In law, an accused person is presumed innocent until he or she is found guilty in a competent court of law. In spite of this sound legal principle, suspects or accused persons, especially habitual offenders are sometimes ‘convicted’ even before they appear before a judge. In such cases, the accused is ‘judged’ and sentenced based on what he is known for, not diligent prosecution in court.
This ‘we know him’ disposition is partly what is responsible for the recent relegation of Kano Pillars from the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), after over 30 years in the Nigerian top flight.
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Pillars may be the architect of their downfall but some factors beyond their control also contributed to their present ordeal. Prominent among these factors is no doubt the controversial decision by the Appeals committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
Indeed, the Organising and Disciplinary (O&D) committee first laid the solid foundation for Pillars relegation when it consciously usurped the powers of the LMC’s by going beyond its limit while deciding on the protest brought before it by Dakkada. When the same controversial decision was later upheld by the Appeals committee, it inevitably sent the already wobbling and fumbling Pillars crashing with a bang.
It would be recalled that Pillars had beaten Dakkada 1-0 in their rescheduled match in Kano after the visitors’ late equalizer was disallowed by the match officials when the then chairman of Pillars, Alhaji Surajo Yahaya ‘Jambul’ intimidated and physically assaulted one of the assistant referees.
After the match Dakkada wrote a protest to the LMC that the result of the match should be 1-1 and not 1-0 as submitted by the match officials. They also alleged that their video camera was destroyed by officials of Pillars.
However, based on the report of the match, the LMC who have the statutory responsibility of applying the Framework and rules of the NPFL upheld the result of the match while imposing other sanctions against Pillars. LMC didn’t deduct points from Pillars.
Not satisfied with the decision of the LMC, Dakkada who were already neck-deep in relegation took their case to the O&D for review. It was there that the travesty of justice began. The committee equally upheld the result of the match but went further to activate the suspended 3 points deduction sentence the LMC had imposed on Pillars arising from the incidents that happened during their previous match with Katsina United.
At this point, the committee erred because it offered what the appellant didn’t ask for. Dakkada challenged the result of the match but did not ask for Pillars’ points to be deducted.
It would also be recalled that while imposing the first 3 points deduction on Pillars, the LMC had stated clearly that in case of SIMILAR breach of the rules in future, it would activate the suspended 3 points deduction sentence. But in acting on the protest by Dakkada, the LMC didn’t deduct three points from Pillars because there were no similarities between the incidents that marred the match against Katsina United and the Dakkada fixture that was concluded despite the isolated case of the former chairman’s attack on the assistant referee.
So, when the 3 points deduction by the O&D was made public, LMC issued a statement to say its powers had just been usurped by the committee. Kano Pillars also rejected the decision and went on appeal. They argued that the O&D had wrongly interpreted the suspended 3 points deduction imposed on them by the LMC. In addition, they insisted that their officials didn’t destroy Dakkada’s video camera as alleged.
By then, Pillars were fighting the battle of their lives because the three points deduction by the O&D had made them sure candidates for relegation as they were left with a paltry 42 points with a match to go. It was against this background that Pillars went to the Appeals committee with the hope that the ‘faulty decision’ by the O&D would be overturned.
However, when the Appeals committee met on the eve of the final round of matches, the body of jurists led by Barrister Eddy Mark upheld the decision earlier taken by its sister committee to the disappointment of Pillars and the LMC. The Appeals Committee decided that the result should stay and the 3 points deducted should also be maintained.
The committee also based its verdict on the claim by Dakkada that they were attacked and their video camera destroyed in the process. But when Pillars proved beyond all reasonable doubts that nothing of such happened, the committee then turned around to say Pillars’ appeal was dismissed because they didn’t appeal the findings that their chairman had assaulted a referee.
Curiously, the Appeals committee also chastised the LMC for allegedly trying to sway its decision. The offence of the LMC no doubt was the letter to the NFF General Secretary explaining how the O&D had gone beyond the matter before it.
One is not being unmindful of Kano Pillars excesses in Nigerian football but the decisions by the two committees of the NFF can be said to be ultra vires and vindictive.
This is because it was wrong for the O&D to deduct 3 points from Pillars when the LMC had not done so. The two committees can ONLY review in order to uphold or reverse any decision taken by the LMC, if challenged by any of the affected parties.
In this case, the LMC didn’t deduct Pillars points. Dakkada too didn’t demand points deduction so it is really hard to understand what informed the decision by the O&D to activate the suspended sentence which was eventually upheld by the Appeals committee.
No doubt, Kano Pillars are feeling hard done by the decision taken by the NFF arbiters but they should hold themselves responsible for the calamity that has befallen them.
Truth be told, poor recruitment, administrative ineptitude, weak technical bench, unruly fans and over-reliance on old players have made Pillars a shadow of its old self. They are no more the dreaded ‘Sai Masu gida’.
Well, for now they must stew in their own juice. Maybe their unrepentant fans too may ‘hibernate’ like Governor Ortom to become more refined whenever their darling team returns to the Nigerian topflight.