NFF Crisis: The ripple, crippling effects on Nigerian football

Amaju Pinnick has been the NFF President since 2014 but a Supreme Court ruling two weeks ago appeared to give Chris Giwa the mandate, and he has since presumably assumed office. Giwa is not recognised by FIFA as he is serving a ban. He also lost the case with Pinnick at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which is the highest adjudicator in sporting matters. Giwa has, however, continued to parade himself as the NFF president following the adjournment.

Following this, the leadership tussle in the NFF, Aiteo Group, the major sponsor of the Nigeria Football Federation has threatened to pull out of a five-year ₦25 billion deal. The NFF depends – massively – on the funds from the Oil Company to pay Coaches of the Super Eagles and Super Falcons, but that could take a hit. With just over a year into the deal, Aiteo has threatened to pull the plug and handed the NFF a 14-day ultimatum.

On May 26, 2017, The Nigeria Football Federation entered into a big sponsorship agreement with oil company Aiteo Group worth ₦500million for a five-year period. The company announced the partnership on their Twitter handle. “Aiteo Group is now the official optimum partner of the NFF for the next five years,” the company stated. “Great to be the official sponsor-partner of Nigerian football. Great days ahead. The love of the game is universal. We are proud to sponsor the biggest footballing nation on the continent.” Aiteo Group is also expected to pay the salaries of Super Eagles coaches as part of the deal.

Five months after the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) celebrated two sponsorship deals with Aiteo Group, an energy company, the oil and gas outfit re-considered its options following alleged poor derivatives from the agreements. The FA Cup deal ensures that Aiteo underwrites the costs of the organisation of the competition, which encompasses the costs of organising the competition from the round of 64 to the men and women’s finals, solidarity support to Football Associations of the 36 States and the FCT, expenses and indemnities of match officials, support to participating clubs, media, branding/activation and prize money to winners.

On its part, the NFF is expected to provide, through different activations, visibility for the Aiteo Group, especially during the Federation Cup competition and matches of the national teams. But the oil and gas outfit allege that the NFF has not lived up to the agreements. A senior AITEO Group official told journalists last week that the company was reviewing its partnership with the NFF because it is not satisfied by the way the federation is ‘handling things.’ Consequently, the deal conferred on Aiteo Group the right as titleholder for the competition, which was promptly renamed AITEO Cup.

The Aiteo Group partnership with the Nigeria Football Federation also recognised the greatest talents and legends of Nigerian football at a gala in February 2018 in Lagos. A first of its kind, the AITEO AWARDS brought together the biggest names in Nigerian football as 15 awards were handed to deserving current and ex-players as well as officials who have popularised football in Nigeria. The event was attended by key leaders from the global and continental football community. Among them were FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad as well as the entire leadership of the NFF.

Speaking at the event, the Deputy Managing Director of Aiteo Group, Francis Peters, said “Aiteo is an organisation that is committed to the vision of every African, particularly the youth. Our business principle is framed around encouraging and empowering the teeming youth population in Nigeria and Africa to realise its potentials whether in sport or any other chosen endeavour. This is the reason Aiteo, Africa’s leading energy solutions company, is investing in the game.”

Also speaking at the event, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, said, “I was told that in Nigeria football is passion, but it is a lie because it is more than that. In Nigeria, I was told that football is love, but it is a lie it is more than that. In Nigeria, football is life. This collaboration between Aiteo and NFF is the latest in a series of partnerships that have delivered superior quality of football in Nigeria. So far, Aiteo has paid the sum of $600,000 and N320 million to cover its contractual obligation of providing support to the technical crew of the Super Eagles for the whole of 2018, well beyond the World Cup. Aiteo has also made an enormous contribution to supporting local football by sponsoring the Federation cup. The high point of the event was the unveiling of the winners.”

The award for Player of the Year, male category, went to Victor Moses while Asisat Oshoala was named Player of the Year, in the female category. The NFF Legends 11, a team of ex-footballers who have made an indelible mark on football in Nigeria, was also unveiled. Ann Chiejine, Austin Eguavoen, Okechukwu Uche, Christian Chukwu, Segun Odegbami, Nwankwo Kanu, Felix Owolabi, Thompson Usiyen, Mercy Akide, Adokiye Amesiamaka, and Austin Okocha made the list.

Nigerian football stands to lose all of these and more owing to the current crisis. Even worse, FIFA President, Gianni Infantino has consequently warned that Nigeria stands the risk of being banned from international football competitions if the current leadership crisis bedevilling the country’s Football Federation persists.

“The situation is very clear, there can be no interference in the running of the association… That’s the end of it. If any external body thinks they can change this, then, of course, Nigeria could be banned,” Infantino stated during his interaction with the media in Moscow on Friday.
Should FIFA place a ban on Nigeria, the Super Eagles will not participate in the African Cup of Nations qualifier, while the other national teams will also be affected. Two-time African champions, Enyimba in CAF Confederation Cup will also be disqualified from the competition.