Averting FIFA’s Hammer

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A couple of days ago, one Rufus Giwa and his members stormed the Glass House office of Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, in company of Police escort to take over reigns of leadership of the Federation. This follows a recent ruling by the Supreme Court directing that the judgement of a Federal High Court in Jos, which had earlier upheld the faction of the Giwa-led executive as the authentic executive committee of the NFF, be adhered to.
In addition, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung, acting on the directive of the Attorney-General of the Federation, ordered the Amaju Melvin Pinnick-led NFF executive committee to hand over to Giwa and his group.
Indeed, this is a matter that has lingered since 2014, after the shenanigans that surrounded the exit of then Aminu Maigari led NFF leadership, which led to two NFF delegates conferences. The first saw the emergence of Giwa and his group, while the second produced the Pinnick-led executive, which was eventually accorded recognition by world football governing body, FIFA.
However, in spite of taking their case up to the Court of Arbitration in Sports, CAS, the highest adjudication authority in sports related disputes recognised by FIFA, where they lost, the Giwa group has not relented in their quest to take over the leadership of NFF.
In January 2017, Giwa and his group were banned by the Confederation of African Football, CAF, for taking the matter to the regular court, a move that FIFA seriously frowns at. The world body subsequently endorsed CAF’s decision.
However, following the Supreme Court’s ruling and Giwa’s resumption at the Glass House, fears of an impending FIFA sanction on Nigeria have been mounting by the day. Only last week, FIFA reportedly wrote to affirm its recognition of the Pinnick-led executive committee and warned the country to sort itself out within a few days.
This is why we think that Nigeria should not allow FIFA to bring its hammer down on football in the country. We believe that there is still an opportunity for a truce in order to save Nigerian Football and its administration from continuous crises.
The implication of a FIFA ban on Nigeria at this time can only be imagined. Apart from making the country a pariah State in the comity of football nations, all of the national teams, from the Super Eagles and Super Falcons to the youth teams would lose the eligibility to be part of any international competition. Continental club competitions will throw out Nigerian clubsides, particularly, Enyimba International FC, which is currently in the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup competition.
Even the teeming youth of the country, who see football as a career and means of empowerment would be denied the platform to showcase their talents in order to attract patronage.
Unarguably, football is an elixir in this country. Nigerians love the game irrespective of their religious, political and ethnic affinities. It has come to be a strong force that unites all citizens, and the country can ill-afford to be ostracised from it, particularly, at this time that many Nigerians are faced with untold challenges and need anything that can assuage their frustrations.
We, therefore, call on the Sports Ministry and the Presidency to intervene in the NFF imbroglio before the FIFA hammer falls on the country. Without prejudice to the sovereignty of Nigeria and the position of the courts, we think that a political solution should be found as soon as possible in order to put an end to the NFF crisis once and for all.
It is also time, we believe, that the country should domesticate the FIFA statute and its processes so that any aggrieved person within the football sector, and indeed sports, would ab initio know the steps to take to seek redress. Nigeria cannot continue to act in ways and manners contrary to internationally accepted best practices.
The Tide believes that Nigeria has made good inroads in CAF and FIFA in recent times to allow the lingering NFF crisis plunge the country into confrontation with FIFA, a development that can only see Nigerian football and the youth be the ultimate losers.
The fact that the Pinnick-led executive committee is on the last days of its tenure should be enough reason for a truce and an amicable resolution in the interest of the country and the game.