Lessons from the latest FIFA Ban on Nigeria
Article 13 (Members’ Obligations), par. 1 and article 17 (Independence of Members and their bodies), par. 1 of the FIFA Statutes which obliges member associations, “to manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not inﬂuenced by any third parties”.
Déjà vu, as another poor outing by the Super Eagles at the FIFA Brazil 2014 World Cup is trailed by yet another FIFA suspension on Nigeria due to government interference in the running of the Nigeria Football Federation.
· 26 August 2010 – Aminu Maigari is elected NFF President amid controversy
· 16 November 2013 – Super Eagles qualifies for FIFA 2014 World Cup after a 4-1 aggregate win over Ethiopia
· 26 June 2014 – Super Eagles progresses to the FIFA 2014 2nd Round as Group F runners-up with 4 points behind Argentina
· 26 June 2014 – Contention and tension over players bonuses boil over, as the team boycott training session ahead of 2nd round match against France
· 27 June 2014 – Presidency intervenes and settles rift and bonuses
· 2 July 2014 – Hon. Justice P. L. Lot of the Plateau High Court sitting in Jos grants interlocutory injunction against Maigari-led board in a suit filed by Mrs. Ebiakpo Rumson Baribote, owner of Nembe FC
· 4 July 2014 – Tammy Danagogo, Sports Minister, appoints Lawrence L. Katken as Acting Secretary General of NFF
· 4 July 2014 – Maigari is arrested, quizzed by the EFCC over issue of financial impropriety, and later released
· 4 July 2014 – FIFA warns Nigeria, and issues 15 July 2014 deadline for reinstatement of sacked Maigari-led board
· 5 July 2014 – Lawrence Katken convenes Extraordinary General Assembly, and impeaches the Maigari-led board over fund mismanagement and other issues
· 9 July 2014 – FIFA suspends Nigeria
· 15 July 2014 – Nigeria fails to meet deadline. However, FIFA gives 48 hours extension for reinstatement of sacked Maigari-led board
· 16 July 2014 – Mrs. Ebiakpo Rumson Baribote vacates suit against Maigari-led board
· 17 July – FIFA lifts ban on Nigeria
This latest suspension, which at the last count sums up the total number of FIFA ban on Nigeria to 3, has become an all too familiar sight in the nation’s football terrain, especially after a major tournament like the world cup.
Past FIFA Bans on Nigeria
· 1989 – FIFA banned Nigeria’s youth national teams for fielding 3 over-age players in FIFA-organised youth tournaments. Aside the suspension which stretched to 2 years, the nation was stripped of its right to host the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship
· 4 October 2010 – FIFA indefinitely suspended Nigeria from international football due to political interference. That followed the action of the Federal Government of Nigeria to ban the Super Eagles from all international competitions for two years for the team’s early exit and poor showing at the FIFA South Africa 2010 World Cup.
· 9 July 2014 – FIFA banned Nigeria with immediate effect for government interference in the running of the NFF
What is puzzling to the millions of passionate football supporters across the country is why our football administrators are yet to learn from the past, one that is chequered with the unmistakable reality that FIFA protects its member associations, like a hen does her chicks from the clutches of the lurking hawk.
The allegations against Aminu Maigari are serious, as also impeachable, but cannot in any way warrant the kangaroo manner the Congress adopted in sacking the board.
Allegations against Aminu-led Board
· Embarrassing the nation in the eyes of the international community due to the board’s failure to fully and firmly resolve issues of finance with the national team players head of the FIFA 2014 World Cup.
· Shortchanging grassroots football development by failing to regularly avail state Football Association of annual grants
· Abuse of NFF Statutes in its constitution of the electoral committee by altering the list of persons approved by Congress at the 2013 General Assembly in Warri, Delta State by inaugurating a different committee.
The age-long argument that seemed to justify political interference in NFF governance because government, as the major financier of the body, should be interested in how its grants are utilized, holds no water as far as FIFA is concerned. Government can only ensure probity and accountability by insisting on strict compliance to corporate governance in the Glass House.
The Football House should seriously consider attaining financial independence from government. First, it must carry out housekeeping to address concerns of financial impropriety and double standards in its dealings with corporate brands.
Already, 26 August 2014 had been scheduled for Congress. Thus, it is imperative on all parties to exercise restraint, and use the forthcoming congress to exercise the mandate of football-loving Nigerians without fear or favour.
With the interlocutory injunction vacated, and Aminu Maigari reinstated, FIFA lifting of the suspension it placed on Nigeria is heartening and welcoming to Nigerians. But the lesson to be drawn from this whole saga is: “go and sin no more”.