Nigeria super eagles has narrowly escaped an international football ban after its government responded to a FIFA ultimatum shortly before a suspension took effect on Monday.
FIFA had issued a statement saying it would suspend Nigeria at 11 am GMT Monday because of a power struggle over the leadership of the Nigeria National Federation, known as the NFF.
Amaju Pinnick was elected head of the NFF in 2014. However, while he was at the World Cup with Nigeria’s Super Eagles team, another faction took over the federation’s headquarters.
The faction was led by sports administrator Chris Giwa who says he is the rightful leader because of a court ruling in his favor earlier this year.
Nigeria’s Sport Minister Solomon Dalung, acting on the court ruling ordered Pinnick and his board to comply with the court and leave the NFF, according to local media reports.
However, faced with a FIFA ban for government interference, Nigeria on Monday rejected Giwa’s claim to leadership and backed Pinnick instead.
The vice president’s media aide, Laolu Akande earlier tweeted: “The FG has already conveyed to FIFA its firm position recognizing Amaju Pinnick-led NFF as the current and only NFF Exco,”
FIFA later released a statement saying: “FIFA received confirmations that the legitimate leadership of the NFF under President Amaju Melvin Pinnick and General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi has been given back effective control of the NFF and its offices.”
It is not the first time that Nigeria has faced a FIFA ban over government interference.
FIFA suspended the country when a high court ordered the NFF to hand over the reins of the national team to a government civil servant after the country’s exit from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Football is a much-beloved sport in the country, but poor showings at international tournaments by the Super Eagles team have often inspired calls for change and prompted successive governments to interfere in the administration of the sport, a clear breach of FIFA rules, which does not accept government interference in football.
The footballing ruling body says it will continue to monitor the situation in Nigeria to make sure “FIFA rules and regulations are fully adhered to.”