Festus Abu, Olalekan Adetayo and ‘Tana Aiyejina
Nigeria has avoided sanctions from FIFA over the leadership crisis in the Nigeria Football Federation after the Federal Government recognised Amaju Pinnick as president of the NFF.
The country thus beat Monday’s deadline to hand the NFF offices “back to the legitimate NFF executive committee under Amaju Pinnick, who was duly elected on September 30, 2014” or “the NFF will be suspended with immediate effect for contravening art. 14 par. 1 i) and art. 19, as well as art. 14 par. 1 a) of the FIFA Statutes”.
In the world football ruling body’s August 14 statement, FIFA stated that “the suspension would be lifted only once the NFF, under President Amaju Pinnick and General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi, confirms that it has been given back effective control of the NFF and its offices”.
The power struggle between the winner of the August 26, 2014 NFF presidential election in Abuja Chris Giwa and Pinnick — who emerged from a separate poll in Warri on September 30, 2014 — and the resultant legal battles tossed Nigeria into the spotlight all for the wrong reason.
FIFA first warned they would hammer the country last month after the Giwa group, acting on the April 27 Supreme Court judgment, displaced the Pinnick board and took over the NFF secretariat in Abuja on July 2.
In dramatic fashion, officials of the Department of State Security stormed the NFF secretariat after FIFA stated that they only recognised Pinnick as the leader of Nigerian football to displace the Giwa board in favour of their rivals.
With the Giwa board gaining the upper hand again, FIFA last week read Nigeria the riot act, threatening to suspend the country from world football indefinitely if the Pinnick board was not restored.
After a series of meetings with the warring groups, the Federal Government resolved the impasse and saved the country from being punished by FIFA by recognising Pinnick as the authentic leader of the NFF.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, on his Twitter handle @akandeoj said the Federal Government had already conveyed its position to FIFA.
Akande wrote, “The FG has already conveyed to FIFA its firm position recognising Amaju Pinnick’s NFF as the current and only NFF executive.
“Government will also continue to work with all relevant stakeholders involved to resolve dispute in a timely manner.
“The Federal Government is upholding NFF treaty obligations to FIFA.”
FIFA in a statement confirmed that they had “received confirmations that the legitimate leadership of the NFF under President Amaju Pinnick and General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi has been given back effective control of the NFF and its offices.”
The statement added, “ In view of these circumstances, FIFA deems that the conditions set by the decision of the Bureau of the FIFA Council have now been met and consequently the suspension of the NFF will not take effect.
“FIFA will continue to closely monitor the situation in order to ensure that FIFA’s rules and regulations are fully adhered to.”
Meanwhile, former Super Eagles midfielder Mutiu Adepoju expressed his delight at the decision, saying it had helped the country avert a potential FIFA ban.
He also expressed optimism that the decision would help chart a new path for Nigerian football after being in the doldrums in the last few weeks.
“It means the crisis is over and we can now continue with our normal football activities,” Adepoju, who represented Nigeria at the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, said.
“Our football has been at a standstill for the past one month; everybody has been under pressure with doubts over the future of our football. But I believe this decision is a right one for our football to move forward.”
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