisted. So, one does not believe the Justices of the Supreme Court – the apex court in Nigeria – have been presented with an opportunity to deliver a landmark decision in the Nigerian sports law context.

However, given the intrigues that this Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) leadership tussle has delivered both in and out of court, the case is worth following.

Brief History

Two factional elections into the Executive Board of the NFF were held in 2014, on 26th August and 30th September, which produced Chris Giwa and Amaju Pinnick respectively, each of whom claimed to have been elected President of the NFF. The Pinnick-led board was given recognition by the football authorities, including FIFA, which prompted the Giwa-led board (suing through its members led by Yahaya Adama) to go to court seeking to validate their election.

The case travelled back-and-forth through the Federal High Court, where the Giwa faction (following the intervention of former President Goodluck Jonathan, as reported) withdrew their case, which was then struck out on 30th October, 2014. Over a year later, with the end of the Jonathan Presidency and no end to the dispute, the Giwa-faction returned to court. On 8th April, 2016 the Federal High Court made an order relisting the case that was earlier struck out.

Upon Pinnick’s appeal, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the Federal High Court and in effect dismissed the application to relist the case. Mr. Giwa has now approached the Supreme Court to further pursue his application to relist his case.

The Supreme Court Proceedings

On the last court date – 16th January, 2017 – the Supreme Court had adjourned the case to 9th May, 2017 to determine, amongst other pending motions, a motion filed by the Pinnick-group lawyer, Festus Keyamo, requesting that the appeal be struck out. Mr. Keyamo is contending that the lawyer who signed the Notice of Appeal at the Supreme Court was not competent to do so in the circumstances that he had previously been barred by the Court of Appeal from appearing in the matter.

Presently, the Giwa faction requested the Court for an accelerated hearing of their own motions seeking for extension of time within which to file their appeal as well as for accelerated hearing of their appeal (i.e. before the return date of 9th May 2017).

The Supreme Court panel however delivered a quick ruling, stating that all circumstances were taken into consideration before the case was adjourned to 9th May and that no special circumstances had been shown as to why the adjourned date should be brought forward. The application was therefore refused, with the effect that the case will continue on 9th May, 2017.

Conclusion: The Road Ahead

There is indeed an incredibly long road ahead if the Giwa v. Pinnick dispute is to be resolved by litigation. Incredible because one struggles to see how a judicial solution can be reached ‘timeously’ in the present circumstances.

If the Supreme Court agrees to the relisting of the case, that would seem to take the substantive matter all the way back to the Federal High Court (i.e. for the Federal High Court to proceed to determine which is the valid election between Giwa and Pinnick), not to mention possible appeals therefrom.

On the other hand however, it could be the end of the road for the Giwa-faction if the Supreme Court decides on 9th May 2017, or thereafter, that there is no basis to relist the case that was earlier struck out.

Also, looking ahead to the possible implication if the judgment goes in favour of the Giwa faction, one wonders what effect such judgment would have on the ban imposed on Giwa and others. Earlier this month, FIFA announced a worldwide extension of the five-year ban imposed on Chris Giwa and four others (including Yahaya Adama and other members of his Board).

On 12th May 2016, the NFF Disciplinary Committee banned Christopher Giwa, Muazu Suleyman, Yahaya Adama, Sani Fema and Johnson Effiong from taking part in any football activity, owing to their breaches of NFF statutes and FIFA Code of Ethics (the charges included taking football matters to court).

Apparently, that would take us back to the cycle of imminent FIFA sanction on NFF for judicial interference.

What Nigerian Courts Should Learn from Piau’s Case

Challenges to decisions and rules of sports governing bodies are not new. Despite the well-entrenched principle of self-regulation, sports governing bodies occasionally have to defend their decision-making in courts of law. The trend in Nigeria, particularly involving football disputes, is indeed worrying. The frequency of court cases and the mostly interim judgments that arise from them often generate a sense of instability, distraction from the core process of administration and ultimately lower the brand appeal from a business perspective.

What began 18 years ago, when Laurent Piau filed a complaint before the European Commission against the FIFA Players’ Agents regulations, came to a conclusion earlier this year. On 13 April 2016, in France, the Court of Appeal of Paris rejected Mr. Piau’s appeal against the decision of the High Court of Rennes relating to alleged violations of European Union law by FIFA. He had challenged provisions of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, which he alleged were contrary to European Union law.

In reaching its decision to reject his appeal, the Court of Appeal of Paris – in addition to stressing that the contested provisions of the FIFA regulations did not violate the freedoms (such as competition and the free movement of services) guaranteed by European Union law – stated that:

“… sporting organisations know the specific nature of each sport… [and] are best placed to establish and apply a set of regulations that meets the objectives of protecting the image and ethics of football… FIFA, an international sporting organisation, has the legitimate authority to determine the rules and monitor ethical matters [concerning the profession of players’ agents] at international level.”

Of particular interest here is this rationale behind the decision of the Court i.e. that sporting organizations are best placed to establish and apply their own rules and regulations and to oversee ethical matters. This rationale is certainly relevant to sports jurisprudence in Nigeria and indeed globally. It is standard procedure for courts to insist on recourse to the internal dispute resolution mechanisms available for football disputes, thus upholding the requirement that football matters are not to be taken to ordinary courts but rather to sport-specific tribunals that appreciate the specific nature of the sport.

Therefore, for our courts to give unfettered access to every football litigant who takes a case to court and to hastily grant obstructive interim orders is not only bad for the sport but also shows the lack of appreciation of the specific nature of the sport, which the Court of Appeal of Paris talked about.

It is high time our courts began to treat football disputes in the manner in which they treat other disputes that involve what is akin to an arbitration clause i.e. direct that the litigants revert to the internal dispute resolution mechanism which all parties signed up to. Also, it behoves the sporting organizations to ensure the availability of viable tribunals for the resolution of such disputes.

Setting Up Nigeria’s Court of Arbitration for Sport

As a result of the FIFA ban on Nigeria and in line with efforts to forestall similar crisis in future, the Minister of Sports, Tammy Danagogo has stated that he will immediately set in motion machinery to encourage the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) to quickly activate the Nigerian Court of Arbitration for Sport (NCAS). This specialized court would be the venue for adjudication of sports disputes, away from the regular courts –which has been a source of run-ins with the world football governing body (FIFA) in times past. It is common knowledge that FIFA prohibits the taking of sports disputes to the ordinary courts of law and sports in general globally adopts alternative dispute resolution for sports disputes. Hence, the decision of the Minister is in line with international best practices.

The Nigerian Court of Arbitration for Sport, when set up, will be the national equivalent of the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, CAS was set up by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1984 as the judicial body that sits over sports disputes. Its jurisdiction is mostly of international dimension, thus there is need for countries to set up their national equivalent. For instance, Sports Resolutions UK is the national body that serves the purpose of sports-specific dispute resolution in the United Kingdom, while the Arbitration Foundation of South Africa (AFSA) is the appointed dispute resolution body for sports federations in South Africa. In Nigeria, with domestic sporting disputes often finding their way to ordinary courts in times past and the consequent threat of international sanctions, the current football crisis is a repeat scenario. Consequently, setting up of NCAS has been on the front burner for quite some time.

Interestingly, there is not a lot of work left to be done with regard to the setting up of NCAS. The National Council on Sports of Nigeria had already endorsed the decision of the Nigerian Olympic Committee (NOC) to establish the Nigerian Court of Arbitration for Sport as a solution to the recurrent sports (mostly football) disputes being taken to ordinary courts. On the 9th of June, 2011 a Planning Committee comprising lawyers from different parts of Nigeria was inaugurated by the NOC to develop the legal framework/guidelines for the establishment of NCAS. The committee, which was headed by the renowned Adokiye Amiesimaka, submitted its report to the NOC during the Annual General Meeting on the 25th of May, 2012. However, since then, it is not apparent that further steps have been taken by the NOC to actually constitute and establish the NCAS.

It is commendable that the Minister of Sport has embraced the need to set up the body. Now, rather than expend time and resources in commencing the process all over, all that needs to be done is to revert to the report of the Amiesimaka-led committee. Based on available commentaries, the job done by the committee included wide consultations and comprehensive review of Nigerian law and sports regulations, all culminating in the following conclusions:

  • Under Nigerian law, there are no statutory impediments to the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms for the resolution of sports disputes, rather Nigerian law encourages the use of ADR;
  • the rules and regulations of Nigerian sports federations (including the Nigeria Football Federation) need to be amended to include recognition of the jurisdiction of NCAS, which is prerequisite to NCAS assuming jurisdiction;
  • the NCAS will save time and cost, as well as enhance affable and pragmatic resolution of sports disputes in Nigeria.

Indeed, the establishment of the Nigerian Court of Arbitration for Sport will be a huge step towards averting similar problems for the development of Nigerian football in particular and sports in general.

Dispute Resolution in Nigerian Football: the Need for a National Dispute Resolution Chamber

Article published on African Sports Law and Business JournalAfrican Sports Law and Business Bulletin, Issue 2/2014

 

1. Introduction

As sport has grown over the years in terms of commercial value, there has been a corresponding growth in sports-related disputes. This increased commercial significance of sport means that the stakes are higher than ever before. Not only are there heightened expectations from the on-field performance of sports men and women; there are also increasingly significant off-field obligations on all those involved in sports. Where obligations are unfulfilled, there must be a means of enforcing them. Also, when disputes arise, there must be a means of resolving them. These represent fundamental principles on which any society or industry thrives.

Traditionally, the main form of dispute resolution has been court-based legal proceedings i.e. litigation. However, in many jurisdictions, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms have been embraced as a means to circumvent the challenges associated with litigation. These challenges are typically the inordinate length of time it takes for legal proceedings to be concluded by courts, the huge costs often incurred by litigants, as well as the acrimony that characterises such proceedings. The football world has likewise developed its own sport-specific dispute resolution mechanism, based largely on arbitration. The aim is to curtail the recourse to ordinary courts for the settlement of football-related disputes and the attendant disruptive problems associated with it. The point has often been made that where sport lacks a means within its structures to effectively and efficiently resolve sports-related disputes, seeking redress from the ordinary courts would be inevitable. This often disrupts the sports calendar and brings with it the typical challenges associated with litigation by being antagonistic, procedurally slow and relatively expensive.

In Nigeria, as with many other parts of the world, football is the most popular sport and has grown from a mere pastime to a means of economic empowerment. Based on a recommendation by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in 2004, the Nigerian Football League (NFL) 1 became established as a professional football league and upon incorporation in 2006, landed its first sponsorship deal (worth N1.1billion over a four year period) with Globacom Nigeria Limited.2 As in other parts of the world, the number of football-related disputes in Nigeria has increased significantly in recent years and with it the ever-increasing need for an efficient football dispute resolution mechanism.

Follow the link to read or download the full article – http://www.africansportslawjournal.com/Bulletin_2_2014_Omuojine.pdf

The Legal Framework for Sports Development in Nigeria

Article published on African Sports Law and Business Journal – AFRICAN SPORTS LAW AND BUSINESS BULLETIN 1/2013 – 

 

 

Introduction

Sports literature usually commence with an allusion to the extent to which sport has grown in the past few decades. This growth is obvious and it has heralded the development of sports as a commercial brand. Sporting events and programmes have now become huge brands wielding significant economic interest. Consequently, many persons who engage in sporting activity do so not merely for leisure or the physical wellbeing it portends but as a full-fledged career or with this aim. There is no escape from the fact that the huge commercial significance that sport has amassed over the years brings with it heightened legal interests and concerns, especially for stakeholders who invest resources in the industry. Apart from those who seek to protect their legal and commercial interests in sports, there is also the government interest – promoting social ideals in an atmosphere of law and order. Governments all over the world have acknowledged sport as a veritable tool in the attainment of governmental objectives both at internal and international levels. This is why proactive governments have taken concrete steps to fashion, adopt and implement a policy aimed at the development of sports. Perhaps it may be of value at this point to acknowledge the varying contexts in which the terms ‘sport’ and ‘recreation’ are sometimes used. Sport generally embodies different forms of physical activity which may be practiced for leisure or as an amateur, distinct from the practice of it as an income-yielding profession; on the other hand, recreation basically refers to the practice of sport for non-professional purposes and includes other forms of leisure apart from sport. The separate use of both terms is a common feature in many sports policy documents. The term ‘sport’ is used herein in a very broad context.

In Nigeria, sport has had an appreciable impact on national development and there is the unquenchable desire to keep up with past successes. The national narrative however, is that a lot more needs to be done in terms of administration and providing the enabling environment for sport to thrive. With population growth and lapse of time, there is the need for provision and maintenance of more sporting and recreational facilities. Also, with the global advancement in professional sport, there is the need for improved technical competence. From the investment in sporting facilities in the wake of the oil boom to the African Nations Cup successes in 1980 and 1994, Olympic gold medals in 1996, sport has frequently been regarded as perhaps the most potent unifying factor in the multi-ethnic country. With the recent failures in sports competitions, there have been calls for a revamp of sports administration. This includes a clear-cut government policy on sports development. This article takes a look at the South African and the European Union examples, and then analyzes the position in Nigeria before concluding with recommendations, all from a legal perspective.

Follow the link to read or download the full article – http://www.africansportslawjournal.com/Bulletin%201_2013_Omuojine.pdf

 

 

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.