By Mark Baber
Published on Thursday, 21 August 2014 09:52
August 21 - A fire gutted the upper floors of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) Headquarters, known as the Glass House, in Abuja on Wednesday morning. The cause of the fire is yet to be established, with some suggestions an "electrical fault" may have been to blame.
The newly re-instated president of the NFF, Aminu Maigari, pledged anyone found culpable would be identified and prosecuted, whilst the just deposed president described it as an act of sabotage and the former board member of the NFF and proprietor of Premier League club, Nembe City FC, Victor Rumson Baribote said there was something " fishy" about the incident.
Although accounts differ, it appears that the fire started in the accounts office and damaged the offices of the President and Secretary-General, causing extensive damage to the building and particularly the upper floor and roof.
According to two witnesses, the mystery fire started in the office of the Chief Accountant at about 10am and rapidly spread, damaging the accountant's office, the ICT Unit and the General Secretary's office on the second floor before fire fighters turned up to tackle the blaze.
The chief accountant, Andekin Christopher, in whose office the fire began was not in the building when the fire started and wept as he told reporters,
"I did not leave anything on in my office yesterday. When I left the office, lights were all switched off; we even switched it off from central switch. I am very shocked because it started in my office. Why should this start in my office, why?"
Christopher explained he had "just transferred from National Sports Commission (NSC) to this place. I don't know anything about this place. Why, why my office?"
NFF spokesman Ademola Olajire claimed that the fire was caused by an electrical fault in an office on the second floor, "However, the accounts department, which is on the right wing, as well as the President's office, were not affected in any way."
Maigari, who arrived at the scene around 11am said: "I was shocked when I got the news, but first and foremost one must appreciate Almighty God because no life was lost and we are grateful to Him, and I know that things will come back to normal, as we are going to set up a security panel to get into the root of what actually happened."
"Our security operatives are on the issue and, if anybody is found culpable, he'll be brought to book." Maigari added, "This incident will in no way affect Super Eagles Cup of Nations qualification matches which are already in top gear."
Although there were some claims the fire started in his office, NFF general secretary Musa Amadu said "The fire started from the chief accountant's office as I was told." Amadu added, "But we must not engage in blame games and thank God that no life was lost. But this is sad and unfortunate."
Amadu confirmed that: "It's a very, very serious matter. You can imagine, most of the NFF's sensitive and important documents of the NFF are in the secretary-general's office and for the fire to destroy the accountants' office is very sad. It's a set-back for the NFF."
NFF vice-president Mike Umeh, who was acting president until Maigari was reinstated, putting the fire in the context of a meeting on Tuesday where a communiqué was issued by the NFF postponing next Tuesday's general elections, in which he was one of the two approved candidates.
Umeh told media, "A lot of corruption is going on in the Nigeria Football Federation. The [fire incident] is an act of sabotage."
"The meeting held [at the NFF Secretariat on Tuesday], we were not part of it and we did not agree with it. Nobody can perpetuate himself in power. It is not done.
"They are just buying time. We have to hold our elections on the 26th of this month. If they like let them burn the whole of Abuja we must hold our election.
"Of course it could be an act of sabotage if not what kind of fire (outbreak) is this? This happened during working hours. It did not happen during the night when we can say it was as a result of power failure (surge) during the night."
Umeh added: "I understand one of our big men was here watching the fire burning. The information I got was that the General Secretary was here watching the fire burning."
Meanwhile Victor Rumson Baribote, central to the recent dispute in Nigeria's football establishment said, "Even as I don't want to apportion any blame on anybody yet, but coming at a time when people were calling for a probe and people needed documents, then it needs to be investigated because it means that there is something fishy."
The NFF has occupied the Glass House for 17 years, and had promised to move into the new Sunday Dankaro Football House in the National Stadium complex after it was inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan on February 21, 2012. Amadu gave Nigerians an assurance the move would be completed before the 2014 World Cup but last month it was reported the NFF would stay in the Glass House for the foreseeable future as the federation could not afford to buy new furniture.
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