It's gone from bad to worse in Nigerian football as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), which was already under intense scrutiny after being temporarily banned by FIFA, has now been dissolved by a Nigerian federal court. The Nigerian Premier League (NPL) was also banned by the federal court, throwing the future of Nigerian football into the air.
The federal court heard the case when former Nigeria Referees Association (NRA) president Sam Sam Jaja challenged his disqualification to run in the NPL election in 2010. He questioned the legality of the NFF and NPL, asserting that the Nigeria Football Association and Nigeria Football League Limited were the only organizations that could legally operate football in the country and the judge agreed.
"As recognized by the National Assembly act of 1999, the NFA is the legal body that is saddled with the responsibility of handling football matters in the country with other affiliate bodies recognized by it," said the ruling.
"It is very obvious that the NFA domiciled in Nigeria can only operate under the Nigerian law. FIFA is a corporate body registered under the Swiss law, which has no powers over the laws of Nigeria. Therefore the names NPL and NFF are illegal before the law, since there is no statutes recognizing their existence in the country.
"The court therefore submits that if any of these bodies continue to transact business under a name that is not recognized by law, they are doing such at its own risk."
The NFF had no reaction to the ruling, saying that they had yet to receive a copy of the ruling. They stated that they would respond to the ruling after reading a copy.
"By the time we get a copy of the judgement on Monday, we will be able to react fully," NFF secretary-general Musa Amadu said. "As for now, the business of running Nigeria football is unaffected, as we have 90 days to appeal any judgement, during which the status quo, legally, remains."
The NFF was banned by FIFA for having government intervention in the football association, which is forbidden by FIFA law. The ban was later lifted and Nigeria was allowed to compete in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying. The team did not qualify for the tournament, another low point for what used to be on of Africa's top sides.
Now the future of Nigerian football is in doubt. The NFF will have their chance to appeal in the next 90 days, but if the appeal is denied, there is no certainty as to what would happen to football in the country. FIFA recognizes the NFF, not the NFA, so how FIFA would react to the dissolving of the NFF would be crucial, as would the NFA's abilities to take over responsibilities that they have no previously handled.