NFF alleges persecution

[FILE PHOTO] Office of Nigeria Football Federation. Photo Ladidi Lucy Elukpo.

Lawyers to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) yesterday expressed dismay at an alleged persecution ‘by agents who want to take over Nigerian football forcefully.’ The NFF has also taken the Chief Okoi Obono-Obla led Special Presidential Investigative Panel (SPIP) to stop it from persecuting its officials.

In a statement released yesterday by Mamman N. Nasir and Co., lawyers to the NFF, the board recounts the various ‘assaults’ on the officials of the federation and the online media trial they have been subjectec to.

The statement reads: “On Saturday, the January 5, 2019, our clients were shocked to read an obviously
syndicated story published in the online and print media to the effect that His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) has personally directed the prosecution of our client and some of NFF elected officials for alleged but unspecified acts of corruption.

“It is a matter of public record that on January 6, 2019, the Presidency through his spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, published a widely disseminated statement declaring that His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) has not ordered in any manner whatsoever that our client or any of NFF officials be prosecuted for any reason at all, particularly as it is not in his character or administrative style to interfere in the work of investigative bodies and that the name of the President should not be used for this purposes.

“However, on January 7, 2019 Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, the Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel (SPIP) granted a widely published radio interview stating that his Panel has established a prima facie case against the President of the NFF and certain officials of NFF. Chief Obono-Obla then went further to assert that his Panel will
definitely arraign the named officials the next day, January 8, 2019 and that he had ensured that their names were put on a travel ban list.

“Curiously, a few hours after this radio interview by Chief Obono-Obla, documents were being published in a certain section of the media showing a ban list containing the names of the affected officials and the official covering letter from Chief Obono-Obla to the Immigration Service.

“On the said January 8, 2019, our client sent legal representatives to the office of SPIP at Asokoro, Abuja to ascertain the exact circumstances of this rather strange public trial by Chief Obono-Obla, particularly as our client or the NFF officials had not been served anycourt charges or informed of any court arraignment date. Shockingly, it transpired subsequently, that no charge at all had been filed against our client, its President or any of NFF officials.”

The statement said the recent moves were an orchestrated media campaign against the NFF and its officials, adding, “it was widely published again that Chief Obono-Obla (SPIP) has (unlawfully) secured a warrant of arrest to effect the arrest of the affected NFF officials.

It pointed out that while the news of the warrant of arrest started January 9, 2019, “the date on the face of the eventually published warrant unlawfully obtained from a magistrate’s court in Abuja is January 10, 2019. The obvious conclusion here is that some interested persons have an unrestrained and direct access to Chief Obono-Obla, and have thus secured a front row seat that allows them a pre-knowledge of all steps to be taken by Chief Obono-Obla and or SPIP, which they gleefully publish ahead of these steps.”

The statement revealed that the NFF has sought legal advice and “lodged a petition with the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice for his intervention to ensure the due process of the Law adhered to.”

It added: “Our client and the affected NFF officials have also taken the additional step to file a suit, FC/ABJ/CS/17/2019 at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division (The only court statutory conferred with jurisdiction over SPIP matters under the enabling act).

“The suit is to allow this whole sordid matter to be ventilated in the Court of the land and to check the oppression of our client and its officials.”

It added, however, that “Chief Obono-Obla refused to accept service for himself, even though he is the second defendant on record in the suit.
Instead, Chief Obono-Obla directed that all the processes be served at the Asokoro office of SPIP, after reading through the processes.

“Acting, in a similar fashion, the lawyer attached to SPIP, also refused to accept service for SPIP.

The statement said the NFF and its officials were always prepared to subject themselves to the ordinary, well-laid down processes of law in Nigeria, adding, however, that they insist on being treated with fairness and accorded all the rights and protection of the law.”

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