President Muhammadu Buhari has waded into the leadership crisis in Nigerian football by directing that elections scheduled for September must hold as scheduled.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) had earlier scheduled its Elective Congress for September 2022 when the tenure of the current Amaju Pinnick-led board expires.
However, the controversy in the NFF, as well as a legal hurdle, has put that election in doubt.
President Muhamadu Buhari communicated this directive in a letter dated June 17 and signed by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare.
The letter, which was addressed to Mr Pinnick, also directed that the instrument of football administration in the country, the NFF Statutes, be amended to include other stakeholders, who had hitherto been disenfranchised or denied equal representation in the NFF congress.
The minister quoted the president as directing the NFF to ensure the amended statutes reflect the national yearnings, aspirations, and peculiarities of Nigeria as a sovereign nation while aligning with the principles and objectives of football as set by the world soccer governing body, FIFA.
Though it has since subsided, there was immense pressure from various quarters on Mr Pinnick to resign following Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
While many called for his resignation, others championed a third term for the former Delta State Sports Commission boss.
Though Mr Pinnick publicly announced he was dropping the third term bid after consultations with his family, some persons believe he is considering a third term in office; a move some are vehemently opposed to.
Apart from the rumoured plot of Mr Pinnick planning to remain in office, n order obtained from the Bayelsa High Court in 2021 barred the NFF from holding any congress.
The claimant, Seigha Obiene, a board member of Nembe City Football Club, sued the NFF for the alleged illegal composition of its board.
He alleged that against the NFF statute, some persons who were not eligible to vote in the 2015 and 2018 NFF elections voted and are also illegally occupying their present positions as board members.
The court then stopped the federation from holding its congress. On January 10, 2022, the court advised the defendants to apply for an ‘out of court settlement’.
Neither an out-of-court settlement nor a move to vacate the court order has been pursued by the NFF, a development some claim is deliberate so as to extend the tenure of the present board.
However, the NFF General Secretary, Sanusi Ahmed, while speaking with Abuja-based sports platform, BSN, said it is not true that the federation is not taking any steps to ensure it gets the legal backing to call for a congress.
According to him, the NFF got a lawyer to represent it in court. He, however, suggested that the legal encumbrance could still prevent the congress from holding.
“We cannot hold congress because of contempt of court and elections cannot hold without congress. And it is when we hold congress that we can plan for elections.
“There are legal processes to be followed for the congress to be held and we will do everything legally in making sure that the congress holds,” he said.
Already, a group of State Football Association chairpersons have written to the NFF secretariat enjoining them to do everything within their power to settle the case so that the elective congress could hold.