By Fidelis Ebu
Uncertainty, disbelief and hopelessness are words that attempt to capture the feeling across football circles in the country yesterday as the minister of sports and chairman of the national sports commission, Ibrahim Isa Bio directed the Nigeria Premier League Board not to relegate any club from last season’s premier league competition.
At the end of a meeting with the managements of the NPL, NFF and club owners in Abuja yesterday, the minister said it was resolved that there would be no relegation from the premier league for the 2009/2010 season. He said the modalities would be worked out before the start of the new season scheduled for October 23.
The four_paragraph communiqué jointly signed by Miko Diso of the NSC, Okey Obi of NFF, Shehu Gusau of NPL, Suleiman David representing Club owners and Tunji Babalola, the communiqué drafting committee secretary gave Davidson Owumi the nod to continue in office as the NPL chairman.
But a source who attended the meeting yesterday told our correspondent that the idea not to relegate clubs originated from the national sports commission.
According to our source, the minister informed that the league would be divided into two, meaning more teams may be required to form the top divisions of the divide. Details were still scanty as at press time.
But the new directive has been outrightly condemned by some of the stake-holders who attended the Abuja meeting, saying that the move would be a big drawback to the Nigerian league.
“Nigerian football will suffer a great deal. I do not know how he came about this decision but I feel he(the minister) is overstepping his bounds,” our source who pleaded anonymity said.
Continuing, our source said, “I am surprised because the promotion and demotion of clubs, setting up competition rules and other such matters are the exclusive preserve of the NFF congress. Why should the minister get himself involved in such fundamental issues?”
“That the current leadership of Nigeria Premier League under Mr. Davidson Owumi shall continue in office.
“The meeting notes the single dissenting position of Mr. Victor Baribote on the issue of the election of Mr. Davidson Owumi as the Chairman of the NPL, and recognizes Mr. Victor Baribote’s right to pursue the case further if he so desires”.
Baribote, the chairman of Bayelsa United FC has already said he would not renege in his pursuit for justice in the NPL chairmanship election as he vowed to ensure the elections into the NPL board was over_turned in his favour.
He was of the opinion that if the minister wanted to effect changes in the country’s football, he should have used the congress to effect the change. “When Jega wanted to extend the date for the 2011 general elections he went to the presidency but was directed to go to the national assembly because it is the assembly that makes laws. I expected Bio to have done the same,” our source said.
It was feared that the minister’s action may attract FIFA’s wrath as it meant government’s direct interference in the running football in the country.