A vote to choose the new president and executive committee of Nigeria’s troubled football association was delayed on Tuesday after the apparent arrest of the election chief, witnesses said.
The uncertainty over Samson Ebomhe’s whereabouts is the latest in a series of scandals to hit the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), which could face an eight-month FIFA ban if the vote does not take place.
The 44-member NFF congress was scheduled to meet in the southern city of Warri with voting to elect a new leader set to begin at 10:00 am (0900 GMT).
But one delegate, speaking on condition of anonymity, told journalists that Ebomhe, the election chairman, “has not been seen since this morning and so the elections cannot begin”.
Multiple witnesses said Ebomhe had been seized in his hotel room by officers from Nigeria’s main intelligence agency, the Department of State Services (DSS).
The DSS and police could not immediately be reached for comment.
The NFF has been plagued by controversy since the end of the World Cup.
Outgoing NFF President Aminu Maigari was arrested by security agents when he arrived back from Brazil in July and was later impeached by some of his executive committee members on corruption charges.
FIFA then imposed an international ban on the grounds of political interference after a court sacked the NFF high command and the sports minister imposed a civil servant to take temporary charge.
The ban was lifted after nine days and Maigari was reinstated because his dismissal did not follow laid-down procedures.
But in August, the secret police detained him again, preventing him from attending an executive committee meeting where the owner of Nigeria Premier League side Giwa FC, Chris Giwa, took charge.
That prompted Nigerian referees, clubs and players to boycott the domestic leagues and FIFA to threaten to again suspend the African champions if Maigari were not reinstated and fresh elections held.
Football’s world governing body has warned that any further breaches of election procedure will see Nigeria banned from international competition until its own annual congress next May.
Maigari has ruled himself out of the election, with businessman Shehu Dikko, who helped arrange a tour by Manchester United in 2008, tipped as the front-runner.
Former NFF general-secretary Taiwo Ogunjobi and Delta FC chairman Amaju Pinnick are seen as his main rivals.