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Lumumba Adeh: Reps committee on sports erred on Pinnick, Giwa feud

How disturbed are you about the lingering crisis in Nigerian football, especially as it has to do with the leadership tussle between Amaju Pinnick and…

How disturbed are you about the lingering crisis in Nigerian football, especially as it has to do with the leadership tussle between Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa?
Well I have taken my time because initially I didn’t have any facts available to me. I needed to get some information and I went further to do some investigation and I have come to the conclusion that what I have is substantial enough for me to make an informed comment. From all indications, it appears that Giwa has a case and the case is in line with the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which as citizens we must always obey. I do not want to delve into the issue of whether Giwa was duly elected or not but the point is that Giwa obtained an injunction from the court, in fact a properly constituted court of law in the Federal Republic of Nigeria restraining the conduct of the election in Warri and according to the information available to me, the order was properly and duly served. This therefore means that every action taken in Warri is a nullity. Therefore, the continued stay of Amaju Pinnick as NFF president is illegal. They went to court and the court reaffirmed its position on the matter. Whatever happens thereafter or in between is immaterial.

It is said even the election in Abuja that produced Giwa as NFF president had some issues as some of the stakeholders allegedly staged a walk out in protest. Would you say Giwa has a clean mandate?
 Giwa in his own case is claiming to be the president of the NFF as at the time of the injunction and whether the election that brought him in was properly conducted, is an entirely different case. However, I am not aware of anybody having challenged him or that election. And if that is the case, it means he has a mandate that he is not exercising. There are also claims that there were attempts for negations or reconciliation, which have not seen the light of day and have no place in law. But this has thrown up a completely evolving crisis. A crisis that is not healthy for Nigerian football. It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

So are you saying Giwa is the NFF president recognised by law and should be allowed to carry out his mandate?
Well legally, that is the position but whether that is feasible, whether it is workable that is entirely a different matter. However, a solution must be found and quickly too before Nigerian football disintegrates ultimately. Like I said earlier, this crisis is an ill and it will blow nobody any good.

As a former federal legislator, what is your take on the recent attempt by the House of Representatives Committee on sports to mediate in the feud between the two factional presidents?
I want to state unequivocally that they also erred because the National Assembly House of Representative Committee on sports, against her rules of conduct of business of the house went ahead to discuss and deliberate and even take a position on an issue that is already in court. They are well aware of that case. I expect that they should have done things differently because in my opinion, if anyone will solve the crisis in Nigerian football, it is the National Assembly. As it stands today, what is expected of the National Assembly is to look at the law under which Nigerian football is operating and then do a diligent work on it. The subsisting law is the obnoxious decree 101 which is not in tandem with international best practices. Whereas even in the name it is still NFA but they are operating as NFF and drawing funds from the government. The National Assembly should amend the law under which Nigerian football will be operating, give it a solid legal framework while domesticating the statues of FIFA so that Nigeria will not fall foul of FIFA and FIFA will respect our laws because Nigerian is a sovereign nation. Whatever will not contradict the laws of Nigeria, the constitution of Nigeria from the FIFA statues, we adopt and take it to FIFA and FIFA will also recognise it as our own law. In that case nobody will cash on any lacuna or loophole to continue to perpetrate crisis but as long as that is not done, crisis will continue in Nigerian football. 

Invariably you are calling on the National Assembly to facilitate the passing of the NFF bill?
Exactly, I am calling on the National Assembly to go back to their books where they will find out that some years back, I think the sixth assembly, this matter came up. I recall that both chambers passed the different versions of the law but at the point of going to conference, the National Assembly tenure ended. Then came the seventh assembly, headed by Hon. Godfrey Gaiya the Chairman House of Representatives committee on sports. Another attempt was made but it was fraudulent because I got to know that it was the NFF that drafted what they wanted to put in that law. Thank God it did not see the light of the day. The National Assembly as it is today having amended her rules can now recall that version of the law that is still pending and awaiting conference committee decision and give it life. That way they would have helped in solving the crisis in Nigerian football. If they are interested in solving the problem, that is the solution.

So would you say the House of Representatives committee on sports showed lack of knowledge in handling the Giwa-Pinnick issue?
They are aware of the position of the law. I think somebody somewhere is trying to be mischievous or they probably must have been misled by wrong information. However, I expect them to do diligent investigation and come up with a position in the best interest of Nigerian football.

Again Nigerians are worried that FIFA hammer might fall on Nigerian football, if the crisis continues unabated. How worried are you?
I think we have outgrown that level of fear of FIFA ban. FIFA has already known that Nigeria is always engulfed in one crisis or the other especially during elections, or around election times. I think FIFA will be happy for a permanent solution to be gotten and if FIFA is brought into the know that a position is taken that will permanently solve the crisis in Nigerian football or cut it to the barest minimum, FIFA will have no choice but to be happy about it.
With what is on ground, do you think Nigeria will qualify for the 2017 World Cup? Super Eagles are in the same group with Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia.
The crisis in Nigerian football will definitely have adverse effect on our World Cup qualification but it is very very possible for us to qualify. I think there is just no cause for alarm. However, we need to get our house in order. They may call it tough group but I think at the end of the day, it may turn out to be an easy group for the Super Eagles. After all we rode on the back of Algeria in 1993 to attend our first World Cup ever so we can repeat that feat. Cameroon is no longer what they used to be. Zambia is a force to reckon with but I am not bothered. We just need to put our house in order.

In your opinion, which coach do you think will lead Super Eagles to the World Cup? Is it a local or foreign coach?
I canvassed for a foreign coach or the best coach. If at this material time the available coach for the Super Eagles is a Nigerian, Cameroonian, Indian, Japanese, Chinese or wherever he comes from but has what it takes to lead the Super Eagles, fine. I am not given to the sentiment of being black, being Nigerian or being white. The point is the Super Eagles deserve the best. The coach can be a Nigerian. And I see some Nigerians already that I think if given the opportunity, they may do it. But then there are other factors that come into the selection of coach especially now that we have the ambition of playing in the World Cup.

Already NFF has shortlisted Paul Le Guen, Tom Sainfeit and Salisu Yusuf for the job. What is your assessment of the coaches?
Are they the best in the world? Why do we shy away from taking the best when we are aspiring to be the best?.
Maybe we do not have the money to go for the best……
Well then take what you have. Go for the available and don’t forget that it is garbage in garbage out and that will leave us at the mediocre level. You definitely reap what you sow.

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