The Nigeria Football Federation says Rivers United must apologise publicly and “repudiate” the “disparaging statements” made on its behalf by Rivers State sports commissioner Boma Iyaye about NFF president Amaju Pinnick and League Management Company chairman Shehu Dikko at a press conference in Port Harcourt on Thursday.
The club was given 48 hours to comply, failing which it will be hit with “appropriate disciplinary actions” “within the necessary provisions of the NFF Statutes 2010, the NFF Ethics Code and indeed the NPFL Framework and Rules” a letter dated 27 August and signed by NFF secretary-general Mohammed Sanusi said.
Iyaye had called the press conference on behalf of state-owned Rivers United in response to the NFF’s Football Committee endorsing the Points-Per-Game table for the curtailed 2019-20 Nigeria Professional Football League which put Rivers United in third place behind Enyimba and to declare the club’s intention to appeal against the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Rivers United insist they should have finished second instead of Enyimba with whom they were tied on points per game. The club also disagreed with the LMC’s decision to apply head-to-head rather than goals difference as a tiebreaker between both clubs.
While the NFF acknowledged Rivers United’s right to appeal, it took exception, however, to certain remarks made by the sports commissioner which it said were “a breach of the stipulations of the NFF Code of Ethics and the NFF Statues 2010 with regards to the responsibilities and obligations of a member of the NFF”.
The offensive remarks highlighted in the NFF letter include Iyaye’s description of the Football Committee’s report as “half-truths, deliberate distortion of facts and obvious misinformation” and the allegation that Rivers United are “being denied their rights owing to attempts by some people to deliberately shortchange the club’’ in what is “a clear case of injustice and undue victimisation’’.
Additionally, the NFF letter said the attempt to link a trip by Pinnick to Abia State – where Enyimba are based – and the committee’s recommendations and comments that Pinnick and “co-traveller” Dikko “are taking football in Nigeria fifty (50) years behind” were “disparaging” to both men and fell afoul of several regulations.
Specifically, Rivers United, according to the NFF, were in breach of Article 5.5.2 of the Framework and Rules of the Nigeria Professional Football League which stipulates that no club or its associates “shall by any means whatsoever unfairly criticize, disparage, belittle or discredit any other club or the LMC or in either case any of its directors, officers, employees or agents”.
Iyaye was also said to be in breach of Rule E 1.6 of the NPFL Code of Conduct for Club which bars club officials from employing “inappropriate language during or after match conferences or at media briefings”.
“You are therefore advised to publicly repudiate and/or withdraw the disparaging statements and tender a public apology within 48 hours, upon the failure of which appropriate disciplinary actions would be taken against Rivers United Football Club within the necessary provisions of the NFF Statutes 2010, the NFF Ethics Code and indeed the NPFL Framework and Rules,” the letter concluded.