THE World football governing body, FIFA, has suspended Nigeria till further notice after government interfered in the running of football in the country.
The most immediate effect of the ban is that the country will not be entitled to participate in the upcoming FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, coming up in Canada between August 5 and 24, except the suspension is lifted by July 15, 2014.
Nigeria will also forfeit an U-17 African qualifier in Democratic Republic of Congo, slated for July 20, if the ban is not lifted.
But the NFF in a statement late on Wednesday denied that FIFA had stopped Falconets from travelling.
In the statement by the NFF’s Acting General Secretary, Lawrence Katken, the body said, “It is a blatant lie to say FIFA refused to issue tickets to the Falconets. What happened was that the former General Secretary, Musa Amadu, mistakenly cancelled the earlier reservations, so when the delegation got to the airport, they could not find seats on the flight.
“FIFA has told us they are working hard at alternatives, because Lufthansa Airline flights from Abuja are fully booked for the next weeks, and promised to get the players and officials to their training camp in Canada even if they have to travel in batches, from Thursday (today).
Nigerian sports minister, Tammy Danagogo, had insisted the country would not be banned.
In a press statement on the website of the world football governing body, the FIFA Emergency Committee said it decided on Wednesday (yesterday) “to suspend the Nigeria Football Federation with immediate effect, on account of government interference. Article 13, par. 1 and article 17, par. 1 of the FIFA Statutes oblige member associations to manage their affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.”
The decision, according to the statement, “follows a letter sent by FIFA to the NFF on 4 July 2014, in which it expressed its great concern after the NFF was served with court proceedings and consequently an order preventing the president of the NFF, the NFF Executive Committee members and the NFF Congress from running the affairs of Nigerian football was granted by a High Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The said court order compels the Nigerian sports minister to appoint a senior member of the civil service to manage the NFF until the matter is heard in court, without giving any date for such a hearing.
The authorities then appointed a person who decided to convene an extraordinary general assembly on July 5, 2014.
“This extraordinary general assembly was convened in violation of the NFF statutes,” FIFA said.
Originally, an elective congress had been planned by the NFF to take place on August 26, 2014.
The FIFA statement further read, “The suspension will be lifted once the court actions have been withdrawn and the properly elected NFF Executive Committee, the NFF general assembly and the NFF administration are able to work without any interference in their affairs.
“As a result of this decision, no team from Nigeria of any sort (including clubs) can have any international sporting contact (art. 14 par. 3 of the FIFA Statutes).
“During the period of suspension, the NFF may not be represented in any regional, continental or international competitions, including at club level, or in friendly matches.
“In addition, neither the NFF nor any of its members or officials may benefit from any FIFA or CAF development programmes, courses or training during the suspension period.”
Curiously, few hours before the FIFA ban was announced, the sports minister, Danagogo, had said in Abuja that the world body had no reason to sanction the country over the removal of Maigari as the NFF president.
Danagogo, who spoke with State House correspondents shortly after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, said FIFA would not sanction Nigeria because Maigari’s removal was not as a result of government’s interference in the affairs of the federation.
He explained that the decision to remove Maigari was taken by a legitimate NFF congress.
He said, “Nigeria is safe, I can tell you that. What FIFA wants is for the right things to be done and there should be a high-level independence in what is happening.
“So far, if you look at what has happened, I think the government has been very fair; the government has done everything possible not to unduly interfere.
“As a government, we have constitutional duty to maintain law and order. When factions in football family begin to dispute, we have a duty to see that we don’t allow them kill themselves, we don’t allow them destroy the buildings where they are operating.
“Beyond that, we have not done anything. What we have done is to see that law and order is maintained.”
The minister said that when he returned to the country from the World Cup in Brazil, the Maigari-led NFF wrote to inform him that there was a court order saying that they were not the legitimate executive council of the NFF and that a civil servant had been appointed and directed to take over.
He said the NFF through the letter urged him to intervene to maintain law and order.
He said the group of FA chairmen and stakeholders, who also did not want the Maigari government to continue, called their congress and passed a vote of no confidence in the executive council.
He said FIFA must have handed down the ultimatum to Nigeria on the matter with the belief that Maigari’s removal was an action by the government.
The minister added, “Ordinarily, the tenure of the Maigari-led executive has almost come to an end by July, August. And it is a routine, even in our politics, that once we get to election season, there is always disputes between parties who are interested.
“So, what you are seeing is the normal election conflict within the NFF. The Maigari exco had tried to set up electoral machinery to ensure they were re-elected and the majority have come together to say no.”
Nigeria was banned from age group competitions for two years by FIFA in December 1989 after the organisation discovered age discrepancies involving some of its top internationals; Samson Siasia, Andrew Uwe and Dahiru Sadi.
Also, the country was threatened with a FIFA ban in 2010 just after the Super Eagles crashed out of the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa.