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Averting the FIFA ban

World football governing body, FIFA, has given Nigeria up till next Monday, August 20 to stop official interference in Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) or face being expelled from all its activities.

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FIFA says that if the power tussles between the Chris Giwa led-board and that of Amaju Pinnick is not resolved in favour of the latter, it will suspend Nigeria from international football indefinitely.

In a statement released on Tuesday, FIFA said the NFF must be led by its elected president (Mr. Pinnick), voted back on September 30, 2014, and its executive committee. 

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"The Bureau of the FIFA Council decided that if by Monday, 20 August 2018, at 12:00 (CET), the Nigeria Football Federation offices are not handed back to the legitimate NFF executive committee under President Amaju Melvin Pinnick… the NFF will be suspended with immediate effect," FIFA said in a statement. It added, "The suspension would be lifted only once the NFF, under President Amaju Melvin Pinnick and General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi, confirms that it has been given back effective control of the NFF and its offices."

FIFA statutes state clearly, that member states should “manage their affairs independently with no influence from third parties”.

The world governing body had previously warned Nigeria that if implemented, court rulings would likely be considered to be interference in the NFF’s internal affairs, which could attract sanctions.

The long-running dispute over who is in charge of the NFF dates back to August 2014. Giwa first claimed to have won election to the top job through a congress that was not recognized by FIFA. The world body did not endorse the election and threatened suspension unless it was re-run. Pinnick won the re-run. However, Giwa then launched court action over the result, insisting that the re-run contravened a court order. The dispute lingered for four years with Pinnick and his executive committee running the affairs of football in the country. 

But on July 1 this year, Giwa forcefully took over the NFF secretariat as president-elect of the federation, claiming his authority from a Supreme Court ruling. Then on July 23 State Security operatives, following orders from the Presidency, ejected the Giwa-led board and reinstated Pinnick and his executives. Then again, the Minister for Youths and Spo‎rts, Solomon Dalung, last week on national television declared that the federal government recognised the Giwa-led board as the authentic NFF leadership, whilst he had earlier constituted a six-man stakeholders committee led by former NFF Chairman, Col. Abdulmumini Aminu to mediate in the crisis. The sports minister’s assertion here is preposterous and unreasonable. It’s wrong for him to posit that the government has a preferred faction in the NFF power tussle. As an arbitrator, the minister should take an unbiased stance and be fair-minded which will help at ensuring a successful resolution to this debilitating crisis. Thus, we believe that insisting Mr. Giwa should remain NFF president at this juncture will not help our case with FIFA.

The world football body is poise at imposing a lengthy ban on Nigeria from all football matters locally and internationally if Mr. Pinnick-led NFF board is not allowed to operates freely and completes its tenure which ends next month. The ban will spell doom for the country’s football. Crucially, we have only three days left to take necessary action. We only urge the Presidency to urgently reverse the position of the Mr. Dalung and save Nigerian football from collapse. If the NFF leadership crisis was not settled by Monday, it could plunge the nation’s football into an abyss.

The immediate casualty of this ban would be the Super Eagles who are scheduled to face Seychelles on September 7 in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.  

The Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who met behind closed doors with the sports minister and Mr. Pinnick on Wednesday in relation to the crisis, should be commended for initiating the parley, which given the current situation, is geared towards avoiding the FIFA sanction. It is a step in the right direction.

 

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