Nigerian chaos deepens as federation bosses arrested at Abuja airport

Aminu Maigari By Mark Baber
July 4 - The president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Aminu Maigari, and other board members were arrested by the Department of State Security Service at Nanmdi Azikiwe International Airport as they returned from the World Cup on Friday, July 4, 2014, according to reports from the NFF secretariat in Abuja.

Just days after Nigeria was knocked out of the World Cup by France, with coach Stephen Keshi reported to be resigning and with the NFF Board on the plane back from Brazil, Nigerian football has been thrown into chaos as a court ruled that NFF boss Aminu Maigari (pictured) and all other "purported members of the Executive Committee" are banned from running the affairs of Nigeria football pending a further hearing on July 11.

Granting the order, Justice P.L. Lot said, "that interim injunction is granted restraining the 2nd Defendant, Alhaji Aminu Maigari, and all other purported members of the Executive Committee and Congress of the 1st Defendant (NFF) from further controlling, commanding or managing the affairs of the 1st defendant and all football matters in Nigeria pending the hearing, and determination of the motion on notice."

"An order of mandatory injunction is granted compelling the 4th defendant (Minister of Sports) to appoint a senior members of the civil service in the 1st Defendant (NFF) to command , control and manage the affairs of the said 1st defendant and the football matters in Nigeria pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice in this matter."

Minister of Sports and Chairman, National Sports Commission, NSC, Dr. Tammy Danagogo responded to the court's injunction by directing Lawrence Longyir Katken, a senior staff member at the NFF, to take over as Acting Secretary General of the NFF.

The legal proceedings which have given rise to this extraordinary state of affairs arise out of a dispute between the plaintiff, Mrs Ebiakpo Rumson Baribote, chairman of Nembe City FC, her husband Victor Baribote Rumson, former Nigerian Premier League (NPL) Chairman, and the NFF. The dispute originally concerned the formation and legality of the League Management Company and Victor Baribote's attempt to reclaim his position as head of the NPL.

Victor Baribote had petitioned FIFA to intervene in the dispute with the NFF. FIFA's Jérôme Valcke responded by saying the dispute was an internal matter for the NFF. The NFF Board pounced on the opportunity presented and banned Baribote from football for a period of 15 years alleging him of "impersonation" in his petition to FIFA, a charge which Baribote strenuously denies, saying FIFA was fully aware of his position when he wrote his letter.

Football stakeholders in the South-south zone, from which Baribore hails, had accused the sacked NFF Board of launching a witch hunt against members of the zone and rejected the 15 year ban saying, "We are proud of Chief Baribote for sponsoring a Premier League club in the country. We feel that those managing the nation's football should applaud him for giving employment to several youths of this country instead of crucifying him. We urge the NFF to rescind the ban, if not, we would take legal steps to resist such witch-hunting ban,"

FIFA took no concrete action against current NFF Board member Dilichukwu Onyedinma who led a homophobic witch-hunt against lesbians playing football in Nigeria, as well as overseeing a League in which women players were reportedly forced into prostitution due to non-payment of wages.

So it is ironic that the members of the deposed board of the Nigeria Football Federation, who gave Baribote a 15 year ban for his petitioning to FIFA, have now themselves written to FIFA demanding a swift reaction over the temporary restraining order.

The deposed board, whose president Maigari in November said of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, "Our leader is truly transforming Nigeria football, nay Nigeria sports, and we pray for several more years ahead for him to take our sports to higher heights," now claims the court's injunction constitutes "government interference."

The deposed board has reportedly told FIFA that: "It's unfortunate that things have turned this way. This latest action is a calculated attempt at rubbishing the good work that the NFF board has done. We're the best board so far in the history of Nigerian football and don't deserve to be treated this way."

The board had been scheduled to meet to consider what to do about the national team's Head Coach, Stephen Keshi, who has reportedly confided in his players that he was leaving the post with his contract running out this month. The action also comes a month before the NFF Congress in Abuja where Maigari and most members of the current executive committee were expected to stand for re-election, but which has now been put on hold.

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