By Mark Baber
April 25 – The Nigerian soap opera continues as rival groups claim to represent the official Nigerian Football Federation – with the appointment of a dead referee as match official symptomatic of the chaos in the country’s football administration.
With the Chris Giwa and Amaju Pinnick groups continuing to battle for control of the NFF, each group claiming to be acting as the legitimate authority, Wale Akinsanya, a referee who passed away in January, ended up being selected to officiate for Sunday’s match between Warri Wolves and Giwa FC. The mistake was realised and the game went ahead with a referee who was alive, but not before media had got hold of the story.
The incident was just another bizarre episode in what is a long running fued in Nigeria for control of the federation. Following a court ruling invalidating Pinnick’s election as NFF President, and whilst waiting for another court hearing scheduled for May 30, the feuding factions are both trying to establish legitimacy, whilst different sets of lawyers argue for different interpretations of what the court’s ruling means.
Last week FIFA intervened to threaten possible suspension if the situation is not resolved, but the Giwa faction has rejected a reconciliation committee set up by the sports minister, saying that it is made up of Pinnick loyalists and pointing out it even includes defendants in the ongoing legal case who are hardly impartial.
Whilst Pinnick’s lawyers try to argue that the court ruling does not give legitimacy to a Giwa- presidency, they have also been calling on Giwa to be arrested as “a dishonest and fraudulent person, wanting to mislead the public,” for declaring himself the authentic leader of the NFF.
A letter written by the lawyers to the Inspector-General of police saod: “We are solicitors to the FIFA-recognised NFF led by Amaju Pinnick (hereafter referred to as ‘our client’ and on whose instructions we write you this letter).
“On the 11th and 14th of April, 2016, we had petitioned your office over one Chris Giwa for attempting to forcefully take over the NFF Secretariat and for inciting disturbances. The two letters are, however, herein attached for ease of reference.
“We note that, whilst your office is yet to forcefully act in respect of our allegations in the petitions, the said Chris Giwa has gone ahead to further commit acts of forgery by dishonestly and fraudulently making, signing, sealing and executing documents with the intention of misleading the public to believe that such documents were made, signed, sealed or executed by the authority of the NFF.
“Kindly note, at the pain of repetition, that there is no court order anywhere mandating the said Chris Giwa to take over any office or duties of the NFF.
“We urge you to use your good office to act promptly and decisively in this case by arresting, investigating and, possibly, charging the said Chris Giwa for acts of forgery.”
Whilst the Nigerian police have shown no inclination to step into the affair there is as yet little indication that FIFA are prepared to bang heads together to resolve the situation, whilst threats of a FIFA ban seem unlikely to improve the situation, given the mutual animosity between the players is likely stronger than any desire to organise new and fair elections or find common ground in the greater interests of Nigerian football.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org