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Stakeholders fear FIBA may ban Nigeria as players protest in Abuja

By Alex Monye 
29 January 2022   |   3:53 am
With less than two weeks to the January 31 deadline given to Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) to conduct its board elections by the Federation of International Basketball Association ...

[FILES] Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) has announced a slight change in the commencement date of the 15th Zenith Women Basketball League

• Ogunade Insists January 31 Benin Elections Will Hold

With less than two weeks to the January 31 deadline given to Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) to conduct its board elections by the Federation of International Basketball Association (FIBA) or face possible sanctions, stakeholders fear that unfolding events could lead to the country’s ban by the world body.

The NBBF election has been fixed for January 31, 2022 by an electoral body constituted by the federation, but there are conflicting signals from some stakeholders that the federation could be heading to a stalemate.

Yesterday, some basketball players staged a protest at the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development over the leadership crisis rocking the NBBF.

The players, who marched peacefully with their former representative in the Musa Kida-led NBBF board and NBA star, Ejike Ugboaja, said they were perturbed by the signals they were seeing from the ministry and some other elements.

Addressing journalists after meeting with officials of the Sports Ministry, Ugboaja alleged that the ministry was trying to return Kida as NBBF president, saying that the players had long rejected him.  

“The Sports Ministry doesn’t want to conduct an election; all they want to do is to force someone, who we don’t want, on us. They are scared of FIBA Africa and FIBA International, as the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, is claiming.

“We, as players that have played in several World Cup tournaments, and have represented Nigeria for the past 12 years, can boldly say that FIBA is not Nigeria and we are not scared of their ban.

“As it stands today, if they force a president on us, we are going to ban ourselves from playing basketball.

“He (Musa Kida) will not lead us anymore. We need Musa Kida to apologise to us (players) for calling us thugs and hoodlums.

“We have cried to the minister and if he refuses to listen to us, we will make a big statement to Nigerians. I am emotional right now because they are taking us for granted,” Ugboaja stated.

Also speaking during the protest march, the newly elected players representative, Stanely Gumut, also complained about the role being played by the ministry.

“The ministry has succeeded in wasting our time, whatever they are telling us now ought to have been done last year. They kept us for so long in the name of reconciliation or trying to fix things; but coming back now to tell us that they want to leave everything in our hands is unfortunate.

“This is like a coup, throwing someone at us in the last minute… it is unfortunate and very painful. If you are talking about ban, the domestic league has been under ban for the past four years, which is like a ban.”

Reacting to the protest, former NBBF Vice President, Babs Ogunade, said the players have the right to protest under the provisions of the Nigeria constitution. He noted, however, that the Abuja protest should not be tagged as Nigeria Basketball players protest as other states in Nigeria also play basketball.

“I don’t understand what the players’ protest is about. It is not only in Abuja that basketball is played; other  states across the federation also have a say in Nigerian basketball.

“The ministry last week announced January 31, 2022 for the NBBF election billed to take place in Abuja; but the Congress, which is legally authorised to fix venues for elections, has said the election must hold in Benin, Edo State.

“On the day of election, if anything negative happens, we all face the consequences. Anybody has the right to protest,” he maintained.