Nigeria Suspended By Rugby Africa Over NRFF Dissolution

Rugby Africa has suspended the Nigeria Rugby Football Federation from participating in all Rugby Africa and World Rugby activities following what they described as “government interference.”

The suspension of the NRFF is with immediate effect, according to a letter from the African body made available to our correspondent on Tuesday.

The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, on Friday dissolved the boards of 30 sports federations, including the rugby federation, and inaugurated three-man caretaker committees to run the affairs of the federations ahead of elections scheduled for September.

Reacting to the board’s dissolution, Rugby Africa swiftly suspended the NRFF, meaning the country’s national team, the Black Stallions, would not participate in next month’s Rugby World Cup pre-qualifiers in Burkina Faso.

The letter, signed by Rugby Africa’s president Khaled Babbou, confirmed the suspension.

“We have learned of the dissolution of the boards of 31 (30) sports federations in Nigeria, including the rugby federation, to be replaced by handpicked caretaker committees,” Babbou said in a letter addressed to Sunday Dare.

“We would humbly remind the Honourable Minister that the constitution of the NRFF, which was ratified at their Extraordinary General Meeting held in Lagos on March 3, 2018, was also formally approved by Rugby Afrique and by World Rugby at the time.
“The dissolution of the duly elected board of NRFF is against the stipulations of the approved constitution and is highly disruptive for the unions’ operations. Consequently, we have no choice but to impose an immediate suspension of Nigeria’s participation in all Rugby Afrique and World Rugby activities until further notice.”

In response to our correspondent’s inquiry, Rugby Africa’s General Manager, Coralie Van Den Berg, said they were waiting for the ministry’s response and reinstatement of the constitutionally elected board members of the NRFF, before the suspension could be lifted.
“Rugby Africa has sent a letter to the Ministry of Sports of Nigeria to notify its disagreement with the arbitrary dissolution of the NRFF’s board which was duly elected in the presence of Rugby Africa’s representative. This is against the approved Constitution of the NRFF by Rugby Africa and World Rugby,” Van Den Berg replied The PUNCH via email.

“We await the response of the ministry, hoping the board can be reinstated and the preparations for upcoming competitions can go ahead.”

The country’s suspension has also led to the resignation of the NRFF’s Team Manager Dele Coker, who posted his resignation on Twitter.

“As you may be aware, the Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports Development has dissolved most national sports federations, including @NigeriaRugby1. As an immediate result, @RugbyAfrique has responded that this move did not follow the approved process as stipulated in the NRFF’S ’s constitution. Consequently, #NRFF has been suspended from all #AfricaRugby tournaments and events with immediate effect. I am sad to report Nigeria will, therefore, no longer be allowed to participate in the @RugbyWorldCup repêchage tournament in Burkina Faso next month,” Coker tweeted.

Efforts to reach the media aide to the sports minister, John Joshua-Akanji, were unsuccessful as he didn’t pick our correspondent’s call or respond to a text message sent to his line as at the time of filing this report.

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