September, 15 2023.
The Honourable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh has stated that the snubbing of Nigerian match officials for AFCON 2023 duties by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) represents an embarrassment that must be treated with every sense of emergency.
In a meeting held on Friday with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Nigerian Referees Association (NRA), and the board of the Nigerian Premier Football League (NPFL), the minister stated that for a nation as big as Nigeria and its rich football history, the development is not befitting and it must not be allowed to lie fallow.
In his remarks, Enoh said "With CAF releasing the names and nationalities of 85 match officials for training towards AFCON 2023, it is embarrassing that we did not have a single Nigerian on the list. As sports minister, I see this development as an emergency that we need to respond to, as quickly as possible. It gets even worse that two years ago, we only had one Nigerian official, who was an assistant referee, and two years prior, we had no center referee."
"We keep getting confronted by this embarrassing situation and we have allowed it to reoccur, by doing nothing on the responsibilities within our volition and the responsibilities outside our volition. Therefore, it is important to interrogate this matter, because it is a real blow to the progress of our sports," he added.
The Minister added that sports means a lot to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as well as millions of Nigerians. He noted that the President has shown purpose in all areas, including the international image and representation of Nigeria. It was this purpose-driven mindset that led the President to resolve the differences between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Enoh explained.
As the ministry sought for a solution to the matter, the minister opened the room for discussions with different stakeholder associations present at the meeting. The Referees' Association was led by its chairman, Alhaji Sani Zubairu, the board of the NPFL was led by Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye, while the NFF was led by its deputy secretary general, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme.
The meeting attendance included ex Presidential Special Adviser on Sports, Daniel Amokachi, Chairman Lobi Stars FC, and ex international, Dominic Iorfa, Chairman Sokoto State Football Association, Mohammed Nasir Saidu.
Deliberations will continue towards finding a lasting solution to the issue, with actionable points for execution.