ABUJA (AFP) – The new head of Nigerian football, whose disputed appointment has thrown the domestic game into turmoil, has dismissed the threat of sanctions from world governing body FIFA.
“We have seen the letter from FIFA and digested the full content of it,” said Chris Giwa.
“Nothing has changed as far as we’re concerned. We will present our position to FIFA… and they will be convinced beyond any reasonable doubt.”
Giwa took the helm of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) last Tuesday, ousting the incumbent president Aminu Maigari, who was prevented from attending an executive committee meeting after being arrested by the secret police.
Maigari’s detention — allegedly to stop him chairing the meeting — led to Nigeria’s referees’ association to direct its members not to take charge of league games and league organisers to suspend weekend fixtures.
FIFA waded in to the row on Friday, telling the NFF that it did not recognise Giwa’s appointment and ordered him and his newly “elected” officials to stand down by midnight on Monday or face sanctions, including a possible ban.
A ban would throw into doubt Nigeria’s first 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo on Saturday. Nigeria’s Super Eagles are the defending champions.
But Giwa said: “We call on Nigerians not to panic. The NFF is not intimidated and we do not expect any sanction because we have done the appropriate thing. For us, it is noise-making.”
Nigerian football has been embroiled in a bitter leadership struggle since the World Cup after Maigari and his executives were first sacked by a court and a government administrator took over.
The court order was later set aside but Maigari was then impeached on corruption charges by his own executive committee but then reinstated.
FIFA said proper procedures had not been followed and ordered fresh elections.
Nigeria’s sports minister Tammy Danagogo has endorsed Giwa but club owner Bertram Ekenwa described this as “an act of gangsterism”.
“He has failed to understand the dynamics of football in this country and has insisted on imposing an unpopular candidate on us,” said Ekenwa.
“He is behind the crisis. He should either resign or be sacked because his poor handling of the matter has embarrassed everybody including the government he represents.”