Unless elders of the country wade into the renewed crisis over the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), the nation may not realize its ambition of hoisting its flag at the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup.
FIFA at the weekend banned Sudan and Guinea from all its activities following alleged government interference in the administration of their football. And the same fate may befall Nigeria if the renewed court battle over NFF leadership is allowed to affect the administration of the game. Last Monday, the Supreme Court gave the NFF, led by Amaju Pinnick, and followers of a claimant to the federation’s presidency, Chris Giwa, notice to await further directives on when it would deliver judgment on the suit between the parties.
It could be recalled that Nigerian football has been embroiled in a leadership tussle since 2014 when two boards emerged after elections for positions vacated by the Alhaji Aminu Maigari-led board. The competing claims have been tested at various levels of the court, High Court, Appeal Court and now the Supreme Court. The case, which resulted in FIFA and international sports arbitration body, CAS, banning Giwa from all football activities for dragging football issues to civil court, resurfaced just a few days after Sudanese clubs were thrown out of international football, including the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup, because agents of its government allegedly interfered with its football administration.
As things stand, Nigeria may be stopped from playing its remaining World Cup qualifiers against Cameroun (two matches), Zambia and Algeria if the apex court sacks the NFF leadership. A source, who pleaded anonymity, told journalists yesterday that there were rumours that a top government official was behind the renewed court battles.
“The case was to be heard in December, but the NFF was shocked when it was notified on Friday to be at the courts last Monday. “It is strange that the NFF, an interested party, only got to hear of the court session on Friday from a third party. People should think of the country’s interest in all these,” he said.