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More post-World Cup turmoil for Nigeria soccer federation

July 24, 2018

State security officers “stormed” the Nigeria Football Federation headquarters on Monday and removed a group who claimed control while the FIFA-backed head of Nigerian soccer was at the World Cup, the NFF said.

The officers from the Department of State Services — Nigeria’s national intelligence agency — were acting on the orders of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the NFF said in a statement.

They removed a faction led by Chris Giwa, a club owner who was banned from football for five years by the NFF and FIFA in 2016 but continues to use court orders in Nigeria to lay claim to the presidency of the NFF.

FIFA recognizes Amaju Pinnick as NFF president and said Nigeria faces a ban if he is removed from power by external forces. FIFA does not allow outside interference in national soccer bodies.

Giwa has repeatedly tried to oust Pinnick, with the dispute stemming from two separate elections for NFF president in 2014. Pinnick won one and Giwa the other. FIFA recognized Pinnick’s election.

The NFF has been embroiled in turmoil in the aftermath of the last three World Cups. In 2010 and 2014, Nigeria was temporarily banned from international competition by FIFA because of outside interference in the NFF.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on July 13 in Moscow that Nigeria would face another ban if Pinnick wasn’t recognized as NFF president.

“Nigeria’s football association has a president, his name is Pinnick,” Infantino said. “He has been elected. We have been very clear about that.

“It’s a very clear cut and simple case as far as we are concerned and we have made this very clear and, if necessary, we will make it even more clear.”

The operation by the Department of State Services on Monday came three weeks after Giwa and his supporters took over the NFF headquarters in Abuja while Pinnick was in Russia.

The NFF said secretary general Mohammed Sanusi returned to the offices on Monday to take over until Pinnick, who is also a vice president of the Confederation of African Football, returns from a meeting of that body in Morocco. Pinnick is expected to return to Nigeria on Tuesday.

The situation may not be completely resolved with Nigerian media quoting sports minister Solomon Dalung as saying the court orders that recognized Giwa as president are still valid.

Dalung reportedly called the operation to remove Giwa from the NFF building “security excesses,” and said they were not ordered by President Buhari, disputing the NFF’s version.

Dalung sacked Pinnick and his board this month in favor of Giwa. That action was not recognized by FIFA or Pinnick.

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