Nigeria president withdraws basketball teams from international competition for two years

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has withdrawn the country's national basketball teams from international competition for the next two years, directly violating the non-interference statutes set out by FIBA.

On Thursday, a statement from the office of Nigeria's Sports Minister Sunday Dare read: "Following the unending crises that have plagued and nearly crippled basketball development in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has today approved the immediate withdrawal of Nigeria from all International Basketball Competitions for a period of two years."

Dare added: "Government intends to utilize this period of break to address all contentious issues among stakeholders."

The development is the culmination of a protracted tussle for the leadership of the Nigeria Basketball Federation [NBBF], dating all the way back to 2017 when Musa Kida and then-incumbent Tijani Umar emerged as factional leaders in two separate elections.

Kida told ESPN he was shocked by Thursday's decision: "I am speechless.

"I refused to believe it when I heard. And I am finding it very hard to believe that it is the president who took this decision.

"It is like a bad dream that you hope to wake up from."

The move by the president leaves Nigeria in violation of Art 9.7 of the FIBA Statutes on third party interference, particularly the government.

FIBA's rules state: "National member federations shall manage their affairs independently and with no influence from third parties. In particular, they must ensure that their officials are either elected or appointed under a democratic process for a term of office of four (4) years."

The government's decision to not only withdraw the country from international competition but also to appoint an interim management committee, is breach of these rules and leaves the country in grave danger of a suspension.

FIBA are yet to react to the news, but Kida said they will have no choice but to act: "Their own reaction will be very predictable.

"They will not understand why it is that the government is taking this stance and will have to follow their rules."

Previous interference from the sports ministry has already seen Nigeria's Basketball Africa League team, Rivers Hoopers, disqualified from the 2022 edition.

If this withdrawal stands, the first casualties would be the men's national team, D'Tigers, who would be out of the 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifiers, where they currently lead their group.

The women's side, D'Tigress, who have qualified for the World Cup scheduled for September in Australia, would also be unable to attend the tournament. They would also miss a chance to tie Senegal's record of four straight titles, which they achieved between 1974 and 1981.

The issue of factions appeared to have been resolved earlier this year when, under the threat of a ban from FIBA, Kida was re-elected in February. That election was held under a Constitution ratified by FIBA and supervised by both the world basketball governing body and the Nigeria Olympic Committee [NOC].

Despite FIBA writing to acknowledge and recognize the election, the Sports Ministry did not do the same, claiming that it was also aware of a second election held in Abuja.

This is not the first time the Nigerian government has tried to withdraw from international sporting competition. After a dismal outing by the men's national football team at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, then-President Goodluck Jonathan announced a similar two-year suspension from international football competition.

That announcement was swiftly met by a ban from FIFA, forcing the Nigerian government into an about-turn and the decision was reversed days later.