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Nigeria risk wrath of FIFA over leadership row

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President of Nigeria Football Federation Amaju Pinnick speaks to the media in Abuja, Nigeria, July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Nigeria’s government on Monday ordered the country’s football association to comply with a court ruling about its leadership, a move that may open up a new confrontation with FIFA.

The sports ministry directed the Nigeria Football Federation to comply with a Supreme Court judgment that overturned the election of NFF president Amaju Pinnick. The court also recognised Chris Giwa as head of the NFF.

“This is a court order,” Sports Minister Solomon Dalung’s spokesman Nneka Anibeze said in a statement.

“Mr Amaju Pinnick and others are also directed to comply.”

Giwa arrived at NFF headquarters in the capital Abuja at about 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) with dozens of armed police in an apparent attempt to enforce the court order.

The long-running dispute over who is in charge of the NFF dates back to 2014.

Giwa first claimed to have won election to the top job.

However, FIFA did not endorse the vote and threatened suspension unless it was re-run.

Pinnick won the re-run, although the vote was also deemed to have been flawed. Giwa then launched court action over the result.

FIFA statutes dictate that member states should “manage their affairs independently with no influence from third parties”.

It has previously warned Nigeria that if implemented, court rulings would likely be considered to be an interference in the NFF’s internal affairs, which could attract sanctions.

NFF lawyer Festus Keyamo has published a letter dated June 5 and purportedly from FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura which stated it recognised Pinnick and his executive committee.

It also reaffirmed a FIFA ban on Giwa, which the Nigerian court called “unconstitutional, null and void”.

Nigeria has previously been banned for government interference in the running of the NFF.

The country’s under-20 team is currently preparing for the under-20 World Cup in France in August.

The senior men’s side, the Super Eagles, who crashed out of the World Cup in the group stages, start the qualifying campaign for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in September.


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