ABUJA, December 13, 2017 - The President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick has, through his verified Twitter handle @PinnickAmaju on Wednesday, taken responsibility for the "grave error" that has seen FIFA's disciplinary hammer fall on the country.
World’s Football governing body, FIFA on Tuesday sanctioned Nigeria for fielding an ineligible player, Abdullahi Shehu in their final 2018 World Cup qualifier against Algeria which ended in a 1-1 draw last month. And to that effect, the Desert Foxes have been awarded a 3-0 victory.
The good news is, Nigeria went into the game against Algeria having already qualified for Russia 2018 and so as FIFA did unequivocally state: "This sanction bears no impact on the final result of the preliminary competition for the FIFA World Cup since Nigeria had already qualified (and Algeria eliminated) before the match took place."
In spite of that, Nigerians have not failed to express their grievances as to how the NFF could be so careless in handling the sensitive matter of data and statistics.
This morning, Pinnick tweeted thus: "I'll start by tendering my wholehearted apology to Nigeria and Nigerians for the Shehu Abdullahi error. It is unforgivable and could have undone months of hard work. As head of the Federation, I take responsibility for this. It happened on my watch."
Shehu Abdullahi should not have been fielded in the Algeria match because he had accumulated two yellow cards in the space of two years. But apparently the department in charge these details did not take note of the one he had gotten against Swaziland in the preliminary round of the qualification series. Abdullahi's second yellow came in the penultimate group game against Zambia.
Tweeting further however, Pinnick, who is also a CAF Executive Committee member added:
"While accepting the Federation's fault here, let me quickly explain how this went by unnoticed. It doesn't change the fact that we didn't keep our eyes on the ball and will help us in our planned restructuring of the Technical & Competitions Department.
"Shehu Abdullahi got his first yellow card in our very first preliminary match against Swaziland away. When the draws for the Group Stages were made, the Technical staff made a grave error; assumption. They assumed the cards gotten prior would not count.
"To be fair to them, through out the qualifying series, official match documents didn't even show that Shehu Abdullahi was on a yellow card. For instance, when we played Cameroon, Mikel, Moses and Balogun were put on notice that they had yellow cards.
"Team meetings were even held about how to handle their cards so they wouldn't miss crucial games. Shehu Abdullahi was never in the mix. Shehu then recieved a yellow against Zambia in our penultimate game, two years after the Swaziland match.
"Another grave mistake then occurred. FIFA sent an email to the technical officer in charge, that Shehu Abdullahi was suspended for the Algeria match. In a twist of fate, that officer was in hospital, with a severe heart condition, battling for his life.
"The biggest knock to our system is the fact that his official correspondences should have been forwarded to more than one person. It wasn't. We went into our last match not knowing about Fifa's notice. Not acceptable, I agree, but these are the facts of the matter.
"On the match day, we were unaware, the match officials were unaware and our opponents were unaware. It was a horrendous error and we at the Federation are truly apologetic. We thank God it did not undo years of hard work.
"It was a lack of due diligence in and by one of our departments and we are ensuring that errors like these never happen again. On behalf of all of us at the NFF, I apologise, Nigeria. Our focus remains. We will soar higher."
As part of their punishment, The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) will also pay a fine CHF 6,000.
While the NFF learns from this, Nigeria's points from the group stage of qualifying has reduced to 13 from 14. Then again the Super Eagles' unbeaten streak in World Cup qualifying has been snapped. Before the dead rubber game against Algeria, Nigeria had gone 36 matches without a defeat.