Nigeria's men's football team is facing the possibility of being thrown out of this year's Olympic football tournament after FIFA confirmed the governing body could suspend the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for Government interference.
The threat to the participation of the 1996 Olympic gold medallists and 2008 silver medallists comes after a Federal High Court nullified the election results of a vote in 2014, where Amaju Pinnick and a new Executive Committee were brought to power.
A group led by Chris Giwa, initially elected NFF President on August 26 of the same year following the resignation of Aminu Maigari, filed a case against the viability of the NFF elections, and won in court, leaving the future of the governing body in turmoil.
They had challenged the legitimacy of the elections that saw Pinnick seize control and the ruling had been postponed after banned former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke exercised power over the matter.
The Frenchman, currently serving a 12-year suspension for a series of ethics breaches, had threatened action should the Government interfere in the debacle, which is strictly prohibited under FIFA rules.
The court decision effectively returned the Presidency back to Giwa and sacked Pinnick and his Executive Committee from their roles at the organisation.
It comes despite the NFF Appeals Committee, headed by barrister Okey Ajunwa, upholding the polls that brought in the Pinnick-led Executive Committee of the Federation, in December 2014.
The Committee, which sat in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, dismissed all the petitions against the conduct of the polls, ruling the September 30 elections in Warri were conducted in accordance with the statutes of FIFA and the Confederation of African Football.
The bitter row between the two factions has attracted the attention of world football’s governing body, who said in a statement sent to insidethegames that they had written a letter to the NFF.
It detailed how, if the court ruling is upheld, it would be considered as interference and may lead to their suspension later down the line.
The Nigerian newspaper Vanguard reported Nigeria’s participation at Rio 2016 could be under threat, citing a senior stakeholder within the game who insisted "it’s going to be the beginning of more misery for soccer fans as everything related to football in Nigeria will be clamped by FIFA".
FIFA did not directly address the claims that Nigeria could miss out on the Olympics but if the matter is not resolved, it could lead to them banning the Federation.
They have called for the NFF to reinstate the officials in question or face a suspension.
The issue is the latest blow for football in the country after they failed to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.
"We can confirm that FIFA has sent a letter to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) informing that, if implemented, a recent ruling of the Federal High Court which apparently nullified the elections of 30 September 2014 of the NFF would likely be considered as an interference in the internal affairs of the NFF and the case would be brought to the highest authorities of FIFA for consideration of sanctions, including the suspension of the NFF," the statement read.
The draw for the Olympic football tournament is due to take place in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday (April 14).