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Athletics Federation factions bicker over court ruling

 A new storm seem to be brewing in the crisis laden Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) as two factions led by Hon Olamide George and Engr Ibrahim Gusau continue to battle for leadership of the sporting federation in courts.

It is no open secret that the athletics federation is presently factionalized with two board members laying claim to its presidency.

Trouble in the AFN began when the George faction on the basis of allegations of corruption and high handedness suspended Gusau from office.

Despite his widely publicised suspension, Gusau and his faction arranged for an Annual Congress in December 2019 in Anambra State.

The George faction immediately responded, that by calling for an annual congress, Gusau had flagrantly violated article 6.1.4 of the federation’s constitution which stipulates that a 60-day notice must be given before an annual congress of the federation can be convened.

But the congress went on as planned where six of its board members, including George, were sacked and a new General Director independent of the sports ministry appointed.

The Gusau led faction also declared autonomy from the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development which was a subtle response to allegations that the ministry was behind their tribulations.

In addition, the Gusau faction filed a motion in January 2020 with the Federal High court with motion number M/4349/2020, filed with suit no CU/849/2020, to stop the other faction from holding a scheduled board meeting while filing a suit against the sports ministry and AFN in March, pleading that his impeachment is reversed.

Gusau had said that he was being witch-hunted for exposing corruption involving some top sports ministry officials.

“An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 3rd and 4th defendants/respondents either by themselves, privies or agents from going ahead to hold the board meeting of Athletics Federation of Nigeria scheduled to hold on the 23rd of January, 2020 or holding any other board meeting of the AFN at any other time pending the determination of this suit,” the motion said then.

However, the George led faction met in January ratified the impeachment of the hitherto suspended president, Ibrahim Gusau a decision they claimed was in line with the federation’s statute.

Arising from a board meeting held at the AFN secretariat in Abuja, the faction noted the violation of the Athletics federation’s constitution by the embattled Gusau who they alleged usurped the powers and functions of the Secretary-General by changing the password of the AFN email account as well as entering an agreement with sportswear giants, Puma without formal documentation.

In the communiqué issued at the end of that particular meeting, the aggrieved board members also frowned at Gusau’s refusal to pay athletes, coaches and other officials’ allowances or not pay in full at major international competitions.

Furthermore, the aggrieved AFN board members forced Gusau to step aside while George was appointed in acting capacity as president upon conclusion of the investigation of sundry allegations on the running of the federation.

After he was impeached from office as AFN President, Gusau had approached the Federal High Court in Abuja seating in Jabi asking for a restraining order on the ministry.

But the motion for the restraining order was out rightly rejected by Justice Oti Agabaza and declined to entertain the matter.

However, the court adjourned until March 4, 2020, when the preliminary objection raised by the Ministry would be heard. The coronavirus pandemic, however, pushed the case forward till July 1.

It will be noted that the Ministry’s application had asked the court to dismiss Gusau’s case by challenging the court’s jurisdiction in a case he filed against respondents , including the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare; the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development; Acting AFN President, Olamide George; and Secretary, Adisa Beyioku.

Gusau’s fate was later sealed by a panel of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), which ruled his declaration of autonomy for the AFN from the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to be out of order and impossible because the ministry is the supervisory authority for National Sport Federations in the country.

With the judgment which was delivered on Wednesday, July 1, Gusau was reinstated as the Federation’s president after nullifying his suspension as well as all other actions and resolutions taken by the Hon. Olamide George’s led AFN.

However, George is insisting he remains the AFN president and he will remain so pending when he appeals the Abuja High Court judgment.

“It is a declarative and not an enforceable judgment. Nigerians should remain calm as I remain the president pending our appeal,” he said.

Meanwhile, the sports ministry said the judgment was merely declaratory and cannot be implemented.

“This judgment is merely a declaratory judgment that defines rights of parties,” the director, Legal Services at the sports ministry, D. A Muhammad, said in a statement, adding, “the ministry has the right of appeal within 90 days.”

According to Muhammad, the judgment “(a) defines the rights of parties; (b) it does not order anything specific to be done, and (c) it does not award any damages.”

He added that the ministry of sports was “Taking steps to challenge this judgment and we are in the process of filing our notice of appeal, as well as a motion seeking a stay of execution of the court’s judgment. In the circumstance and out of respect for the judicial process, parties must maintain the status quo pending the determination of the motion.”

Muhammad also declared, “The civil matter has nothing to do with all the criminal allegations against Gusau before the various investigating agencies. The ministry will explore its rights of appeal within the statutory period allowed by law.”

Meanwhile, a key member of the Gusau led faction, Sunday Adeleye who was removed by the George faction but has been reinstated by the Federal High Court Abuja said the ministry can go ahead and appeal the judgement.

“The ministry can appeal the case if they want. For them to say they want to appeal the judgment shows that they are the ones fuelling the crisis.

“We thought the minister will hide under the judgment and call us together, Gusau and George and ask we obey the courts. The minister does not want to succeed, if he toes this path.

“Olamide George is not allowed to call for congress because he was not elected. We have been saying this for a long time,” he said.

With the ministry poised to return to court to appeal the judgement and George insisting vehemently that he remains the president of the athletics federation, the last about the crisis in the AFN is yet to be heard.

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