Next Saturday’s elections of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), if it holds at all, may yield a new crisis as the old order seems unwilling to yield to the new.  As with most issues concerning Nigeria, the remnant of the current NFF stakeholders, having usurped and perverted authority under the ousted Chairman, Sani Lulu, are determined to maintain their status and pre-eminence in the Federation in order to continue to feed on the system.

 The main issue is under which NFF statute the August 21, 2010 elections are to be held. There is a legally adopted and FIFA 'approved' 2008 statute (the "NFF 2008 Statute") enacted in Port Harcourt, with took effect on 1st December 2005, and was amended in Makurdi on 24th July 2008.   

 The problem is the existence of another statute that was prepared, passed and hidden by former NFF Chairman, Sanu Lulu and his friends in the NFF Congress (the “NFF 2010 statute”).  The NFF 2010 statute was "ratified" only two weeks ago by the sitting delegates of NFF for the purpose of Saturday’s elections.

There is a question as to the validity of the status of these "delegates" who passed and ratified the NFF 2010 statute.   In addition, the same delegates are planning to vote their candidates in the August 21, 2010 elections, using the NFF 2010 statute they have expressly prepared for that purpose.

Initially, the delegates in question were properly elected in 2004 and 2005 in their state football associations (State FAs) for a term of four years, and in accordance with the statutes of the State FAs.  But naturally, the terms of those delegates ended in 2008 (for those elected in 2004), and 2009 (for those elected in 200.

Curiously, Mr. Lulu and these delegates attempted to amend the NFF 2008 statute in 2010, when they lacked the authority to do so.  One of the changes beneficial to them was designed to "extend" the terms of these delegates from 4 years to 5 years and a few weeks for some delegates; and 6 years plus a few weeks for some other delegates. The NFF 2010 statute, Article 21(m) states:  “Each State Football Association shall have its elective congress in November/December succeeding the elective congress of the Federation within the senior FIFA World Cup year.” 

What this means, unfortunately for Mr. Lulu and his delegates, is that they amended the wrong statute. They should have amended the statutes of the State FAs, under which the delegates were elected, to extend the terms of the delegates in the state FA to the date of election in November/December succeeding the elective congress of the Federation within the senior FIFA World Cup year, in this case to November/December 2010.

 Undeterred, these “Lulu delegates” met two weeks ago and voted to "ratify" the discreetly-prepared NFF 2010 statute, ignoring the point that legally, their status as delegates had long expired.

 In view of this situation, questions are now being raised as to whether the “NFF 2010 statute” is the law that would apply on August 21, 2010, and whether, in view of the questionable status of these delegates.   Court challenges are known to have been made already, but the NFF never established an independent "National Dispute Resolution Chamber" to handle such disputes as required by both FIFA statutes Article 64 (3) and NFF 2008 statutes, article 72.

In order to legally challenge the issue of the validity of the NFF 2010 statute, a petitioner can go to a Nigerian court, but both which FIFA and the NFF prohibit that option in all but a few instances where citizens' rights are implicated.  The petitioner can file an "appeal" with FIFA or the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), declaring that the petitioner has exhausted the NFF’s internal procedure (the “independent National Dispute resolution Chamber”), which does not exist. 

 In spite of FIFA’s prohibition, some aggrieved contestants have gone to Nigerian courts and we should know in a few days what will come of these court matters. Will there be multiple court rulings for and against contestants? Will the "Lulu delegates" proceed under these circumstances and hold the elections on August 21, 2010? 

Earlier today, KickOff, the widely-read soccer magazine, reported that National Sports Commission had asked the NFF to postpone the elections, apparently to resolve some of these issues.  

 

 

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