ABUJA, August 20 – Nigeria’s football association, riven by in-fighting and sanctioned by the world game’s governing body, suffered a fresh blow on Wednesday after fire gutted its headquarters.
The blaze at the two-storey building in an upmarket area of the capital Abuja, known locally as the Glass House, broke out as staff arrived for work, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Flames took hold from an office on the upper floor of the premises and spread quickly before firefighters arrived to extinguish the blaze.
Senior federal fire service chief Imo Eyo described the damage as “huge” and said there was no immediate indication of foul play.
“We suspect a circuit fault to have led to the fire but a proper inquiry would be carried out by the authorities,” he added.
Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) technical director Emmanuel Ikpeme said the blaze appeared to have started in the office of a senior accounts manager.
“We thought it was something that could be contained by the fire extinguisher,” he told reporters.
“But before we knew it, the fire spread to the general-secretary’s office and from there, there couldn’t be any control.”
The NFF has been in crisis for several months and FIFA suspended the organisation in July over what it said was “government interference” in its affairs.
That followed a Nigerian court ruling that sacked the NFF high command and the government appointed a sole administrator to run the game.
The ban, which threatened Nigeria’s participation in the FIFA under-20 women’s World Cup this month, was later lifted.
But the NFF executive board then gave a vote of no confidence in president Aminu Maigari and sacked him over allegations of financial misappropriation, misapplication and maladministration.
Maigari was however reinstated because FIFA said that correct procedure had not been followed. He returned to work this week.
NFF secretary-general Musa Amadu cautioned against attributing blame for the fire but added: “Thank God no lives were lost but this is sad and unfortunate.”
Ikpeme added: “It’s very sad, more so that Nigerians know that we have been having some challenges in the Nigerian Football Federation.
When we thought it was all over only for us to come this morning and experience this kind of thing. It’s a very, very serious matter.
You can imagine, most of the NFF’s sensitive and important documents of the NFF are in the secretary-general’s office and for the fire to destroy the accountants’ office is very sad. It’s a set-back for the NFF.”