The latest crisis in the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), coming on the heels of the ouster of the Super Eagles from the 2018 World Cup in Russia, is disturbing. It is also not good for the development of the nation’s football. Justice M.H. Kurya of the Federal High Court, Jos, on June 5 sacked the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF Board and recognised the Chris Giwa faction pending when the motion on notice is determined.
However, the Pinnick-led Board filed a counter motion at the same court asking it to void its decision and declare that it has no jurisdiction to hear the case. It will be recalled that the Supreme Court had on April 27 restored the orders of a Federal High Court Jos that set aside the September 30, 2014 election that brought Pinnick and his board into office. It was to give effect to this order that Solomon Dalung, Minister of Sports and Youth Development, acting on the advice of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, asked the Pinnick Board to comply with the court’s ruling and vacate the Glasshouse.
The interference by the courts and the government in our football matters is an indication that all is not well with the nation’s football. If the crisis persists, Nigeria may be banned by the world football governing body, FIFA. The FIFA statutes and code of ethics are very clear on such matters. In Article 59 (2) (3), FIFA frowns on the interference of regular courts or governments in football matters. When disputes arise, the Court of Arbitration in Sports (CAS) based in Louissane, Switzerland, is recognised as the final arbiter. In fact, it was for this breach of FIFA regulations that Giwa and two others were suspended from all football activities for four years in 2015. That suspension is still in force, and it is a surprise that Giwa could seek to benefit from the current confusion arising from another regular court’s ruling.
Our concern is the future of Nigeria’s football and the fate of millions of its followers. Can Nigeria afford another football crisis? What would that do to our image abroad? And what happens to our
immediate and future football engagements in the face of a FIFA ban? FIFA has called for an update on the crisis. Top officials of the NFF are on the verge of being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) following a petition by a former coach of the national team, James Peters.
The present crisis in NFF is unnecessary now that qualification matches for next year’s tournament of African Cup of Nations (AFCON), slated for Cameroon, are on. Instead of mapping out strategies that would enable the national team to qualify for the football event, which we missed in the last two editions, we are currently enmeshed in this contrived crisis. We should remember that the next edition of the World Cup in Qatar is only four years away. Countries that take the game seriously have started planning for it. Igniting the NFF crisis, at this point in time, is certainly not the way to go.
The pattern of such crisis has become too familiar. The Abdullahi Sani Lulu Board was sacked after the World Cup in 2010, the Maigari Board suffered the same fate in 2014, and now the attempt to sack the Pinnick Board just before the end of the 2018 World Cup. What makes the latest attempt even more intriguing is that the football Mundial is still ongoing. Let the crisis be promptly resolved in the interest of the nation’s football. Since the court has fixed July 10 for the hearing of the counter motion filed by the Pinnick Board, let it handle the matter expeditiously. All stakeholders in the nation’s football should work in concert to resolve the crisis.