Following the unfolding events concerning the running of football administration by the Nigeria Football Federation executives, their lawyers have issued a statement that NFF chieftains are being persecuted.
According to a four-page statement from the chambers of Mamman Nasir and co, the Special Presidential Investigative Panel (SPIP) headed by Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, was running an orchestrated media campaign against the NFF officials.
It went into the genesis of the event chronicling that on Saturday January 5 this year there was a syndicated story published in the online and print media that President Muhammadu Buhari had personally directed the prosecution of some “NFF elected officials for alleged but unspecified acts of corruption.”
The media release pointed out the presidency through its spokesperson, Garba Shehu, debunked the claim by stating that President Buhari had not ordered in any manner whatsoever that any NFF officials be prosecuted.
“However, on Monday the 7th day of January 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, 8th January, 2019 and that he had ensured that their names were put on a travel ban list”, the four page statement initialed by Muhammad Sani Katu of the Mamman Nasir and co reports.
It continued that “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 8th January, 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 any court 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 NFF lawyers stated.
The statement reports that the Special Presidential Investigative Panel “unlawfully secured a warrant of arrest to effect the arrest of the affected NFF officials.
“It must be pointed out that while these publications of the news of the warrant of arrest started on Wednesday 9th January 2019, the date on the face of the eventually published warrant unlawfully obtained from a magistrate’s court in Abuja is Thursday 10th January 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 NFF lawyers stated further that “it is most curious that a warrant of arrest would be secured under obviously false grounds in these circumstances against our client’s officials, whose addresses are well known, when no invitation had been extended to these officials to appear at SPIP and have always cooperated fully with SPIP.
“Indeed as at the 8th January, 2019, Amaju Pinnick, President of NFF was in far away Senegal attending the AITEO-CAF continental awards ceremony, an international ceremony shown live on both Nigerian and international television.
“This fact was clearly communicated to officials of SPIP by the legal representatives sent by our client to SPIP office on Tuesday 8th January 2019.
“More grievous to the rights of our client and its officials is the fact that Chief Obono-Obla and SPIP went to secure a warrant of arrest from a magistrate court contrary to the clear provisions of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act, the law setting up the SPIP, that ONLY the Federal High Court is vested with the jurisdiction to issue warrants for the SPIP.
“It can only be concluded that this deviation was purposely to achieve the aim of avoiding the protection afforded everyone, including the affected NFF officials, under the same law that set up SPIP, which requires the SPIP to present a prima facie case to a judge of the Federal High Court to justify its case before a warrant of arrest may be issued under the hand of the judge.”
Continuing, the letter from the offices of Mamman Nasir and co states that “in the face of this obvious persecution and public show trial, our client took legal advice and lodged a petition with the office of the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as the overseeing ministry to SPIP for his intervention to ensure the due process of the Law adhered to.
“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).”
It explained that 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.
“The office of the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been served with the originating Court Processes of the suit, and has duly acknowledged the service bringing to its notice the pendency of the suit.”
Mamman Nasir and co averred that “rather strangely, however, Chief Obono-Obla refused to accept service for himself, even though he is the 2nd 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 NFF lawyers then raised the following posers:
- What would motivate this obvious determined and desperate public persecution of our client and its officials, inspite of their innocence?
- Why would Chief Okoi Obono-Obla insist on personally directing the course of a supposed SPIP investigation in a manner that denies our client and its officials the protection of the presumption of their innocence?
- Why would Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, and his subordinate at SPIP refuse to accept service of originating court processes, when they are named parties to the suit?
- How is it to be explained to Nigerians that a public officer supposedly enforcing the law refuses to go before the court of law?
- What is the purpose of the unlawful warrant of arrest obtained under these highly questionable circumstances, when no charge has been filed against our client and affected NFF officials or who have not been shown to have refused or failed to attend SPIP?
- Why has an online media mob been unleashed on our client and the affected NFF officials to avidly promote the pre-determined media reportage of the activities of Chief Obon-Obla and SPIP and ceaselessly tag the stories to His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR); the Presidency and its media aides, the ruling party, APC; the opposition parties; EFCC; ICPC; FIFA, CAF and their officials, among others? Is this to achieve a pre-determined purpose?
Mamman Nasir and co then stated that his chambers has “reserved for the consideration of the Federal High Court other more involving questions regarding the powers and legality of Chief Obono-Obla and SPIP to even investigate and institute prosecution proceedings against our client and the affected NFF officials in the first place.
The lawyers then wondered why the NFF case was made special. The lawyers wrote: “In the same vein it must appear curious that of the myriads of cases being investigated by SPIP, it is the NFF and clearly targeted officials that are subjected to this sustained media trial and persecution.”