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Nigeria escape Fifa ban as officials return to power

The African champions were given a deadline for a rival faction to relinquish control of the NFF.

Congolese Thievy Bifouma (L) vies for the ball with Nigeria's Ogenyi Onazi during the 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifying football match between Nigeria and Congo Brazzaville on 6 September, 2014. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Nigeria have had the threat of a suspension from world football lifted after the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) returned to office at the start of the week, Fifa said on Tuesday.

The African champions had been given until Monday morning for a rival faction to relinquish control of the NFF and for its beleaguered president Aminu Maigari and his staff to be allowed back to their posts after having seen off two attempted bids to sweep them from office over the last months.

Fifa, in a letter to the NFF released to the media, said it accepted matters had returned to normal and would not be punishing the country.

It will come as an enormous relief to Nigeria, who have an African Nations Cup qualifier against South Africa in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Had they been suspended on Monday, Nigeria would have forfeited the match and been disqualified, leaving them unable to defend their Nations Cup crown.

Fifa had set the ultimatum last week after Maigari was voted out of office in an unauthorised election that divided the Nigerian football community and was not recognised by Fifa.

"We noted the return to normalcy in the Nigerian Football Federation and compliance with conditions prescribed by the Emergency Committee of Fifia. The NFF is accordingly not suspended," said the letter signed by Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke.

"This return to normality, as indicated in the correspondence from the President of the Nigerian federation to Fifa in a letter on 8 September, has been noted together with the reinstatement and return to work, without hindrance, at the association headquarters in Abuja of the NFF president and staff."

Fifa, however, have called for new elections and warned that "should the electoral process be affected by any interference or occurrence or any mishap, the case would be referred again - and without prior notice or warning - to the appropriate Fifa bodies for immediate suspension of the NFF until the next Fifa Congress."

DISPUTED ELECTION

This is a reference to the perception of the hand of government in trying to oust Maigari since he returned with the team from the World Cup in Brazil.

The disputed elections last month saw Chris Giwa chosen as new president and at the weekend he was still trying to hold onto power but has backed down since.

Maigari was arrested at the same time as the poll, in an unsubtle attempt to keep him from the vote, and held by police but not questioned and later released.

He had also been held for a brief period after arriving home from Brazil in July following Nigeria's elimination in the last 16 at the World Cup finals when a first bid to sweep him from power was made by rivals.

A court order was obtained by a rival faction ordering an immediate election in July but world football's governing body rejected this too, suspending Nigeria for seven days before the status quo was restored.

Amid the uncertainty at the weekend, Nigeria lost to Congo in their opening Nations Cup qualifier for their first home defeat in a competitive match in 33 years.

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