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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Nigeria in danger of Fifa sanctions over political interference

Court case over the affair over disputed leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation

Nigeria were knocked out in the group stages at the World Cup and the country now faces possible Fifa actions over political interference in the running of the Nigerial Football Federation. Reuters
Nigeria were knocked out in the group stages at the World Cup and the country now faces possible Fifa actions over political interference in the running of the Nigerial Football Federation. Reuters

Nigeria on Tuesday edged closer to a possible showdown with Fifa after a judge adjourned a long-running court case over the disputed leadership of the country's football federation.

The case, heard at the Federal High Court in the central city of Jos, seeks to have Chris Giwa declared as the real winner of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) elections in 2014.

The country's highest judicial authority, the Supreme Court, had previously upheld Giwa's challenge to the elections, in which Amaju Pinnick was voted in as president.

The Supreme Court referred the challenge back to the Federal High Court for adjudication - but on Tuesday the lower court adjourned the case until September 25.

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The adjournment contrasts with mounting pressure from the world governing body Fifa, which has admonished Nigeria about political meddling in the sport.

Last week, Fifa requested a progress report from the NFF after previously warning it risked a possible ban for breaching rules on political interference.

FIFA statutes dictate that member states should "manage their affairs independently with no influence from third parties" and without recourse to solving disputes in civilian courts.

In addition to the court case, last week Sports Minister Solomon Dalung waded into the row and ordered Pinnick and his executive committee to abide by the court ruling and step aside.

It is understood Fifa had been waiting for the case to end before taking any decision, which is likely to involve an order to reform and the threat of a ban from international football.

But with the adjournment, it could act sooner.

Meanwhile, Pinnick and his executive committee dismissed a separate complaint to Nigeria's main anti-corruption body that alleged "monumental stealing and financial crimes" at the NFF.

"The leadership denied all the allegations," it said in a statement, calling them "baseless" and clearly linking them to the protracted leadership tussle.

NFF spokesman Suleiman Kwande said the complaint came from "disgruntled elements and interlopers who are pawns in the hands of some people with vested interest to smear and embarrass the NFF and its leadership for political gains."

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had not yet invited the NFF to explain itself as part of any investigation, it added. The EFCC itself has not made any public comment.

Pinnick replaced the president of the Ghana Football Association, Kwesi Nyantakyi, as first vice-president of the Confederation of African Football.

Nyantakyi resigned last month and apologised after an undercover journalist caught him on camera allegedly requesting kickbacks. The footage was included in a documentary on corruption in the sport.