Onigbinide, Taribo back FIFA as suspension looms

Festus Abu, ‘Tana Aiyejina and Idris Adesina

FIFA has threatened to hand Nigeria world football suspension on Monday   if the country fails to resolve the lingering leadership crisis in the Nigeria Football Federation.

And  former Nigeria coach Adegboye Oniginde and ex-Super Eagles defender Taribo West believe the country deserves to be punished by FIFA.

The world  body also  threatened to  suspend  Ghana over  the dissolution of the  Ghana Football Association   by the  government over  the  corruption scandal involving the  suspended GFA president Kwesi Nyantaki.

Nigerian football has not known peace after  separate   NFF presidential elections  in 2014  produced two presidents – Chris  Giwa and Amaju Pinnick – with both  claiming rights to the leadership of the NFF.

Giwa  emerged as the winner of  the  August 26, 2014 NFF poll in Abuja, while  Pinnick won the September 30, 2014 election in Warri.

With FIFA  recognising  Pinnick as the leader of Nigerian football, Giwa  decided to seek legal action, and  the owner of Giwa FC has    been locked in a power struggle with the former to head the NFF.

Following sports minister Solomon Dalung’s  directive to  the NFF to  comply with the   Supreme Court  judgment  on April 27 restoring  the orders of the Federal High Court setting aside the Warri  election,  the Giwa board  took  over the secretariat on July 2.

But FIFA frowned upon the development and  the president of the body Gianni Infantino in Moscow  on July 13   warned they would  not accept Giwa as  NFF  president.

In response, operatives of  the Department of State Services  stormed the NFF secretariat   to restore   the displaced  Pinnick  NFF board to power.

However,  the Giwa board  allegedly backed by the sports ministry appear to  have assumed control, forcing FIFA to read the country the riot act on Tuesday.

In a statement on their website, FIFA  warned that Nigeria would be suspended   if “the Nigeria Football Federation  offices are not handed back to the legitimate NFF executive committee under  Amaju  Pinnick, who was duly elected on September 30,  2014,.”

The statement added,“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. The suspension would be lifted only once the NFF, under  Pinnick and General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi, confirms that it has been given back effective control of the NFF and its offices.

“Furthermore, the Bureau decided that if the suspension of the NFF takes effect, the Nigerian team currently competing in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France will still be allowed to continue to participate in the tournament on an exceptional basis given that the tournament is underway.”

Onigbinde, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the development on the telephone on Tuesday,  tacitly backed  Nigeria’s suspension by FIFA.

He said, “I think we need a long-term break from international football to ensure that we put the right structures in place to tackle such challenges as this. I don’t care who is in power, what I care about is that the right thing should be done.

“If we don’t take that break to put our house in order, we will keep receiving such threats of suspension from FIFA anytime this comes up – and the sad truth is that it will keep occurring until we do the right things.”

The veteran coach added, ““I believe some people are using the threat by FIFA to suspend Nigeria  as a blackmail not to get the right things done and until the right things are done, the situation will always remain the same.”

Taribo said,“FIFA is right, some people just want to destroy Nigerian football because they have godfathers in high places. What is Giwa fighting for? What are his plans for Nigerian football? As far as I’m concerned, he doesn’t have a stake. Enough of this madness. If I could, I would join FIFA to hit them harder.

“Amaju’s tenure is almost over, let it run out. Under him, the Eagles had no issues with allowances. So let him leave in peace. They should respect FIFA. There’s nothing in our league anymore, and we keep fighting.”

Also, ex-Nigeria goalkeeper Segun Oguns  echoed Taribo’s sentiments, urging FIFA to ban Nigeria.

He said, “In fact they (FIFA) are late, if they want to ban Nigeria, I don’t care. FIFA is aware of the problem we have in Nigeria today, remember how (Ibrahim) Galadima was removed from office?

“As far as I’m concerned, Amaju’s board has failed Nigerians, maybe we will come back to our senses if FIFA bans us. How do I care if he’s (Amaju) CAF vice-president and friend of Infantino? How has this reflected on our league and the state of our football?

“There’s nothing happening at home here; our players are leaving for Congo, Sudan and Tanzania. We must have technocrats in the system, not opportunists who dwell on government money to become billionaires overnight.”

Spokesman for the Giwa board Victor Iroele accused FIFA of bias in its action.

 He said, “We are not aware of any letter from FIFA saying they will ban Nigeria.

“What we have is an internal crisis and FIFA should have heard from both sides before acting. The NFF is bound by the laws of Nigeria, and Nigeria is not an inconsequential country.”

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