We have read some reports in the mainstream and online media by some uninformed and/or deliberately mischievous persons to the effect that there is a subsisting Supreme Court Order restraining Amaju Pinnick from acting as President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). These reports were fuelled by an earlier Press Release by the office of the Hon. Minister for Sports dated July 2, 2018 as well as another Press Release from the same office dated August 21, 2018, regarding the current suit which portrays the current NFF leadership as irresponsible, as usurpers and as contemnors.
It is, therefore, imperative that we put the record straight: THERE IS NO SUPREME COURT ORDER OR ANY OTHER SUBSISTING ORDER RESTRAINING AMAJU PINNICK FROM ACTING AS PRESIDENT OF THE NFF OR INSTALLING CHRIS GIWA AS PRESIDENT OF THE NFF. We hereby challenge anybody who disputes this to publish the Supreme Court Judgment or Order where the names of Amaju Pinnick or Chris Giwa were ever mentioned in any portion of the judgment or as even parties to the case. The fact is that the court processes filed in the Supreme Court matter do not bear their names as parties to the suit whatsoever.
What the Supreme Court did was to relist the case, remit it back to the Federal High Court for expeditious determination on its MERITS, while firmly declining the Motion brought by the plaintiffs in the matter to invoke its general powers under section 22 of the Supreme Court Act to deal with the substantive suit. However, in delivering judgement, the CJN expressed the view that by restoring the suit to the Cause List it followed that ALL previous orders made in the proceedings in the suit are also restored, irrespective of the fact that the matter may be heard de novo (afresh) before another Judge.
What is important to note is that, as at the time the CJN made the pronouncement, there were FIVE ‘previous’ orders existing at the Federal High Court, viz:
- The Order dated 19th day of September, 2014, restraining the Defendants from proceeding with the Congress.
- The Order dated 23rd day of October, 2014 nullifying or setting aside the elections conducted into the Executive Committee/Board of the NFF.
- The Order dated 30th day of October, 2014, setting aside all the previous Orders made above.
- The order dated 8th day of April, 2016, relisting the case and restoring all orders made by the court WHEN the case was withdrawn on 30th day of October, 2014.
- The order dated 14th day of April, 2016 giving leave for NFF to appeal the order made on 8th day of April, 2016 and affirming unequivocally that the orders restored when relisting the case by the court order of 8th day of April 2016 were the orders made by the court WHEN the case was withdrawn on 30th day October 2014 which stated that,
“order 50 Rule 2 of the Federal High Court Rules 2009’ the Plaintiff having withdrawn the suit, all orders made previously including the dissolution of the Executive Committee (Board of) Nigeria Football Federation vide order of this honourable court dated 23rd October, 2014 seizes to have life and this matter stands struck out.”
The question to be asked is, which of the foregoing Orders was restored, particularly as the Orders cannot co-exist simultaneously in the same suit and moreso as the Supreme Court did NOT restore any particular order but merely affirmed that by “restoring the suit to the cause list it means a restoration of ALL the orders in the proceedings in the suit irrespective of the fact that the matter MAY be heard denovo before another judge?
For the sake of common sense and logic, it is clear that it can only be the last order of the Federal High Court that was restored and, most importantly, the Honourable presiding Judge had settled the matter by his Order of 8th day of April 2016 on relisting the case and the order of 14th of April 2016, where he clearly explained that the ONLY orders restored were the orders made on 30thday of October 2014 terminating all previous orders in the suit (that is to say, the interim order of 19th day of September 2014 and the order of 23rdday October 2014).
In any event, and much more fundamentally, neither Amaju Pinnick nor Chris Giwa are even mentioned in the said ‘previous’ orders, nor were either of them made parties to the suit and, therefore, would not ordinarily be bound by Orders given in that suit.
Another question to be asked is that if Giwa and his team had a Supreme Court Order granting him the right to the NFF Presidency, why would they have to go back to the Federal High Court to surreptitiously procure a fresh Ex Parte Order dated June 5, 2018 for the same purpose and containing reliefs totally different from the “previous” orders of 19th day of September 2014. The fact is that, when the Supreme Court remitted the suit back to the Federal High Court, Giwa and his team attempted to enforce the said interim orders of 19thday of September by commencing contempt proceedings against Amaju Pinnick but ran into a brick wall on account of the issues raised in the preceding paragraphs.
Furthermore, it is on record that the Honourable Minister of Sports wrote a letter Ref: FMYSD/IKWUET, dated 7th day of May 2018, to the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF) seeking for Legal Opinion on the Supreme Court Judgement (Suite- No: SC/731/2016). The HAGF Office duly responded via a letter Ref: LE 29/S.I/11 dated 13th June 2018, and averred that upon a critical review of the issues, the office of the HAGF is unable to intervene as the matter is sub-judice, being presently before a competent court (meaning the Federal High Court, to which the matter had been remitted for trial by the Supreme Court). The office of the HAGF further advised for the parties to wait the final determination of the suit and/or continue to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
Giwa and his team consequently abandoned the previous orders and the advice of the HAGF on the Supreme Court judgement and surreptitiously sneaked back to the Federal High Court to obtain a fresh INTERIM EXPARTE (ONE-SIDED) ORDER on 5th June, 2018 removing Amaju Pinnick as President of the NFF and installing Chris Giwa as President of the NFF among other reliefs. This was done, even without joining them as parties to the suit and when there was a subsisting objection to the jurisdiction of the court to even hear the matter at all. It is in these circumstances, therefore, open to all to draw their conclusions as to the level of bad faith, chicanery and injustice perpetrated by these individuals in desperation to usurp offices to which they had not been elected.
Furthermore, it is on record that the parties were duly in court to commence the hearing of the suit de novo, as ordered by the Supreme Court, on the 6thday of June, 2018. Yet, it is a matter which defies belief that, there was no mention of the fact, whatsoever, when everybody was in court on the 6th day of June, 2018, that an exparte order dated 5thday of June 2018 had been issued against Amaju Pinnick and his board (that is, just the very previous day or a mere 24 hours earlier!). Indeed, it is this exparte order of 5th day of June, 2016 (NOT any Supreme Court Judgement as currently being falsely claimed) that Giwa and his team served on the 2nd day of July, 2018 on the HAGF Office, Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Nigeria Police, to ride on and started parading themselves as the legitimate or so-called “court recognised” NFF.
Upon becoming aware of the Interim Ex-parte Order of 5th June, 2018, Amaju Pinnick immediately filed an application challenging the legality of the Interim Order on 2nd July, 2018 and the application has been pending since then.
Order 26 Rule 12 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2009 provides that:
“(1) No order made on motion exparte shall last for more than fourteen days after the party or person affected by the order has applied for the order to be varied or discharged or last for another fourteen days after application to vary or discharge it has been argued.
(2) If a motion to vary or discharge an exparte order is not taken within fourteen days of its being filed, the ex parte order shall lapse.”
The implication of the foregoing is that the Interim Order which Chris Giwa and his team are parading as entitling them to the leadership of the NFF automatically lapsed on the 16th of July, 2018.
Consequently, the HAGF upon further review of the matter duly conveyed a letter to the Minister of Youth and Sports Referenced LE: 29/S.1/II/65 and dated 20th day of July 2018 to advise the parties to maintain status quo ante while awaiting the final determination of suit, as well as conveying Presidential Directives on the need to respect FIFA’s position on these court orders. Unfortunately, the Minister of Youth and Sports who gladly accepted a letter from office of HAGF dated June 26th 2018 signed by an officer of that office to enthusiastically aid Giwa and his group to attempt to take over NFF Office, rather strangely, refused to accept this recent advice from HAGF which was even duly signed personally by the HAGF & Minister of Justice.
The point on jurisdiction made in the pending motion filed on the 2nd July, 2018 by Amaju Pinnick challenging the Exparte Order of June 5, 2018 and the pre-existing motions (pending since 2014) challenging the court jurisdictions to hear the matter is that the election in dispute was conducted via NFF statutes which is subordinate to FIFA statutes and, thus, only FIFA has jurisdiction to interpret and adjudicate on the matter. Indeed, the Statutes are clear that football matters are not resolved through ordinary courts of Law but through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms provided in the statutes.
Since the 2nd of July, 2018, the court has sat four times (July 4th 2018; July 10th, 2018; July 31st 2018 and; August 17th 2018). However, neither the matter nor motions have been heard, with the case always adjourned. These adjournments happened at the behest of Giwa’s lawyers, who obviously are not interested in hearing the matter, thus always raising one technical issue or the other to ensure adjournment of the matter (which they always celebrated as if the case had been decided). Meanwhile, all this while, they were busy in Abuja parading themselves as court-recognised NFF based on an expired ex-parte order while they refused to allow the court to go into the substantive matter to determine it on its merit. This clearly indicated that they knew they have no case from the beginning.
On the 17th August, 2018, when the matter came up for hearing, the Court yet again adjourned the matter sine die (indefinitely) on account of an unrelated appeal filed by Chris Giwa, despite the pendency of the application to vacate the Interim ex-parte Order, despite the preliminary objection to the court’s jurisdiction, and despite the order of the Supreme Court to hear the matter expeditiously.
In summary, it should, therefore, be noted that the court gave an ex-parte interim order removing someone who is not party to a suit from office, installing another who is not party to the suit, declined to take the motion challenging that interim order and then adjourned the matter sine die (indefinitely).
The Vice President (as Acting President) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having reviewed the situation discovered that there was no Supreme Court Order or subsisting order restraining Amaju Pinnick from acting as the President of the NFF. The Vice President (as Acting president) also observed that Nigeria as a sovereign nation has international obligations towards FIFA, particularly as Chris Giwa had earlier lost his bid to validate his election, under extant football statutes, at the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Switzerland. The Vice- President, and indeed the Federal Government of Nigeria, was therefore right to have thrown support behind the presidency of Amaju Pinnick.
Furthermore, one critical matter that needs to be clarified is the claim by the Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports that both parties (Giwa and Amaju) went to the court and have benefited at one point or the other in this regard. This is definitely a non-factual statement as Amaju Pinnick and his Board have never ever taken football matters to court or sued any person in an ordinary court of Law over football matters. Amaju Pinnick and his Board are, however, duty bound to respond to any court Summons and appear before the court to explain to the court that the matter, such as this, is a football matter not subject to the court’s jurisdiction. This was what was done since 2014 when Giwa’s group sued the NFF. Unfortunately, this motion is still pending before the court in the lamentable circumstances recounted here previously.
The NFF under Amaju Pinnick went to the Appeal Court to appeal the Order of the Federal High Court on April 8, 2016, that the matter Giwa’s group had withdrawn voluntarily on October 30, 2014 should be relisted. The Appeal Court concurred with Amaju Board’s submission, while Giwa’s group subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed the case can be RELISTED and directed the parties to return to the trial court for the matter to be heard and determined on its merit expeditiously. Consequently, it is very clear that Amaju Pinnick’s Board only appealed a judgement of the Federal High Court to relist the case, which ended at the Supreme Court. Thus, the case the Supreme Court adjudicated on was never a case of NFF leadership (as this has never ever been heard by any court anyway) but a matter of whether a case can be relisted or not and, nothing more.
To buttress this point, the Supreme Court duly declined the motion of Giwa’s group to invoke its powers under section 22 of the Supreme Court Act to determine the substantive suit, on the legally sound ground that the “lower court or trial court must have the legal power to adjudicate in the matter before the Appellate court entertains it”, among other reasons. This clearly proves that the Jurisdiction of the trial court to hear this case has not even been established since 2014, which is the issue that ought to be resolved first and foremost.
With respect to the threat of contempt proceedings against Amaju Pinnick by Chris Giwa and his team, we are not losing sleep over such empty threats and await the institution of such proceedings. One must wonder how they propose to bring this contempt proceedings seeing that they had mischievously and in bad faith fought and persuaded the court to adjourn the suit sine die (indefinitely).
We are, however, aware that Chris Giwa and his team, who have become experts in securing only ex-parte orders, are currently shopping for ex-parte orders in different court divisions to, once again, pretend to take the leadership of the NFF and/or frustrate the upcoming elections of the NFF. However, we are confident that with the renewed commitment of the judiciary to stamp out corruption, no judicial officer will allow his court to be used to perpetuate such fraud and bring the judicial system of our country into disrepute.
In the circumstances, football lovers, stakeholders and the general public are advised to ignore the ill-informed, ill-natured, insubordinate and cantankerous rantings of these individuals and their collaborators. While they publicly parrot the phrase ‘Rule of Law’ they are at the same time determined to foist upon Nigeria and rest of the football world a deception of the worst order by means of subterfuge and brigandage.
For their information, the Rule of Law binds Nigeria to International obligations. The Rule of Law says you cannot remove a person from office without hearing from him. The Rule of Law says an interim order against such a person cannot last more than 14 days. These individuals who have actively and openly invited the ban of FIFA in the last few days are totally against the development of football and they are mere irritants who are on a mission of vendetta, self-aggrandisement and fraud.
And lastly, for the information of the public, the tenure of office which is the subject of dispute of the case filed by Giwa’s group since 2014, lapses on the 26th of August, 2018 – being TODAY.