Nigerian football chiefs face prospect of mass imprisonment

Hearings on Wednesday in Jos will determine the future of many of Nigeria’s football administrators, ironically just at the point when it looks like the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) is finally putting its house in order, with some help from FIFA.

Following last week’s NFF election which saw Amaju Pinnick win a vote for the NFF Presidency, the inaugural meeting of the newly elected board was set to meet in Abuja this coming Wednesday. Among the items on the agenda is the future of Stephen Keshi, the national team coach, as well as the setting up of various working committees.

Unfortunately for those planning to attend this meeting, a Federal High Court in Jos on Friday issued a new injunction demanding that Sports Minister Tammy Danagogo, the previous President of the NFF Aminu Maigari, the NFF General Secretary Musa Amadu and all 36 states FA chairmen appear before the court to explain why they should not be committed to prison for failing to comply with the court’s earlier injunctions aimed at halting the electoral process they participated in.

The injunctions had been issued after Yahaya Adama and Obinna Ogba, members of Chris Giwa’s board, argued his election as NFF President on the August 26 was legitimate and the matter should be considered by the courts.

The court’s original injunctions were ignored by those involved in the new elections, who variously argued they had not seen them or had not been served with them.

In Nigeria, as in many jurisdictions, the failure to comply with a properly served injunction is a criminal offence, whether or not the injunction is finally shown to have been issued on merit. The court has the power to commit those failing to comply with its orders to prison, until such time as they obey the orders of the court.

On Wednesday the Court will be considering if the football administrators were genuinely unaware of the proceedings or if they intended to deliberately flout the Court’s orders. As the sanctions are penal the standard of proof required is beyond reasonable doubt. The Court has wide discretion in these circumstances and may suspend an order of committal on terms and conditions which it may specify.

So Wednesday promises to be another interesting day for those following the NFF saga and without doubt the spotlight will be on Nigerian justice, the behaviour of the Nigerian administrators and the encouragment of FIFA in strongly supporting Aminu Maigari, Musa Amadu and the election of Amaju Pinnick.

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