A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has discharged and acquitted President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, of charges bordering on fraud to the tune of $8.4 million and N4 billion.
Other chieftains of the NFF who were also discharged of similar offences by the court include; Seyi Akinwunmi (1st Vice President), Shehu Dikko (2nd Vice President), Mohammed Sanusi (General Secretary) and Ahmed Yusuf (Executive Committee member).
The NFF executives were charged on 16 counts of corruption and misappropriation of the said sums from the 2014 FIFA Grant, and conflict of interest and non-declaration of assets, by the defunct Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP), headed by Okon Obono-Obla.
At the court session on Tuesday, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu dismissed the entire case with all 16 charges, and acquitted the NFF chieftains, after counsel representing the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) applied to withdraw the charges.
The AGF took over the case from the office of the SPIP which originally instituted the case against the defendants.
The counsel stated that it could not proceed with the matter as the proof of evidence could not sustain the charges.
Sani Katu, counsel to the defendants applied to the court to dismiss the charges and also discharge and acquit the NFF chieftains.
Justice Ojukwu then ruled that she had no option than to discharge and acquit the defendants on all counts, wondering why the case was brought to the court in the first place.
Representatives of the governments of Nigeria and Spain witnessed the landmark signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a five-year technical and commercial partnership between the League Management Company of Nigeria (LMC) and the Spanish League Board (LFP).
Chairman of the LMC, Shehu Dikko, singed for the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) while the President of LaLiga, Javier Tebas signed for the Spanish League, with Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, and the Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria, Alfonso Barnuevo Sebastian de Erice, counter- signing as witnesses for their respective national leagues.
A New Page In History
Highlighting the long standing sporting relationship between the two leagues was the presence of some former Nigerian international players who at some stages in the past played for La Liga clubs – Victor Ikpeba, who played for Real Betis, Mutui Adepoju, who played for Racing Santander and Real Sociedad, Gbenga Okunowo and Haruna Babangida, both of whom played for Barcelona clubs.
While Dalung described the relationship as “a new page in the history of football administration in Nigeria, Banuevo offered assurances that the partnership would produce “a win-win outcome” for both Nigeria and Spain.
For Dikko, the LMC chairman, the NPFL and La Liga partnership marks the beginning of “a journey through a new road hitherto not travelled in an effort to deliver on our mandate to improve the quality and fortunes of the football league in Nigeria along international best practices.”
“We are pleased to be leading reforms and to achieve that, we decided to align with global best practices by emulating those doing things well and right. We have a lot to learn and benefit from the La Liga and we believe that the La Liga also has some things to learn from us,” Dikko said.
The partnership agreement, which will run for five years will in the first instance focus on key areas of capacity development, training for coaches and club administrators; inter club exchanges and commercial activities including joint marketing.
“There is a fight for the heart and pocket of Nigerians to love and buy into our domestic football league and La Liga is ready to work with us on that.
“Stakeholders are already getting interested, as they have seen one of the best leagues in the world associating with us.
“This will help us move forward and many more good things will follow. We shall move from this point to a point where we will in turn begin to support other leagues in Africa,” the LMC Chairman stated.
Tebas said that the La Liga will through the partnership provide assistance to the NPFL in the areas of training of Coaches, club administrators and exchange of playing tours by La Liga and NPFL Clubs.
“For us at La Liga, if through this partnership, the NPFL is developed, it is of benefit for La Liga,” declared the Spanish League President.
He said: “We would also be assisting Nigerian players where possible to get chances to play for La Liga Clubs”.
Ambassador Barnuevo, who had earlier received officials of the LMC and the La Liga on Monday and further graced the signing ceremony, said he was pleased to witness the epoch making event.
“I know how Nigerians love football and I can tell you that in this relationship, Nigeria and Spain will win. We already have strong social and economic relations and this MOU will further strengthen our sporting ties. We take this relationship serious because the La Liga is one of the most important companies in Spain.”
Nigeria’s Youth and Sports Minister, who had also received officials of both leagues in his office on Monday, also expressed delight at the consummation of the agreement and gave assurances that the partnership would unbundle and open up platforms for the exchange of ideas to engage young Nigerians.
“It will transcend beyond football to other areas and while we shall be relying on the expertise of the La Liga to improve our league, we also have something to offer which will benefit La Liga.”
The signing of the partnership, he said, was ” a mark of confidence and trust in Nigeria football and we look forward to more robust engagement in future”.
The Nigeria Professional Football League side, Dolphins FC, has been renamed Rivers United by the Rivers State Government.
The League Management Company (LMC) confirmed that the name change was agreed on Thursday following a “formal request by the government of Rivers State.”
The Chairman of the LMC, Shehu Dikko, explained that the name change was granted since it was not offensive or prejudicial to national unity and is also agreeable with community identity, supporters and follower-ship.
Rivers United will start the new Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season at home against Enyimba on Sunday.
A sports journalist, Mr Nnamdi Obanya on Tuesday said candidates running for positions on the board of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) are reported to be offering between N2 to N3 million bribes to candidates that will vote for them during the congress.
Mr Obanya said “we are hearing all sorts, some we want to believe and some we don’t want to believe” adding that “delegates are being offered between N2 to N3 million to vote for certain candidates”, he said on Sunrise Daily.
He further noted that those trying to use a court injunction to stop the NFF elections that “a Federal High Court, an Appeal Court, a State High Court or a Magistrate Court don’t have any jurisdiction over the NFF” insisting that “only the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) has any jurisdiction over the NFF.
“The NFF is under CAF, which is under FIFA and it is a federation. And by your constitutional right, and freedom of association, you cannot stop anybody from a holding a congress within the constitution of the association and that is what NFF is doing”, maintaining that “it is as simple as that”.
He further noted that “there has been no criminal activity, which is the only reason you can call for such injunctions and the likes”. He accused ‘some people’ of trying to test their importance at the NFF, adding that “security agents again tried to pick up (Aminu) Maigari, but this time he was able to find his way out”.
He added that despite ‘tough talks’ by (Taiwo) Ogunjobi and (Amanze) Uchegbulam, “it looks like it is a straight fight between (Shehu) Dikko and (Amaju) Pinnick; they seem to be the two front runners; they seem to be the two candidates that most people think will win the election”.
He also expressed hope that the “palpable tension in Warri now will not translate into something else when the time comes”.
Already, representatives of the world football governing body, FIFA, and the Confederation of African Football (CAF), led by Ghana’s Football Federation (GFA) President, Kwesi Nyantaki, have arrived in Warri for the elective congress.
Among the candidates vying to replace outgoing NFF president, Aminu Maigari, are Amaju Pinnick from Delta State, Amanze Uchegbulam from Imo State, Taiwo Ogunjobi (Osun), Shehu Dikko (Kaduna) and Dominic Iorfa from Benue State.
Others are incumbent first vice president, Mike Umeh (Anambra) and Abba Yola (Kano State).
Candidates for the first vice president position are Emeka Inyama (Imo), Seyi Akinwunmi (Lagos State), Adamu Shehu (Kaduna) and Suleyman Muazu from Sokoto State.
The delegates will also elect zonal representatives on the board.
Ahead of the elective congress of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, former international player, Emmanuel Babayaro, has appealed to delegates to avoid selling their votes but vote according to the manifesto of individual aspirants, noting that there is an urgent need to revamp the dwindling fortunes of the nation’s football.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja, Babayaro said that the rot in the nations football is a culmination of the decay of many years which can be corrected with the right leadership in place.
Babayaro expressed disappointment over the performance of the Super Eagles at the Brazil World Cup and decried the present position of the Super Eagles as the African Champions are struggling to qualify for the next African Nations Cup.
The congress of the Nigeria Football Federation is expected to gather in Warri, on Monday night, at the Hotel de Excel where the seven men jostling to chair the NFF would be engaged in a debate.
It is expected that the candidates would make known their visions for the federation and get quizzed by selected members of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN.
The contestants include Pinnick Amaju Melvin, who heads the administration of football in Delta State; Taiwo Ogunjobi, a former General Secretary and later member of the executive committee in the era of Sani Lulu Abdulahi; Abba Yola of Kano State and Chief Mike Umeh, the current first Vice President; Amanze Uchegbulam and Dominic Iorfa, who like Ogunjobi, served in the executive committee headed by Sani Lulu Abdulahi and Shehu Dikko.