The crisis rocking Nigerian football is set to affect the Premier League as conflicting directives emerge on the continuation of league matches.
On Thursday, the Chief Operating Officer of the League Management Committee, LMC, Salihu Abubakar, ordered the 20 clubs in the top tier league not to proceed for further matches.
“The decision is in the light of the notice of withdrawal of services by the Nigerian Referees Association which makes it impossible for us to organise games,” Mr. Abubakar said in a statement made available to journalists.
PREMIUM TIMES had published the statement by the referees’ association, NRA, announcing a withdrawal of their services.
In the NRA notice, signed by its secretary-general, Moroof Oluwa, and addressed to the LMC Chairman, the association stated that “in view of uncertainty in the Nigeria Football Federation, the Nigeria Referees are hereby withdrawing its services with immediate effect from all matches organized by the NFF which includes the Nigeria Premier League, Nigeria National League, Nigeria Nationwide League, Nigeria Women League and the Federation Cup pending when sanity is restored”.
The LMC chief, in defending his suspension of league matches said, “We have written to the general secretary of the NFF on this development and have also informed the clubs and our sponsors.”
He said the LMC desires that the crisis rocking the football federation be resolved soon to restore an enabling environment for the league to run smoothly.
However, a few hours after Mr. Abubakar’s statement, the factional President of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Chris Giwa, urged stakeholders to discountenance the LMC’s directive.
According to a statement signed by the spokesperson of the NFF, Ademola Olajire, Mr. Giwa said, “It has come to our notice that the League Management Company has been issuing notices to clubs in the Premier League that matches are being suspended from this weekend.
“This is totally untrue. If the LMC received a notice from the Nigeria Referees Association about purported withdrawal of referees, the LMC should have brought this to the notice of the NFF and not to take a decision to suspend the League on its own.
“As the owners of the League, the Nigeria Football Federation is hereby making it clear that Premier League matches are not being suspended. Matches scheduled for this weekend will definitely take place.”
The NFF is split into two factions. The first is headed by Mr. Giwa and is recognised by the Nigerian government; while the second is headed by Aminu Maigari and is recognised by the world football governing body, FIFA.
The LMC is believed to be sympathetic to the Maigari faction of the NFF.