Nigeria Football Federation Suspended by FIFA After Government Interference

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2014

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Updates from Friday, July 18

The Associated Press reports that Nigeria's ban has been lifted (courtesy of Fox Sports):

FIFA has lifted Nigeria's suspension from international competition after the country's soccer leaders were reinstated.

After Nigeria's second-round elimination at the World Cup, the country's government issued a legal order for the sports ministry to appoint new federation leaders. FIFA rules protect its 209 member federations from influence by third parties, including politicians.

But FIFA said on Friday that court proceedings and an order preventing the Nigeria Football Federation from operating had been withdrawn.

FIFA said in a statement that as the ''legitimate bodies (have been) reinstalled, FIFA has decided to lift the suspension.''

Original Text

FIFA has very clear rules surrounding third-party interference in national football federations. After the Nigerian government hit the Nigeria Football Federation with a court order that prevents it from doing its job, the FIFA Emergency Committee decided to suspend the NFF from all international competition on Wednesday.  

According to a statement FIFA released on its website, the suspension won't be lifted until "the court actions have been withdrawn," which could lead to the Nigeria Under-20 women's team missing out on the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in August:

The FIFA Emergency Committee has decided today, 9 July 2014, to suspend the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) with immediate effect, on account of government interference. Article 13, par. 1 and article 17, par. 1 of the FIFA Statutes oblige member associations to manage their affairs independently and with no influence from third parties. ...

... The suspension will be lifted once the court actions have been withdrawn and the properly elected NFF Executive Committee, the NFF general assembly and the NFF administration are able to work without any interference in their affairs. As a result of this decision, no team from Nigeria of any sort (including clubs) can have any international sporting contact.

The Nigerian government sacked the entire NFF leadership structure following the team's return from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and appointed its own official, which is in violation of FIFA's official statutes.

As The Associated Press reported (via Fox Sports), NFF President Aminu Maigari was even arrested due to an incident with player payments during the tournament, which led to the Nigerian government's decision to go against FIFA's directives.

Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

Government officials want to look into the finances of the NFF under Maigari, with delegate Obinna Ogba telling the AP, "Don't forget that in as much as we respect FIFA's law, we cannot jettison our own law here."

This isn't the first time Nigeria's government has interfered with the NFF, as country president Goodluck Jonathan threatened to withdraw the team from international competition after a subpar 2010 World Cup.

The Super Eagles made it out of the group stages of the 2014 World Cup but lost to France in the round of 16, 2-0.

The Nigerian government has until the July 15 to lift the court actions and reinstate all of the NFF officials, assuring they'll be able to work without third-party interference. Should the government fail to comply by then, the women's U-20 team will be banned from the upcoming Women's World Cup.