Lagos SWAN urges Stakeholders to observe caution in fresh NFF crisis

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Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN, Lagos chapter, has called on the sports establishment and stakeholders in Nigerian football to be wary of any fresh crisis in the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) warning that it will constitute a drawback on the development of the sub-sector.

The Lagos SWAN statement signed by Fred Edoreh, its chairman in Lagos, is in reaction to recent statements credited to followers of club owner and former contestant for the NFF presidency, Ambassador Chris Giwa and purportedly to the office of the Minister of Sports, both seeking the dissolution of the current NFF board and the reinstatement of the Chris Giwa board.

The statement by Lagos SWAN chairman, Fred Edoreh, reads: “We note with curiosity recent statements credited first to members of the Chris Giwa-mandate group threatening to upturn the management structure of the Nigerian Professional Football League and sack the League Management Company and also to return to take over the NFF in the new year. Equally alarming was another press release falsely credited to the office of the Honourable Minister of Sports which allegedly directed the NFF to honour the purported mandate of Chris Giwa.

“We are indeed relieved that the office of the Honourable Minister, through the Special Adviser on Media, has refuted the statement and dissociated the minister from its issue.

However, knowing that there can be no smoke without fire, the public and corporate partners of Nigerian football have been left with the fear that something sinister which could breed another regime of destabilization may be cooking.

It should suffice to say that a house destroyed can only be inherited by the wind and where wind is sown the harvest can only be whirlwind which do not support development and progress.

“In the first place, it is unacceptable that the office of the Honourable Minister can be credited with a statement which it did not authorise and, worse, by unauthorized persons. It is not enough for the minister to refute the statement but must get to the root of this impersonation and possibly sanction the perpetrators. This is necessary to establish confidence and disabuse the mind of the public about any tendency for nepotism as is being imagined in some quarters.

Secondly, even in the rebuttal, we find it curious for the minister to establish that there is a “lingering crisis in the NFF” and that he has received “presentations” from the “warring factions” until “this issue is resolved.”

“Without doubt, those phrases indicate a re-wakening of a dead and buried matter, the reasons for which we find hard to fathom. The history and material particulars of the Giwa dispute are very clear: Whereas the incidents on the day of the purported elective congress of Giwa group are well known; the members of the NFF congress including majority of the state FA chairmen and club owners, the Confederation of African Football and FIFA, all being the relevant bodies, rejected

The purported election; the group approached a Federal High Court in Jos praying for affirmation and also moved in to take over the NFF secretariat; FIFA threatened Nigeria with suspension unless these two actions were remedied; the Giwa faction approached the Court of Arbitration for Sports to stop FIFA and its application was rejected; then, to forestall the imminent FIFA suspension, the group, represented by Barrister Ardzard Habilla, went on to withdraw the suit and Justice Ambrose Allagoa of the Jos court struck out the matter. Case end.

“Since then, over a year now, Nigeria football has enjoyed some peace and progress with stakeholders making efforts to drive up corporate partnership and general development. The members of the congress of the NFF endorsed and attended the elective congress which brought in the Amaju board as held and endorsed under NFF statutes and FIFA guidelines and supervision.

“They made up the same congress which the minister attended and opened their Annual General Assembly only recently at which there was no rancor nor any issues raised as per the legitimacy of the board. How can we then say that there is a “lingering crisis” for which the minister says he is receiving “presentations” from which “warring factions?” Where and for what reason is this re-echo coming from? We are not aware that after its withdrawal from the Jos court the Giwa group has resusciteted its litigation which it has a right to do.

“We wish to appeal that in as much as all men are free to pursue their personal and group ambitions, it must be within the limits of law and convention and the statutes, consensus and endorsement of relevant institutions guiding national and international association football but, most importantly, we have gone through this road too many times and we advice that it will be a disservice to the nation to re-stir the hornet’s nest.

“Needless to say that with the two disturbing releases NFF partners and existing and potential sponsors have begun to re-jig their investment layout to steer away from the forecast of deliberately induced squabbles in the NFF in 2016. We also warn those who are beating the drums of anarchy by the sidelines to desist from this unpatriotic act and not to imagine that they are as masked as they think.”