Nigeria Risks FIFA Ban

THISDAY Newspaper

After a poor showing at the ongoing World Cup, President Goodluck Jonathan has suspended the Super Eagles from international competition for two years.
Under the move, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) is to be dissolved and an interim board appointed while an audit of funds spent on the country’s outing at the World Cup would be undertaken.
But following Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) rules, Nigeria risks sanctions as government’s interference with national associations is strictly dealt with.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity Ima Niboro told State House Correspondents yesterday the decision would "enable us put our house in order and work out a more meaningful way to engage the global stage in terms of football.”
The Super Eagles was sent out in the group stage of the World Cup without winning a game, losing two matches and pulling a disappointing 2-2 with South Korea.
Jonathan’s decision is said to be based on the advise of a presidential taskforce set up to investigate the failure of the team.
FIFA told BBC last night it had no official information on the matter.

"However, in general, FIFA's position regarding political interference in football is well known. Our statutes do not allow for any political interference," the FIFA statement added.
The President’s decision is bound to elicit sharp criticisms from soccer loving Nigerians.
FIFA had in 1989 banned Nigeria from participating in age-group football competitions for two years due to age cheating.
Niboro said: "President Goodluck Jonathan has directed that Nigeria withdraws from international competition for two years to enable the country to put its house in order.

"This directive became necessary following Nigeria's poor performance in the ongoing World Cup."
The President also plans an audit of the country's World Cup organising committee, he said.
"If any financial misappropriation is discovered, all officials responsible will be held accountable," Niboro added.
NFF released a statement apologising to "all football-loving Nigerians" for the country's early exit from South Africa.
"No previous board has qualified Nigeria for all major tournaments internationally," the statement said, adding that officials wanted Swedish coach Lars Lagerback to remain at the helm.

Rivers State Governor and Head of the Presidential Task Force on the World Cup campaign, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, confirmed the move, saying Nigeria would write to football's world governing body FIFA to explain its decision.
He said the decision was to ensure “the embarrassing outcome of the World Cup in South Africa won’t repeat itself.
“We struggled to qualify. We got to the World Cup; we got a new coach; Presidential Task Force (PTF) was paying the coach. We agreed to pay the coach N1.3 million which we paid.
“We got to the World Cup and we had all sorts of maladministration; we also had all sorts of problems and we found out that the problem of Nigeria Football now is structural and there is the need for us to look inward.”
Following the decision, Nigeria risks its national and club teams as well as referees being banned from all international competitions.

The country’s officials may also not be allowed to attend meetings or events.
Nigeria was set to begin the bid to qualify for the 2012 African Nations Cup finals in September against Madagascar.
Meanwhile, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and police yesterday swooped on the NFF secretariat.
Some of the principal officers of the football body were quizzed by the EFCC on the World Cup spending while the police were on hand to maintain peace and order.
Member of staff were observed carting away personal items such as computers, cars and office files from the secretariat.
NFF Secretary-General Bolaji Ojo-Oba and Board member Taiwo Ogunjobi refused to speak with journalists over the withdrawal and the probe of the World Cup finances.

Indications of what government had in the offing had been looming before the start of the World Cup when Sports Minister Ibrahim Bio on the eve of the World Cup kick-off ordered the NFF to suspend all electoral processes, but the Nigeria federation insisted on proceeding with the time-table for the polls.
Pressure from Bio to stop the NFF board election scheduled for August 21 prompted FIFA to warn government of the implication via a letter signed by FIFA Secretary- General Jerome Valcke that the country risks ban should such meddling continue.
NFF Chairman Sani Lulu Abdulahi, a civil servant, is seeking re-election with other members of the present executive committee.
At an executive committee meeting on Tuesday, the members had asked for more time to enable them articulate how they spent money voted for the prosecution of the World Cup finals.


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