Divergent views trail autonomy for Nigerian football at Senate hearing

Bolaji Abdullahi

The Sports ministry countered the call for autonomy.

Divergent views were expressed at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Sports in Abuja on Wednesday.

The public hearing was to discuss the pending bill on the Nigeria Football Federation currently before lawmakers.

The bill, which had already passed two hearings at the House of Representatives and one at the Senate, is on the last stage for final approval by the latter.

Several sports stakeholders presented papers at the event, where they analysed the various issues they feel is disturbing the growth of Nigerian football.

While some called for the total autonomy for Nigerian football, others like the Sports Minister rejected complete autonomy.

One of those who supported the autonomy for the NFF was John Obakpolor, a former chairman of the football administration.

Mr. Obakpolor said the NFF, if well administered, can be financially independent of the Sports Ministry and the government.

“There’s no policy in government which stops individual from funding the NFF when you go into such an arrangement,” he said.

However, Sports Minister and Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Bolaji Abdullahi, opposed the autonomy alerting the lawmakers that there is no proposed role for the Commission in the bill that was presented to the Senate.

“There’s no role for the sports commission in the bill. The challenge is how we do it- reconcile the need for football in Nigeria to be governed autonomously?” he said.

Mr. Abdullahi said the NFF does not have the funds to run itself independently, adding that if the organisation wishes to be autonomous, it should raise funds for its running without relying on the government. He said that with its dependency, NFF should remain a parastatal of the government, albeit autonomous but embedded under the sports commission.

Aligning with the minister, a former Minister of Sports, Abdulrahman Gimba, cautioned against making the NFF autonomous, saying, “Who funds the NFF if the government is off their back?
“They (NFF) need the government, especially in the aspect of funding.”

Players’ welfare

While the proposed autonomy for the NFF was the major focus of the hearing, the Chairman of the League Management Committee, Nduka Irabor, clamored for the welfare of Nigerian League players even after retirement.

“The welfare of the players is a serious issue that needs to be well considered. We clamour for a basic salary for footballers playing in the Nigerian League, and that all Nigerian Football players’ salaries are regulated and well taken care of,” Mr. Irabor told the lawmakers.

The Senate Committee Chairman said the various presentations would be reviewed.


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