FIFA suspends Nigeria for government interference

FIFA suspended Nigerian soccer's governing body for government interference on Monday, almost certainly preventing the country from taking part in qualifying for the African Cup of Nations this weekend.

Several developments led to FIFA imposing the suspension, including court actions against elected members of the Nigerian Football Federation executive committee, the federation's general secretary stepping down on orders from the government-run National Sports Commission, and the decision of the sports minister to start the Nigerian league without relegation from the previous season.

FIFA rules prohibit government interference with national governing bodies.

Nigeria had been due to play in Guinea in its second qualifier in Group B the African Cup on Sunday.

FIFA says the suspension will last until "the duly elected NFF executive committee is able to work without any interference," meaning none of the country's teams are allowed to take part in any competition "regional, continental or international."

Calls to NFF officials seeking comment were not answered.

Nigeria's federation was threatened with a similar ban in July when the country's president, Goodluck Jonathan, said he would pull the national team out of competition because of its poor showing at the World Cup. Jonathan backed down following an ultimatum from FIFA.

However, FIFA said at the time it would continue monitoring Nigerian soccer for possible government interference.

Four leaders of Nigeria's federation were fired and charged with corruption in court actions last month after allegedly embezzling money from the team's World Cup funds. Their cases are set to resume this week.

Investigators accuse former federation president Sani Lulu, ex-vice president Amanze Ugbulam, former technical committee member Taiwo Ogunjobi and ex-general secretary Bolaji Ojo-Oba of embezzling more than $6 million in tournament funding.

The four are accused of buying inferior buses for the team and keeping the remaining money. They also purportedly paid out $800,000 in travel costs for 220 delegates to the World Cup in South Africa. Of those, only 47 were federation officials with the rest being the men's "friends, associates, girlfriends and relations," said Femi Babafemi, a spokesman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.