Nigeria at risk of international basketball ban

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

With two weeks to go until the deadline handed down by international basketball governing body FIBA arrives, the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) must quickly put its house in order or face sanctions.

There has been little movement on either side of the factional divide. Unless the NBBF, both sides of the conflict, find a resolution in the next 14 days, Nigeria could face an international ban.

Since June, when two separate elections were held in two different cities and under two different regulations, the Nigerian basketball family has been divided along two lines, one headed by Musa Kida and the other by Tijjani Umar.

The election which ushered in Umar was held in Kano on June 12, supposedly under a new NBBF Constitution. The Kida faction claimed the said Constitution was not passed according to procedure but was merely rushed through, and held their own elections under guidelines provided by the Ministry of Sports.

Both parties, claiming legitimacy, appealed to FIBA, which ruled in a July letter that both elections were flawed and as a result, neither could be recognized.

"FIBA is not entirely satisfied that either election was carried out in accordance with the FIBA General Statues. Consequently, pursuant to Article 9.10 of the FIBA General Statutes, FIBA cannot recognize either election," the body said in a statement.

FIBA consequently directed both parties to find an amicable solution by November 30, failing which it would impose sanctions, including but not limited to suspension of Nigeria and the setting up of a task force to run the affairs of the NBBF.

"In the event that a solution complying with the FIBA General Statutes is not found, the NBBF will be subject to the possibility of sanctions, including without limitation, a suspension of its membership with FIBA.

"In the event that a solution is not found, regardless of any sanctions, FIBA will appoint a task force that will take any appropriate measure(s) in the interests of basketball in Nigeria," FIBA continued.

Four months after that letter, both parties have yet to meet let alone propose a road map for peaceful resolution of the crisis. In September, a member of Nigeria's legislature promised to wade into the crisis, but so far, there has been next to no progress.

Both factions have continued to maintain their claim to legitimacy, with Kida saying there is no faction at all, and that business is progressing as normal.

Reconciliation would be the quickest and easiest way to resolve the situation. But interactions between individuals on both sides show a determination to yield no ground.

In the event of failure to comply, the best way forward for Nigerian basketball would be for FIBA to appoint its caretaker Task Force to run affairs in Nigeria, and organise free, fair, and transparent elections under FIBA Statutes, where all parties will have equal opportunities to be voted in.