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Court clears Nigeria Football Federation officials of corruption

A Nigerian court has cleared five officials of the Nigeria Football Federation {NFF), including its president, Amaju Pinnick, of corruption charges.

Pinnick and his two-vice-presidents, Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko, along with general secretary Muhammed Sanusi and executive committee member Ahmed Yusuf, were discharged and acquitted on 16 counts of alleged misappropriation of $US8.4 million from FIFA and Naira 4 billion from the Nigerian Government in a case brought by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel.

That panel was dissolved in September by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who directed that all its cases be handed over to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.

At the court on Tuesday, a counsel from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation said it could not proceed with the matter as the proof of evidence could not sustain the charges.

"The matter was adjourned till today to allow time for investigation as to whether the defendants should be arraigned or not by the Office of the Attorney General which had taken over the matter," defence counsel Sani Katu said.

"The Office of the Attorney General investigated the matter and discovered that the proof of evidence could not sustain the charges.

"On that basis, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation applied to withdraw the charges, and the consequence is that the defendants should be discharged and acquitted from all 16 charges."

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Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, who had in September ruled the case to be "political", agreed with the submission and ruled that, in view of these facts, she had no option than to discharge and acquit the defendants on all counts, stating that the case should never have been brought before the court in the first place.

Pinnick said the ruling was a vindication of the NFF's position from the very beginning

"We have always said that these accusations was a clear case of victimization of the NFF leadership by disgruntled individuals on a mission of vendetta, and those who lost elections and were seeking other means to upturn things at the Glass House [The NFF headquarters].

"We will remain committed in our determination to change the face of Nigerian football and we thank President Muhammadu Buhari for allowing the course of justice to prevail."

It is not the end of the road for the NFF, however, as there remains one outstanding case, on similar charges brought forward by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

That case was put on hold after the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation submitted that it was also taking it over with a view to ascertaining its validity, seeing that the same persons were being investigated by several agencies on the same allegations and charged in different courts borne out of petitions by the same individuals.

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