New Broom to Sweep Impunity

Do the duties of state officials overlap their territorial jurisdiction? We have just seen one enacted by the chief judge of Bayelsa State in swearing in the elected governor of Rivers State by the order of the former attorney general of the federation, Mohammed Adoke. Henceforth, by that action, all the jurists in Nigeria have come under the federal executive, a questionable act under the separation of powers. The attorney general of the federation is an appointee of the executive and has no judicial powers to determine guilt or innocence, according to our laws. Adoke has just set a precedent in overlap jurisdiction not contained in our laws. If unchallenged, the Ekiti chief judge may now try cases of offences committed in Osun State and determine guilt or innocence. Adoke has staged the grand finale of the reign of impunity that started at the federal level when former President Olusegun Obasanjo, helped by Nuhu Ribadu and Bayo Ojo, pronounced people guilty of crimes in contravention of the duties of the court. I am not a lawyer, but I am not stupid. Does it mean now that the governor of Rivers State shall henceforth be beholden to the laws of Bayelsa and that any official of the two states can act territorially beyond their jurisdictions known to our laws on each other’s behalf?

Mushin, a suburb of Lagos, was in Western Nigeria when the Federal Capital Territory was created after the 1953 constitutional conference that tore the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) apart. Boundary Hotel, Idi Oro, was the boundary of Lagos and Western Region. Alakara police station, almost facing Boundary Hotel, was in Lagos. During tax raids in those days, workers who crossed to the Lagos side could not be arrested by officials of Western Nigeria. That type of respect for territorial jurisdiction obtains up till now in the United States of America that we imitate. Not any longer in Nigeria. Under whose laws did Adoke derive the powers to transfer judges? That really was the act he boldly staged by violating the boundaries of power. And the Madam Chief Judge of Bayelsa has opened the floodgate to interpretations of no mean consequence as to the independence of the judiciary. Does it mean she can now take decision on the order of any executive in her state or beyond in the performance of her duties? That smells of jurisdictional sell-out of the independence of the judiciary because Adoke had not the powers to fire or hire her. Must this impunity stand and how valid is the swearing-in of that governor and the actions he has taken in office? Nigerians are waiting for answers from the Supreme Court, the apex interpreter of our laws.

Impunity stinks. Those of us who have been opposing FIFA for abetting fraud and corruption are being proved right by current events in the football world. Like in Nigeria until the recent change of baton, impunity has been the other name of FIFA. And under Sepp Blatter and his immediate predecessor, Joao Havalenge, most affiliated associations to FIFA have swum in corruption because the organisation told them they were above the local laws. In most of the affiliated associations, officials have taken leave to live beneath the law. Governments in Africa are the main financiers of these associations, yet their officials are not accountable to the providers of the funds. Football has been my greatest passion for more than seven decades. I started playing football as a toddler because all around me were older relatives who were sporting stars, some of whom were pioneer representatives of Nigeria internationally. Gentlemen ran sports in Nigeria in my youth and they encouraged athletes with anything within their reach.

I recollect the football leadership of people like Oba Akenzua II, Pius Anthony, O. Oluwole, I. O Ransome Kuti, Festus Okotie-Eboh, Chief Agbontaen and many other Nigerians who because of their passion for football provided anything within their means to promote the game. If you were born in Benin, Sapele, Warri and Asaba in the 1930s or 1940s and you were not involved in one game or the other, you would feel you were a disgrace to your clan.

In some cases, if you performed poorly in a competition, you would be caned at home for not holding aloft the family tradition. Sports did not affect academics because they helped quick thinking and built healthy bodies that withstood diseases and developed sharp comprehension. When I see Nigerian footballers play nowadays and match them with the billions of naira yearly expended on the game by government, I shudder to wonder what a great mask envelopes the running of soccer in Nigeria. Money has killed soccer here. The so-called leaders violate the laws, changing legislation at their whims. There is nothing known as Nigerian Football Federation to our laws. Really, that body cannot sue or be sued in a regime of strict interpretation of laws. There is even a court decision on it. They blatantly overrode the law setting up the Nigeria Football Association with the backing of FIFA and disobeyed our court.

All the African Football Associations will support Blatter because he shielded them from the hammer of the law against improprieties in their different countries. There have been reported cases of improprieties in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Serria Leone, Cameroons and many other African Football Associations covered up by FIFA with the non-intervention of government policy. Yet, these associations go with a bowl to ask for money from governments.

Sepp Blatter’s resignation is happy riddance to football impunity. I wrote before about how some top FIFA officials compromised their offices in their dealings with corrupt top sports officials in Africa.

Football, really, has declined in Nigeria. There have been no replacements for the Jay Jay Okochas and Daniel Amokachis in the last 15 years. Whereas soldiers produced world-beaters in sports when they ruled, including the first global victory, the Under-17 soccer victory under General Muhammadu Buhari’s reign, and the golds in Olympic football and female long jump under General Sani Abacha, there is nothing to report in Nigeria now, except the talented success of Blessing Okagbare. FIFA must be purged of impunity and corruption. It should no longer cover up for the thieves in African football. In the same manner, impunity of any form must be curbed in Nigeria to install the rule of law, not the rule of man. The Confederation of African Football must also be visited with the same whip to knock it to proper shape, shorn of dictatorship. Africa needs a new broom to sweep away impunity. In the case of the Rivers governorship imbroglio, Adoke ought to have heeded the American Supreme Court judgement on Al Gore and George W. Bush presidential contest which was clear on jurisdiction in a federation, vide Florida vote.

 

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