When we were growing up, we used to exclaim ‘wonders shall never end’ when we found it hard to believe something. Today, I am being compelled by the recent decisions by the NFF Disciplinary Committee to say wonders shall never end.
The House of Representatives- elect from Kaduna State and a chieftain of the Labour Party, Ekene Abubakar Adams, was found guilty of physically assaulting the referee who officiated the week 12 NPFL match between Remo Stars and Gombe United in Ikenne.
The league organisers, Interim Management Committee (IMC), in its summary jurisdiction, said the General Manager of Remo Stars went into the referees’ dressing room which is restricted to unauthorized persons and attacked referee Ukah Ndubuisi for his temerity to send off one of his players, Dare Ojo. And to add salt into his injury, the first half ended in a barren draw. In a summary decision, the IMC therefore fined Remo Stars N1.5m and deducted three points and three goals from them for violating at least four rules of the league. In addition, Adams was banned from all NPFL-related activities for the rest of the season.
However, Remo Stars were given the option to appeal the decisions taken by the IMC. And so the club owned and sponsored by Nigeria’s quiet billionaire businessman, Kunle Soname, actually appeared before the NFF Disciplinary Committee last week to challenge the decisions taken against it by the IMC.
So, it was the case of Remo Stars vs Gombe United and two other ones involving Bayelsa United vs Doma United and Wikki Tourists vs Bayelsa United that the Committee sat last Friday at the Headquarters of the NFF in Abuja to adjudicate on. At the end of the day, the Committee made up of eminent lawyers took decisions one of which is the theme of this article. The decisions by the Committee which appeared to have completely exonerated Remo Stars and their General Manager of any wrongdoing truly shocked many.
Although the Committee set aside almost all decisions of the IMC against Remo Stars and almost scolded the league body for attempting to mislead it, it affirmed the IMC’s position that Mr. Ekene Abubakar Adams actually encroached into the restricted area (Match Officials’ dressing room).
However, the committee insisted that Adams’s physical condition during the match wasn’t strong enough to enable him hurt even a fly. According to the Committee’s findings, Adams went to the stadium on oxygen support to watch Remo Stars battle Gombe United. Therefore, the claim by referee Ndubuisi that he was physically assaulted by the ‘patient’ was only a figment of his imagination.
In addition, the Committee said after it painstakingly watched the video clip tendered by the Remo Stars FC, it discovered that the “physical appearance of the Referee as shown in the video clip while exiting the Stadium did not show any sign of unfitness on his part as he was seeing walking away majestically without any aid/ assistance. He was seen freely making and receiving calls to unknown individuals.”
Meanwhile, the committee had acknowledged the fact that there was an encroachment into a restricted area which was not denied by Adams. It also said the accused agreed that he tapped the referee on the chest. Even as the Committee members are not medical experts, they concluded that such action was not enough to harm the referee. The Committee, therefore, quoted copiously from the Black Laws Dictionary, which defines assault as ‘a violent attack by physical means of blow, weapon etc.” When I read the quote, I got confused because there is another assault called verbal abuse or assault. Well, the seasoned lawyers at that time restricted assault to the physical version of it and quickly concluded that the Honourable was in no physical condition to violently attack the referee.
Consequently, the Committee insisted there were no sufficient pieces of evidence to prove the case of assault levelled against Adams by the IMC and ultimately left him off the hook by setting aside all but the decision that Remo Stars should pay a fine of N500,000 for failure to ensure restriction of access by unauthorized persons, with particular reference to the case of Adams. It is important to reiterate here that even as it upheld the one-year ban on Adams, the Committee also decided that he shouldn’t be prosecuted in court as ordered by the IMC. Maybe a prosecution and a possible sentence to jail will tarnish his fledging political career.
Well, these are the highlights of the NFF Disciplinary Committee’s decisions on one of the cases brought before it. However, the Committee has rightly said its decisions are without prejudice to the right of appeal. So, it is not the final bus stop but for now I know the IMC must be feeling that it has been rubbished by the NFF Committee. Of course, the Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye-led IMC is doing everything possible to sanitize the league, so some of the decisions by the disciplinary committee are like cogs in the wheel of progress. The IMC is the body that is responsible for the day-to-day running of the league and is in a better position to know everything that is going on in it.
Personally, I don’t want to insist that Adam is guilty as charged by the IMC but since I was not privileged to watch the video clips presented by Remo Stars, I still find it hard to believe that the General Manager actually went to the stadium on oxygen support. And for the fact that I am not medical personnel, I don’t know if there are different ways of giving patients oxygen support. From my little knowledge of it, such aid is for emergencies.
Most times, when a patient is on oxygen, he or she is seen lying critically sick on a hospital bed or on a wheelchair. But in the case of Adams, he was at the stadium and strong enough to tap a referee on the chest. I want the NFF Disciplinary Committee to know that Adams’ seemingly harmless touch is an act of violence which must be frowned upon. Moreover, verbal assault is as dangerous as a physical attack because it can leave the victim with permanent psychological scars.
Therefore, my verdict is that Hon. Adams who is said to have gone to the stadium on oxygen support should be punished for endangering his life. If indeed he went out in that condition portrayed by the Committee, that was a case of attempted suicide. So, he should be made to face the full wrath of the law because he has no right to even attempt to take his life.