By Sylvanus Ofekun
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the federal high court on Tuesday discharged and acquitted the 5 accused NFF officials.She dismissed the entire case with all 16 charges, and acquitted the NFF chieftains in consideration of the submission of the defence and the prosecution and in line with the rules of administration of criminal justice
A welcome development by some persons while others had some reservations about the prosecution counsel.
The federal government had in May through the disbanded SPIP headed by Oko Obono Obla arraigned Mr Pinnick and four others on allegations they diverted $8.45 million, which was given to the NFF as fees for appearing at the last Russia 2018 World Cup.
The five officials, including the NFF President,Amaju Pinnick,the NFF Secretary, Sunusi Mohammed; the 1st Vice-President, Seyi Akinwumi; the 2nd Vice-President, Shehu Dikko and an Executive member, Yusuff Fresh, were also accused of misappropriating N4 billion without the approval of the NFF.
They were also alleged to have contravened the law by failing to declare their assets.
The NFF in its statement by the Director of Communications,Ademola Olajire explained that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation had requested to take over a similar prosecution of the defendants by anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“Only last month, a motion by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to remove the names of Pinnick and Sanusi from the witnesses’ category and add them to the list of accused persons in a case at the FCT High Court over the same $8.4million FIFA Grant was put on hold after the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation submitted that it was taking over the case with a view to ascertaining its validity, seeing that same persons were being charged spuriously in different courts and/or investigated by several agencies over the same allegations hewed out of petitions by the same individuals.” Olajire said in a statement.
Meanwhile,a group, Concerned Football Patriots (CFP), has alleged that the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, is making frantic efforts to shield the President of Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, and other accused officials from being prosecuted for the mismanagement of $9.5m FIFA grant.
The group raised the alarm through its Coordinator, Jonas Ahmed.
The AGF has shown that he is insensitive to the plight of the youth in this country whose future has been mortgaged due to the unconscionable looting of the treasury of NFF by those in-charge of its affairs. The AGF, who is supposed to be the legal arrowhead in the fight against corruption that will liberate the country from poverty, is sadly the one fighting with zeal and determination to shield NFF officials that have already been investigated and charged by the anti-corruption agencies of the government.”Ahmed said.
It is pertinent to burst the burbles of those celebrating with the acquitted NFF Officials that the storm is not over yet, there are numerous of petitions at different anti graft agencies.
Those discharged and acquitted yesterday are still under investigation by the EFCC and ICPC,the later anti graft agency as seized the properties of these officials.
Although,the NFF officials can boast of the strong bond that exist between them and the Attorney General of the federation,Abubakar Malami SAN.
Section 174 of the 1999 constitution as amended gives the Attorney General the power “to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority and persons;and to discontinue at any stage before judgement.”
A lot of Nigerians have the insinuation that the fight against corruption is a mare rhythm and blues song by those in government,which ought to have Nigerians dance to it.Ironically, corruption have grown with a geometric progression under the APC.
FIFA in 2015 indicted the NFF for misappropriating football development grant and consequently removed Nigeria from benefiting from the grant.
One will be tempted to ask the following;
What is the interest of AGF by shielding those who are supposed to face trials?
What is the relationship between the AGF and the NFF Secretary, Sunusi Mohammed?
What happened to all the foreign and government funds?
Why is the president so silence about reforming and delivering our football from hijackers?
The AGF should allow the ICPC and the EFCC tried the indicted officials in court without interference,so as to believe that he is with Mr.President in the fight against corruption.