Thursday, 25 September 2008

On Collision Course

The change from Nigeria Football Association, NFA, to Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, without an Act of the parliament may bring the federation on collision course with the National Assembly

By Chris Onokpegu

If the revelation emerging from the Glass House as the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) now renamed Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is anything to go by, then there will be difficult time for Nigerian football.
The nation's football ruling body recently changed its name from Nigeria Football Association (NFA) to Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in line with FIFA statutes to all its member countries.
FIFA statutes adopted at the 58th Congress in Sydney on May 30, 2008, which came into force on August 1, 2008 reads: “changes can only be made by the Congress and require a three-quarter majority of the association's members present and eligible to vote.
“As representatives of FIFA in their countries, they must respect the statutes, aims and ideals of football's governing body and promote and manage our sport accordingly. The bodies and officials must observe and comply with the statutes, regulations, directives, decisions and Code of Ethics of FIFA in their activities.
“The Congress may expel a member if it seriously violates the statutes, regulations, decision or the Code of Ethics of FIFA or get suspended if a member seriously and repeatedly violates its obligations as a member with immediate effect. The suspension shall last until the next Congress.”
FIFA is a government of its own and statutes supercede every other statute hence Nigeria's soccer ruling body's decision at its congress in Makurdi, Benue State to change its name from NFA to NFF and the body has since ratified it. What it means is that the chairman would be referred to as President while the Secretary-General would be known as the General Secretary.
However, Nigeria's upper legislative body, the Senate thinks contrary from the football house. Sports Committee of the Senate has come out strongly against NFF arguing that it is a constitutional thing and should be directed by the dictates of the constitution, failure to do so, means no funding for football. “From next year, NFF would not be funded because it is none-existent. NFF is not a parastatal under government unlike NFA which is a creation of government by an act of parliament…” according to Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, Senate Committee Chairman on Sports .
Lokpobiri's argument may sound distasteful to soccer supporters in Nigeria, but with the way they are going, the lawmakers may need extra push to change their position. The Senate's contention is that NFF must be recognised by government. It has to go through the National Assembly for an act of parliament before it can be taken as a parastatal under government, same applies to the National Sports Commission which has since been criticised as not following due process.
All efforts made by Newsworld Sports to speak with the officials of the Nigeria Football Federation proved abortive as they all turned our request down.
Newsworld Sports however went the extra mile and succeeded in speaking with an insider who confirmed that the name of the football house has been changed from NFA to NFF.
When asked about the comments of the senate committee chairman on sports and denial of funds by the federal government, he answered: “Are you still talking of NFA? Are we still operating decree 101? The congress has the final say and the issue (NFA/NFF) has been settled. We can source for money by ourselves if they fail to fund us after all we have been doing that before.”
Another source said the leadership of the two bodies (Senate and NFF) are putting heads together and will soon come out with a solution.
It may be difficult for the body which has always complained of funds even when it was funded by government to survive let alone now that it will be denied funds. However, FIFA supports its associations financially and logistically through various programmes and grants them a number of attractive rights and privileges hence the confidence in changing its name from NFA to NFF.
In Africa, sports is mostly sponsored by government unlike their European counterparts where the private sectors is fully involved.
Sports commentators opined that this threat by the government may spell doom for the country's sports since the bodies (NSC and others) have always relied on funds from them to prosecute major events. They gave instances on the Africa Cup of Nations and the Olympics in Ghana and China respectively where Nigeria performed woefully due to late preparation hinged on lack of funds.
The National Sports Commission (NSC) was also condemned by the Senate through its committee chairman on sports during a public hearing saying, it is not a parastatal under government and the nomenclature should be changed to Ministry of Sports or they will be denied funds. The upper law-making body said it only recognised the Ministry of Youth and Sports and advised that it returns to status quo.
The Minister and Chairman of National Sports Commission (NSC) was quoted as saying that sports was not included in the constitution hence the difficulty in convincing the private sector to invest in sports.
Sports analysts wondered what's in a name that warrants a change. They asked if the change of name will metamorphose our performances or transform our games and bring more glory. Well, much need to be desired.

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