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Nigeria official says deposed leaders are returning to work

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Ousted Nigeria Football Federation officials are returning to work, a federation spokesman said, after FIFA threatened to suspend the country from international soccer for the second time in two months if they weren't reinstated by Monday.

NFF spokesman Ademola Olajire said general secretary Musa Amadu and others were "back in the office" at the federation headquarters on Monday after they were removed at a government-endorsed meeting last month.

FIFA's ultimatum put Nigeria, the African champion, at risk of being banned and having to forfeit an African Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa on Wednesday, and possibly its place at next year's continental championship.

"What I see and know is that the general secretary and the management are back in the office," Olajire told The Associated Press by telephone.

He also said the NFF would send a letter to FIFA to inform it that officials were returning.

FIFA said it could not comment while it was "verifying the respective information concerning the Nigeria Football Federation."

FIFA did not recognize the Aug. 26 elections that were overseen by the Nigerian sports ministry and replaced NFF president Aminu Maigari with Chris Giwa. FIFA rules do not allow governments to interfere in football.

Olajire said Maigari wasn't yet back at work but "can return at any time."

"The persons claiming to be elected at the congress on 26 August are not around," Olajire said.

The Aug. 26 elections removed Maigari for the second time in two months.

He was arrested on his return from the World Cup in Brazil in July and the NFF was being run then by a sports ministry-appointed official, leading FIFA to suspend Nigeria for nine days.

Maigari was re-instated briefly but was again detained by security forces while Giwa and others were elected to replace the NFF leadership, FIFA said. FIFA wants Maigari to be allowed to oversee new elections.

Nigeria's squad arrived in Cape Town on Monday to prepare for the South Africa game following a 3-2 loss to Republic of Congo over the weekend to open its African Cup qualifying campaign. The federation indicated that the game would go ahead, although it said coach Stephen Keshi would only join the squad on Tuesday as he was dealing with "pressing personal issues."