It is common occurrence in the Nigerian
football industry for Footballers to be heavily owed salaries. In fact, it has
almost become the norm. That is saddening, but even more saddening the manner
the footballers in the Nigerian leagues go about the recovery of salaries being
owed them by the football clubs they play(ed) for; usually known as “overdue

It is baffling why most of them go about
begging their Club Chairman, the Governor and/or Commissioner for Sports of the
state? Why do they beg for the money like it were some loan or gift they are
asking for?

Players having a sit-out to protest
non-payment of their salaries.

This article seeks to address this perception
of players, especially the mindset that sports employment-related disputes
cannot be tabled before civil courts.

Below is what players can do:

1. Non-Nigerian Players in the Nigerian

For a non-Nigerian player owed by a Nigerian
football club, his or her claim can be filed at the Dispute Resolution Chamber
(DRC) of FIFA. The DRC will accept such a case because it is of “international
dimension”, as stated in Article 22 (b) of the Regulations on the Status and
Transfer of Players (RSTP).

It may interest you to know that the DRC does
not charge players filing fees for such employment disputes. The only cost the
player may incur is the professional fess the Attorney or Representative may
charge; which is sometimes paid after judgement has been obtained – known as
“contingency fees”.

Our firm has had the opportunity to be
involved and/or personally represent a few players from countries such as
Ghana, Mali, Benin Republic, etc; so it can be recommended as a reliable avenue
to recover the entitlements of players. (Note that such a claim must be filed
within two (2) years of the cause of action, to avoid it being statute barred).

After the player has obtained judgement
against the Nigerian club, the DRC gives the club an ultimatum (usually 30
days) within which the club must pay the judgement sum (money). Before now, in
the event that the club fails to pay within that period, the defaulting club
used to be referred to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee which may then fine the
cub, ban the club from signing players, deduct points from the club’s accumulated
points, or even ban the club from football competitions until the club
However, pursuant to the latest RSTP which became effective from June 2018, the
DRC now has the power to include sanctions in its decisions without the need to
refer the case to the Disciplinary Committee upon the non-compliance of a club.

2. For a Nigerian player who has a
claim against a Nigerian club
, the DRC would reject it as it is expected to
be adjudicated on by the NFF Arbitration Committee; being an “internal

Thus, such a case can be submitted to the NFF Arbitration Committee which would
give an arbitral Award (a decision) and order the defaulting club to pay the
player, or face sanctions similar to those earlier-mentioned that FIFA dishes

However, in reality, many Nigerian players at
left stranded because the NFF often fails to enforce the decisions, by
sanctioning defaulting clubs.

In fact, there are arbitral awards that were
delivered as far back as 2010 which have not been complied with by Nigerian
clubs till now.

So if a player has, or is subsequently able
to get an arbitral award at the NFF Arbitration Committee, he/she can approach
the regular court (National Industrial Court) to have it enforced.

Note that this must be done within 6 years from the date the arbitral award was
obtained. There are players who have lost their entitlements because they
failed to enforce such arbitral awards within 6 years as stipulated by the
Statute of Limitation. It is better to enforce compliance rather than beg.

Meanwhile, Some may ask the question of what
to do in the face of inefficiency by the NFF Arbitration Committee; especially
that the committee is not constituted at the moment.

In this circumstance, a player may get an
Attorney to file an employment dispute on his or her behalf at a civil court.
The civil court vested with jurisdiction on employment disputes is the National
Industrial Court (NIC). This is by virtue of the provisions of Section 254 (c)
of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the National Industrial Court Act

You may wish to note that although Article 68
Para 2 of the FIFA Statutes stipulates that recourse to ordinary (civil) courts
of law as regards disputes is prohibited, employment disputes do not fall under
this prohibition.

A player can decide to file an
employment-related dispute at a competent ordinary court, because the choice of
judge is a fundamental right that cannot be denied. (See FIFA Commentary,
explanation Article 22, page 64)

In fact, there are some employment disputes
which the FIFA DRC rejected on the ground that the parties had already
submitted the dispute before the regular courts in their country, and that such
courts have jurisdiction to hear the cases.

Thus, except the contract a player signed
with a club expressly states that disputes cannot be referred to
ordinary courts, or it states that the NFF Arbitration Committee/FIFA DRC/Court
of Arbitration For Sport shall have jurisdiction on disputes; then a player can
approach the National Industrial Court to recover his/her entitlements.

Written by:

Tosin Akinyemi, Esq.

Source : Sportlicitors