Attacks On The NFF: Time To End The Charade By Fred Edoreh

At a time when the Nigeria Football Federation is concentrating on raising funds and preparing the Super Eagles for the Africa Cup of Nations, the Super Falcons for the France 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Golden Eaglets for Brazil 2019 FIFA U-17 World and the Flying Eagles for Poland 2019 FIFA U-20 World Championships, it is being distracted yet again by renewed, ill-motivated campaign of calumny by the usual suspects.

This time, it is baseless charges of corruption brought against the NFF by a very ambiguous entity led by one Celsus Ukpong claiming to be acting on behalf of the Federal Government.

Whereas the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on Recovery of Public Property(
(SPIPRP) chaired by Okoi Obono Obla has, using its privileged position, been apparently intent on casting down the NFF leadership, the NFF has challenged its competence to investigate and prosecute it, which matter is pending before the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Ukpong, a public prosecutor with the ICPC was seconded as counsel to the SPIPRP and on the last hearing of the matter, on April 20, he wrote to the court for an adjournment which was accepted and another date fixed for May 13.

Curiously, realising that the SPIPRP did not have the powers to persecute as has been clearly established by the Court of Appeal on November 5, 2018, and adopted by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, Ukpong acting for an abstruse body, proceeded to file corruption charges in the same FHC against the NFF leadership claiming they have “moved” $8.4m from the coffers of the body.

While the apparent act of abuse of court process and deception of the court is still being wondered at, it has turned out that Ukpong had long been withdrawn from the SPIP and was never authorized by any of the relevant agencies, neither the ICPC, the EFCC nor the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation to take the NFF to court.

Spokesperson of the ICPC, Rasheedat Okoduwa, confirmed to TheCable that “Mr Ukpong is not prosecuting NFF on behalf of ICPC. The commission has withdrawn him from the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP). The Secretary to the Government of the Federation in a letter dated 14 February 2019 directed the chairman of SPIP to release him immediately.”

Attacks On The NFF: Time To End The Charade By Fred Edoreh

Having been withdrawn from the SPIP and also not acting on behalf of the ICPC, the question is on what authority is Ukpong suing the NFF? Is he acting for himself? Is he still representing the SPIP, possibly disregarding the directive of the SGF to return to the ICPC? Why the desperation to act so arbitrarily outside due process?

More curious is the fact that the outgoing Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, will lend
himself and his office to such disingenuous manipulation of the instruments of government just to get at the NFF and scandalise its leadership.

The shenanigans and charade in the persistent attacks on the NFF continue to present our government as disorganized and without consensus on procedures, with some of its officers as lawless, unconscionable, given to insubordination, and the government unable to exercise control.

Last year, it took the intervention of the Presidency to stave off a FIFA ban when, after the World Cup, Dalung, pleading a non existent Supreme Court judgment, supported the Giwa group to illegally take over the NFF secretariat, even as the Attorney General of the Federation had cautioned severally against the enforcement of one-sided injunctions that the attackers are quick to obtain from their Jos court.

Before the intervention, however, the infractions had disrupted the Nigeria Professional Football League, leading to the non-conclusion of the league and a bottleneck on relegations and promotions, the reason why we are now playing an abridged league with the hope of normalizing the system later in the year.

While the NFF has suffered denial of statutory funds to it by the ministry to prosecute some of its activities, most damaging is that the attacks dovetail into a calculated attempt to foul the confidence of NFF sponsors and partners through whom the football house has achieved about 60% self-funding by which the burden on government to finance the national teams has been considerably reduced.

Nonetheless, the attacks have taken tolls on the confidence of existing and prospective investors. It was for this impression of disorder that a top global broadcast company pulled out of a multi-million dollars rights deal with the League Management Company, with the perception of instability in our football governance environment.

In the scheming to harass the NFF and embarrass it through coordinated media campaigns, different figures like $16m, $10m, $8m, N10b, N4b etc have been bandied, all in a bid to cause public disaffection against its leadership. But facts are sacred as it is common knowledge that appropriations to the NFF in the national budget have been in the neighbourhood of N1 billion annually for the past four years, and not all of are cash-backed and released to it, still, the NFF has continued to achieve through good sponsorship marketing drives.

For the good measures also, FIFA which co-manages the funds it sends to national federations has said severally that it is satisfied with the financial administration of the NFF. The signatories to the account of the NFF are officers deployed from the offices of the Account General and Auditor General of the Federation. The same account is audited by Pricewatercooper and the NFF publicly publishes its audited account periodically. The more relevant anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC and ICPC take due cognizance of these best practices.

It has, therefore, become imperative for the government to intervene decisively against the sustained attacks on the NFF to free the football house to pursue its mandate and programmes with reasonable peace of mind.

Dalung and Obono Obla, both Jos pals, and their associates who are apparently maliciously sworn to remain in the trenches and keep throwing darts, have done enough damage through the years to the image and investor confidence of the NFF and shouldn’t be allowed to leave such legacy that will continue to disturb the operations of the body after Dalung has gone. That seems to be the intent of the renewed offensive. The government should not just look on.

Fred Edoreh writes from Lagos. He is a Former Chairman, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) Lagos chapter.

Twitter: @fredoreh

 

Opinion contained in this article is strictly the writer’s and not Aledeh’s.

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