The continued occupation of the NFF secretariat by DSS operatives in the wake of the football body’s leadership tussle has raised cause for alarm, writes ’TANA AIYEJINA
In recent weeks, officials of the Department of State Services have been in the news in the political and sports sectors.
This began with their forceful installation of the Amaju Pinnick faction on the Glasshouse — as the Nigeria Football Federation headquarters is known — contrary to a court order restraining Pinnick from functioning as the head of the country’s football.
Thereafter, the DSS again held the Benue State House of Assembly and the National Assembly members hostage. The latter action led to the sack of the DSS Director-General Lawal Daura.
Even Daura’s sack didn’t deter the officials of the security agency, as they again laid siege to the office of the NFF in Abuja in recent weeks, and refused to state their reasons for the action.
The DSS has been involved in the leadership tussle in Nigerian football, since Chris Giwa, who was elected as NFF president on August 26, 2014, resumed at the NFF’s Glasshouse office in Abuja, to take charge of the country’s football body, on July 2.
Giwa has been locked in a supremacy battle with the Pinnick-led NFF board, after an order from a Jos High Court had stopped the election which brought Pinnick to office on September 30, 2014 in Warri, Delta State.
Despite the court order, Pinnick had reigned as the NFF boss, with world football body FIFA in his support.
Giwa, in pursuit of his mandate, stormed the Glasshouse with armed policemen last month to take over the NFF with Pinnick away in Russia on FIFA duty at the 2018 World Cup.
But on July 23, heavily armed DSS officials threw him out of the Glasshouse and returned the Pinnick-led board back to power.
Officials claimed the security agency was acting on a presidential directive, which is yet to be made public.
Ever since, the DSS operatives have occupied the Glasshouse with their intentions unknown.
It was learnt that the security operatives have unleashed mayhem on staff of the football body.
“With the brazenness with which they (DSS) operated in the National Assembly, you can imagine what they would do to the sports sector that’s not given attention,” Abuja-based journalist Victor Iroele stated.
Iroele, who is also the Senior Special Assistant on Media to Giwa, said the security operatives confronted acting NFF secretary general Emmanuel Ikpeme.
“Ikpeme was accosted by four men with guns, three of them on mufti and one on DSS uniform, when he alighted from his car in the premises. One of the men ordered him back to his car and told him to drive off. They even kicked him,” Iroele added.
Some staff of the Glasshouse, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, recounted their ordeal in the hands of the DSS officials.
“Once it’s 4pm, they chase everybody away and force the staff to vacate the premises. They lock up the place and sometimes go with the key or drop it with the security guard.
“Their action that pained us most was when they ordered all of us out on August 9 by 4pm; Even though it was raining, we had to obey them. We were all drenched inside the rain but there was nothing we could do,” one of the staff said.
“The last have not been heard of these people,” another staff of the Glasshouse stated.
“Even when they leave, they give instructions to the security guard, telling him that if anyone comes into the premises, he should alert them on phone. That has been the situation; we virtually work in fear and tears.”
Why the DSS invaded the NFF’s office is unknown, as there haven’t been an official statement or reaction from the security agency. This has raised concerns over whose orders they’ve been acting on as the raging football war continues between the Giwa and Pinnick factions.
Sports minister Solomon Dalung claimed the security operatives were not at the NFF office on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari — as widely reported — describing their invasion of the office as “impunity overstretched.”
“We have three arms of government; the legislature, executive and judiciary. The judiciary is the only competent arm that can vacate the court orders,” Dalung stated.
“So, there is no arm of government that will be involved in the disobedience of a court order under President Muhammadu Buhari. So, what is happening at the NFF by the taking over of the Glass House by the officials of the DSS is impunity overstretched.”
But Pinnick and his men insist the DSS officials are acting on the orders of the President.
“We must give all the credit to our President, Muhammadu Buhari, for acting to restore the leadership of the federation and saving the nation the embarrassment,” Pinnick stated.
However, other Nigerians have lamented the role of the DSS in the crisis rocking the football house.
President, National Association of Nigerian Footballers, Harrison Jalla, led a protest on Wednesday against what he described as “the impunity of the DSS.”
The NANF boss, who led about 45 other protesters, said they won’t relent until the security operatives were withdrawn from the NFF secretariat.
According to Jalla, four gun-wielding DSS operatives were stationed at the gate of the NFF secretariat during the protest, but didn’t obstruct their protest.
“We needed to draw the attention of the government towards the impunity of these people. It shows clearly how they take laws into their hands,” Jalla stated.
“Their activities are all over Nigeria. It’s just impunity and it’s not different from what they did at the National Assembly. We won’t relent until they get out of that place. We will continue to draw the attention of the government and Nigerians to it, that their (DSS) occupation of that place is illegal and unacceptable.
“We paid a formal visit to the new (DSS) DG’s office (before the protest) on his second day in office. Even though he had no time to attend to us, he mandated one of his directors to take our complaints and we asked for the withdrawal of their officers from the Glasshouse.
“The occupation of the Glasshouse is a follow-up from Daura’s time because we can’t trace any record, both from the headquarters and the state DSS here (Abuja), of how they came there.
“So, their new DG needs time to look at the atrocities perpetrated before his appointment and proffer solutions. But we must ensure they leave the place.”
With FIFA’s directive that Pinnick’s board be reinstated by the country or face an international ban on Monday, will the DSS vacate the premises of the football house or not?
Perhaps this will unfold in the coming days as Nigeria faces a critical moment in her football history.
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