THE ENEMY WITHIN

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Enefiok Udo-Obong

By Enefiok Udo-Obong

The news was received with mixed reactions. The Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, had been cleared by FIFA’s Review Committee to contest for a seat in the Council of the world football governing body at the 43rd Ordinary General Assembly of CAF slated for March 12, in Rabat, Morocco. While a seat in the exalted chamber of football’s world governing 37-member council is not new to Nigeria, it has been extremely rare as only two Nigerians had ever been involved in this exclusive club. the Late Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo and more recently, Dr. Amos Adamu have taken their turns in that hallowed highest decision making body in global football.

However it has not been smooth sailing for Mr Pinnick. The ambitious former Delta State Sports Commission Chairman has had to battle furiously at home. After a hard battle to legitimate his elections as the President of Nigeria’s Football body against the court challenges of Mr. Chris Giwa, he had to tackle the seemingly present allegations of corruption and investigations by the EFCC. The NFF boss also fought interference from the former Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung and overcame a brewing internal revolt to secure re-election for a second term as President of Nigeria’s football body.

Vying for a seat in the FIFA Council should be something that should be celebrated by all. Like him or not, Pinnick is Nigerian and will always work in Nigeria’s interest. He has shown this in his short time as CAF vice-president. Committee appointments and access to grants and opportunities were some of the benefits Nigeria and Nigerians benefitted from. A representative in FIFA is a much bigger stake with more influence and pride for the nation but not everyone feels this way.

It was learnt that a Nigerian, in his bid to scuttle the plan, wrote to the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committees to disqualify the NFF boss. Mr Harrison Jalla, a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Footballers (NANF) wrote a petition tagged: Amaju Pinnick lacks integrity, not a fit and proper person for the exalted position of FIFA Council member.

According to a national daily newspaper, among other things, Jalla alleged in his letter that FIFA couldn’t feign ignorance of several allegations of fraud against Pinnick. Jalla who had on various occasions had court dealings against the NFF also had been a critic of the Pinnick-led board accusing them of financial recklessness. However, FIFA did not believe he had sufficient standing in the potential case, and replied to his petition.

In its letter, FIFA wrote: “We acknowledge receipt of your correspondence and have taken note of the information provided. We wish to express our appreciation for having filed a complaint in the context of art.58 par.1 of the FIFA Code of Ethics (FCE). It is noted that FIFA bears a special responsibility to safe guard the integrity and reputation of football worldwide and your complaint shows your commitment with our values and principles.”

FIFA continued: “Notwithstanding the above, even though you are entitled to file such a complaint in the context of a conduct considered incompatible with the FCE, it does not follow that you become a party to the proceedings which may result from this claim, as only accused subjects are conceived as such parties (see art.37 of the FCE).”

The national newspaper that published part of the letter quoted FIFA saying, “In sum, and based on your complaint and your initial lack of standing in the potential case, FIFA is not obliged to start ethical proceedings. Further, we need also to clarify that we will not be in a position to provide you with information with regard to your inquiries or regarding the state of the proceedings before the FIFA Ethics Committee (if any).

“However, in the event that we would require any further information, or documents from your part, we will contact you in due course. Also for the sake of clarity, please note that the Chairperson of the Investigatory Chamber may initiate preliminary investigations at her own discretion and at any time.

Finally, and after a careful analysis of a complaint, should the allegation reported here is considered to be an internal matter or, in case it does not fall within the jurisdiction of the FIFA Ethics Committee, the claim may be closed or transmitted to the relevant Member Association or Confederation,”

Interestingly, THISDAY newspapers had reported that Pinnick was one of the 17 football personalities from the African continent that were cleared by FIFA’s Review Committee headed by Mukul Mudgal.

“It was the third time that the former Delta State Sports Commission Chairman will be passing the rigorous FIFA integrity test where several aspiring technocrats have been sent packing,” THISDAY reported.

Pinnick first passed the integrity test when appointed into the Organizing Committee for FIFA Competitions. The second time was when seeking election into the CAF Executive Committee where he rose to the position of first Vice President and finally now, the clearance given to him penultimate week to seek for the FIFA Council seat. All these are coming after rigorous eligibility checks and thorough scrutiny of the social, moral and political credentials, as well as public service records.

This is collaborated by the Chairman of Sportsville Awards, Frank Ilaboya. While presenting a recognition award of excellence to Pinnick, he said: “Sportsville Communications is not unaware of the boundless energy and the unflagging enthusiasm with which Mr Pinnick has been pursuing the issue of uplifting Nigerian Football to a higher pedestal on the field and in the boardroom, since he was first elected as President of NFF in September 2014. He scores high in aggressive marketing and is matchless in seeking high visibility for Nigeria in football’s high table,”

It is a general consensus however that Pinnick should be supported. Whatever grievances anyone has should be shelfed for now and all should publicly support his candidature. He is Nigeria’s representative. So for now, there should be no enemy within.