Open Letter: The Chairman, Nigeria Football Federation,
We are Solicitors to Mrs. Dilichukwu Onyedinma (Hereinafter referred to as 'our client' ) and on whose instruction we write. You will recall that election into the Nigerian Women League board members was conducted on the 29 th day of January 2011 wherein our client was returned as Chairman of the league having pooled the majority of votes cast in the said election in strict compliance with Article 16 of the GUIDELINES FOR THE ELECTIONS INTO REMAINING THREE ELECTIVE POSTS OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE NIGERIAN FOOTBALL FEDERATION . (Hereinafter referred to as 'the Guideline' )
Our client was therefore sworn-in as the substantive Chairman of the women football league of the Nigeria Football Federation.
It is important to note that before the said election, our client was on the 19 th day of January, 2011 cleared to contest the election as a candidate under the umbrella of the Federal Capital Territory, North Central Zone. Our client's name was therefore published as a qualified contestant having satisfied all the requirements of the NFF Statute and the Guideline, specifically Article 4, 5 and 7 of the Guideline. The facts about our client which were presented to the Electoral Committee for her candidature and eventual victory are as follows: (a) Our client is an Assistant Director in charge of Sports, Federal Capital Territory, (b) Our client is the Manager/Coordinator of FCT Queens Football Club, Abuja. (c) Our client has been resident in the Federal Capital Territory for a period of 28 (Twenty eight) years. (d) Our client was duly nominated by her club. (e) Our Client was cleared on the 19 th of January, 2011 and contested under the North Central Zone.
Letter of nomination of our client by the Director of Sports, F.C.T and Chairman of FCT Queens was presented to the Electoral Committee and is hereby annexed for your perusal.
As at the 29 th of January, 2011 when the election was held no petition was filed or pending against our client as required by Article 8 (4) of the Guideline challenging the competency or eligibility of our client to contest the elections. At the risk of prolixity but for clarity, we reproduce the entire Article 8.4
'8.4 Acceptance of petition begins on the 20 th of January and ends on the 21 st of January, 2011.'
From the above provisions of the Guideline, it is clear that acceptance of petitions in respect of eligibility of candidates ended on the 21 st day of January, 2011.
However, to our client's surprise, she was invited by the Appeals Committee over a petition filed by one AISHA FALODE, who all along participated in all the events leading to the election and the election proper but never complained about the candidature of our client until she lost the election. Our Client promptly appeared before the Committee but was asked to go without being informed of a definite date for the sitting of the Committee. The committee did not sit to hear the Appeal till the 25 th day of February, 2011, in clear violation of Article 17 of the Guideline which requires that petitions must be heard and determined within 7 (seven) days of their receipt.
These grave fundamental issues as distilled above were raised before the Appeal panel but the panel glossed over it and went ahead to hear and determine a petition it clearly lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain.
Assuming but without conceding that as at the 25 th day of February, 2011, the panel had the competency to sit and give the decisions it gave, it is our contention that the reasons given for such decision is not tenable both under the NFF Statutes and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The decision was therefore widely condemned (rightly) within and outside the glass house.
Our Client forwarded a complaint to your office which was received on the 3 rd day of March, 2011. The petition is attached.
In consideration of our Client's complaint and wide criticism the unjust and baseless decision of the Appeal Committee received from all Nigerians, the board and the Executive Committee of the Nigerian Football Federation met on the 4 th day of March 2011, and resolved as follows:
'(4) Executive Committee resolved to set up an Arbitration Tribunal to look into the decision of Friday, 25 th February, 2011 by the NFF Electoral Appeals Committee to annul the 29 th January, 2011 elections into the boards of the Women's National and Amateur Leagues.'
Find attached for ease of reference the communiquÃ© issued by the Executive committee on the 4 th day of March, 2011.
Notwithstanding the decision of the Executive Committee nullifying the decision of the Appeal panel and the resolution to set up an arbitration panel, our client has been consistently restrained by your office from carrying out her functions as the Chairman of the Women League. This forms the gravamen of our complaint in this letter.
Our brief revealed that our client has made several efforts to carry out her duties as the Chairman of the Women League including attending the board meeting of the Nigerian Football Federation but was restrained on your orders. Her functions were unlawfully assigned to individuals, alien to the administration of Football.
We see this as usurpation of the office of our client by you and an abuse of our client's right to freedom from discrimination as enshrined in Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended).
We are by this letter demanding that within 48 hours after the receipt of this letter, you immediately accord to our client recognition as the Chairman of the Women League of the Nigerian Football Federation and give her access to all rights and privileges due to the said office.
T AKE NOTICE that if you fail or neglect to heed the above stated demand within the time stated above, we shall be left with no other option than to explore other legal remedies available to us against you.
In making the above demands, we are not oblivious of the so-called FIFA Rules which restrains disputes arising from Football from being taken to the regular courts. However, we are of the considered view that FIFA Rules does not and will never supersede the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which gives citizens of Nigeria the rights to seek redress in the regular courts, especially where, as in this case, mischief makers are hiding under the so-called FIFA Rules to perpetrate illegal and unjustifiable acts. We cannot fold our arms and watch private citizens desecrate with outright impunity the provisions of our Constitution and other laws of the country.
If you therefore give us the option, we shall not hesitate to approach the regular courts of our land for redress. Thank you.
Yours sincerely, For: Festus Keyamo Chambers
UGOCHUKWU EZEKIEL, ESQ. OGHENOVO O. OTEMU, ESQ. Counsel Asst. Head of Chambers, Abuja
CC: 1. The Director-General, National Sports Commission, Abuja.