That Nigeria did not qualify for two Africa Nations’ Cup editions consecutively is no longer news. That the country’s football house is embroiled in a bitter leadership crisis is a true reflection of issues that have kept the nation’s football from moving beyond its present rating by FIFA. There have been claims and counterclaims by those struggling for the soul of the nation’s soccer administration. Chris Giwa, presumed winnezr of NFF August 2014 election, speaks on reasons court pronouncements should be the way forward in resolving the NFF crisis. Stanley Nkwazema reports
Elusive Peace in NFF
Chris Giwa gave an insight on absence of peace in Nigeria’s football family even when he admitted that the minister of sports has been trying to resolve the matter.
“So many individuals both home and abroad including the Minister for Sports, Dalung, have done their best, to the best of my knowledge to restore sanity at the NFF; because I remember he has called me and Amaju Pinnick to talk with us. He is still trying even when the court has taken a decision which was not appealed. Again the court gave a Writ of Execution which they are saying is forged. How can that happen in this day and time?
“The registrar who issued the Writ has explained that it was not forged. The law will take its cause. I will not do anything that runs against the laws of the land. But the truth will surely come out and Nigerians will know what we have been talking about,” he said.
Law on My Side
Giwa feels the laws are on his side. He said, “They are not telling the public the truth because what we took to the court has nothing to do with the election, it is in the ruling there. We only went to the court to challenge the letters of FIFA to Nigeria and the interference. FIFA came there to even tell the arbitration that they never recognised Amaju Pinick, that the former FIFA boss, Sepp Blatter, only wrote him on a personal capacity since there were unresolved issues on ground. And in their ruling, FIFA said they never did that. That was why they dismissed the appeal. It has nothing to do with the election.
“People should not be deceived on this issue. It may also interest you to note that Article 1.1 of FIFA Statute states: ‘The Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) is an association registered in the Commercial Register in accordance with Act 60 of the Swiss Civil Code. And Article 1.1 of the NFF statute states: ‘Nigeria Football Federation is a private organisation of an associative nature in compliance with the laws of Nigeria. It is formed for an unlimited period.’ It is very clear if they can understand the truth.
That Article 1.1 of FIFA statute and Article 1.1 of NFF statute are very clear as it relates to Football Matters and Civil Court. Both organisations admitted to the subservience to national laws of nations. In FIFA’s case, they agreed to be subservient to Swiss laws and the NFF to Nigerian laws. Indeed there are several cases where civil issues in the management of football have gone to courts. The most recent is that of Egypt where a court also sacked the FA which has been obeyed. FIFA has 109 cases in different courts worldwide which they diligently attend to.”
Nigeria’s Football Dying
“Crisis is not good, but like I have said in the past which I will repeat now: once the right thing is not done, you can’t get peace. You cannot be pretending that all is well when you know that it is not well while it is not well. The issue in Nigeria football is not an issue of 2014; it is an issue that has been there since the committee of Buba Galadima’s time. Not until when we get the right thing to be done, there will be problem. You can even understand that because of the crises, I have refused to comment on the issue of my club Giwa FC of Jos. I don’t want to talk about my club. I want my club to be put aside on this issue,” Giwa stated.
He said they challenged FIFA’s letter of August 29th 2014 before the Court of Arbitration in Sports in case number CAS/2014/37/44. In its arbitral awards, he said CAS rightly noted “NFF election as such and all NFF related deeds have never been challenged before CAS. And surely, CAS has no direct jurisdiction to review such NFF elections.”
He explained that what this then means is that the election of August 26, 2014, was never challenged before CAS.
“The CAS had earlier held that ‘conversely, the panel may not assess the validity of the various NFF elections on the basis of the NFF rules or of the Nigerian law because such appraisal falls outside of the scope of FIFA’s authority under Article 17 of its statute and thus falls outside of the panel’s scope of review’. CAS never determined that we were not duly elected on August 2014. As a matter of fact CAS pointedly put it in the following words: ‘the panel does not rule that the election of 26th August , 2014 was invalid under its proper law because this finding would fall outside the scope this panels review.’”
Giwa said the purpose of the second letter which states in its relevant part was not (and could not have been) to recognise the election of 30th September, 2014 as alleged by the appellants because under its own rules, FIFA does not have the authority to positively recognise the election of its member associations.
He said, “Indeed since CAS did not rule that our election of August 2014 was invalid, and also that FIFA could not be said to have recognised the purported election of 30th September, 2014 in which Amaju Pinnick emerged, our election being the first in time subsists and takes over the Warri election.”
Greed is Major Problem
According to Giwa, the crisis in NFF is down to greed. “All I can say about NFF issues, like I told the House of Representatives Committee on sports, is that the cause of Nigeria football is about greed. When statutes are tampered to favour a certain set of people, certainly you will have problem. When you look at the delegates who elect, like last year December when the congress met, they said if you are not a member of NFA, you cannot contest elections. It shows what they are doing is that the leadership of the Nigeria football should only be within the state FA because we have 44 delegates at the 37 states FA.
“When you allow people to come into a system to exercise their rights to declare their interest you will have peace. I think the major problem is greed. Certainly we will make it open. Like you all know, I am coming from the outside not the state FA. It is going to be a federation for all people who love the game. It is only in Nigeria football federation I see where those who are investors in football are not called stakeholders. What I understand is that in every industry or organisation your investment qualifies you for a position in that place,” he noted.
The Jos High Court Debacle
Giwa stated that if one feels aggrieved, he or she has to approach a court of law. He explained that the reason his camp went to the Federal High Court in Jos was in respect to its rights under Article 1.1 of the NFF statute. However, he said FIFA’s letter actually demanded if such provisions were provided in our statute.
He said, “In respect of Article 1.1 of both FIFA and NFF, they were provided for. It states: ‘Nigeria Football Federation is a private organisation of an associative nature in compliance with the laws of Nigeria. It is formed for an unlimited period.’ The court was our last resort as respectable citizens of this nation. We had patiently followed all the laid down processes. We got orders of the court and that gave us the rights and power to do what we are doing. Today, the law of the land is on our side. We had come to equity and our hands are clean.”
The National Assembly Connection
Giwa also said the House of Representatives had not received the detailed report.
“They are doing their best to resolve the matter. It is out of their interest for the game, that they invited us and to hear us out. I think they are doing their best. All I want to say is for us to appreciate God first; we should pray for football in this country that God should help the administrators to be able to do the right thing.”
And the Giwa FC boss said no sponsor would want to invest where there is no return on investments. To him, there is the need to thread with caution.
“We need to thread with caution the way we go about promoting rumours and indiscipline and telling lies. Our football is going down and we must check the descent and downwards drifty. There is no body that doesn’t need improvement in life, our league, national male and female teams, and our youth and schools football all need to be overhauled.”
Is Giwa a Troublemaker?
To many people, Giwa is a troublemaker who doesn’t want peace. But that is to those who do not know him.
His view: “Well if you don’t come close to someone, you will never know the person. The Bible says for lack of knowledge my people perish. Maybe because of my consistency in the struggle for equity and fair play in the leadership of Nigerian football, many think there is no point. Some who are far from me may think I am a troublemaker. I am a peace-loving Nigerian and that is why I am following the rule of law. People should not think that Nigerians don’t know laws as regards the sovereignty of this country and what the FIFA laws also stipulate.
“Even the laws of even Switzerland where we have the FIFA headquarters are respected by the world body. Have you wondered why some FIFA officials are being prosecuted before they are extradited to another country? It must be according to the laws of Switzerland in the first instance. The laws of the land must be respected. We are operating a democratic government and not autocracy or military styled Gestapo regime.”
Why so much interest in football?
His love of football is unmistakable; to Giwa, interest in the number one seat of NFF has nothing to do with personal interest.
“It has to do with me wanting to contribute to the development of the game and I think I have shown that through my past antecedents. Today, I have my own club that is run professionally. You know it is a matter of interest and in life. You have some people supporting you and you have some people against you. But I know I have interest for the game and by the grace of God I feel I have something positive to contribute.
The problem with our football is that some people think it is their pot of soup and they want to decide who gets what. People with genuine interest, resources and time are being systematically excluded from the affairs of football in this country. It is sad because the best brains are not being encouraged to take our football to greater heights. They keep us like a lake. No movement outside the waters. There is no way we can move forward and reclaim our rightful position in world football,” Giwa stated.
Reaching out to Stakeholders
Giwa said there is crisis now and no one can run away from it.
“So I need to reach out to the stakeholders to see how you we can bring everybody together. Certainly by the grace of God that will be one of the first things I will do when we resume or as we fully get our stability in office. We cannot do well without reconciling the people. Reconciliation is number one because you need peace for you to prosper and progress.
Absolving the minister of sports, Giwa said anybody saying the sports minister is interfering in the crises is not being fair to Solomon Dalung because the issue of the Nigeria football federation started since 2014; long before he was appointed sports minister.
“It has nothing to do with him. He only came and met the issue on ground. When we even submitted a letter to him, he was surprised. Some people are not being fair to the man.
He met an issue on ground and not because he is from the same state with me, he did his best to make sure he brings peace between the two factions,” Giwa added.
Keshi’s Death a Shock
“I knew him (Keshi) personally. Sad we are now talking about him in the past. It came to me as a shock; it even affected a lot of my activities. It disorganised a lot of my programmes. He is someone I have related very closely with. I know his contributions to this country and his love for the game. It is so sad that we treated him the way we treated him even when we knew that the wife had cancer and he was battling with so many issues because of his relationship with the woman. I am sure that he couldn’t overcome the shock of the woman’s death. They were so close.”
He said he did not think Keshi forgave the Nigerian football authorities because of the way he was removed as the head coach of the team, adding that he did not discuss the issue with him but he believed he was not happy.
He added he did not want to say more on Shuaibu Amodu who died shortly after Keshi.
“It is so sad that we lost Shuaibu Amodu also; a very patriotic Nigerian. Each time he was called upon to assist, he was always there for the rescue mission. And now he is also gone. We need to ensure that people who labour for us are adequately rewarded. Even when you want to severe relationship, let them be adequately taken care of. Have you wondered why we don’t get the best to apply for the Nigerian football number one managerial position? You can now understand,” Giwa noted.