By Sulayman Bah
Gambia Football Federation is considering instituting legal action against the National Sports Council (NSC) after the technical arm of government revealed it will probe the Football House of fraud and other alleged vices.
This follows after the NSC last week revealed it will set up a panel to investigate football boss Kabba Bajo’s leadership over the federation purported constitutional violations in the recent Regional Football Associations congresses amongst others.
The move sparked fear of a protracted wrangling between the two institutions amid concerns of yet another looming FIFA suspension on Gambia, giving the world football governing body’s uncompromising stance against government interference in the running of football.
The council’s chairman Borry Darboe , on the back of the release, denied carrying out a witch-hunt on one of their affiliate members –the GFF.
However, Bajo and his team have responded, threatening to drag the council and other stakeholders to court for what it calls the ‘frivolous’ allegations it bashed at them, slamming the move a witch-hunt and a case of settling old scores’.
Below we reproduce verbatim the two-page GFF letter.
The Gambia Football Federation has responded to a letter it received from the National Sports Council where we expressed our deep regrets and surprise to an attempted investigation against the Federation. In the response, we emphasised that the attempted investigation is against the supreme law of football in The Gambia, i.e. the GFF Constitution, the National Sports Council Act and the rules of natural justice.
It is worth noting that the current Chairperson of the NSC, Mr. Borry Darboe has been publicly calling for the removal of the current GFF Executive and it is also public knowledge that he was the chief organiser and contact person for the Press Conference organised by the so-called football stakeholders held on the 17 September 2017, and issues therein are the same issues the NSC is attempting to investigate.
As well as lacking the legal basis to investigate us, constituting an investigation into the GFF under the leadership of Mr. Darboe goes against the fundamental rule of natural justice that “one cannot be a judge in one’s own case” as no investigation into the GFF under the leadership of Mr. Darboe will neither be fair nor independent. Therefore, the GFF Executive wishes to make it clear that due to lack of legal mandate/basis and the conflict of interest of the Chairperson of the NSC (as both the complainant and judge), it will not recognise or cooperate in any investigation conducted by the NSC or any entity set up by the Council in this matter.
Article 65 of the GFF Constitution is very explicit: “GFF shall have jurisdiction on all internal disputes, i.e. disputes between parties belonging to the GFF. The same Constitution establishes judicial and legal organs to deal with disputes and appeals against decisions of the GFF organs. It is worth noting that there are instances on record where the Appeals Committee has set aside decisions of the GFF Organising Committee and GFF Executive based on appeals filed by aggrieved members. Therefore, it is our position that the disputes the NSC is purportedly investigating can be adequately dealt with within the framework of the GFF Constitution.
The GFF further noted that the NSC letter does not cite the provision of any law giving the NSC the mandate and power to carry out investigations into the GFF. The alleged contraventions of the GFF Constitution stated in their letter can only be adequately addressed by the same constitution by any aggrieved party. Therefore, if the NSC is acting in the spirit of the NSC Act, it should direct aggrieved persons to the appropriate forum rather than descend into the arena of disputes between GFF and its members.
On allegations of financial fraud, the NSC is fully aware that the GFF is on record for organising regular Annual General Meetings where members scrutinise and debate the Federation’s Audited Financial Accounts, in addition to the six monthly audits of FIFA funds by a reputable Auditing Firm. Up to date, neither the GFF General Assembly nor FIFA has ever discovered or raised any act of financial fraud by the GFF leadership. Thus the NSC disregarding FIFA, the provider of the said funds, and the GFF general membership whom the funds are meant for is yet another manifestation of the lack of basis of the proposed investigation.
There are existing avenues where individual and group interests could be properly furthered, but witch hunting and settling personal and group vendetta will not take us anywhere. As a result of the frivolous allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement, the GFF is considering legal actions against NSC and all other stakeholders.
In conclusion, we want to express our ardent desire to work and collaborate with the government of The Gambia through any of her organs for the development and promotion of the game which is so much loved by all, and to further unite but not further divide us.
The council were not immediately available for reaction on the GFF’s release yesterday.