Questions about the Glass House fire

It is not unusual for fire to gut buildings. But the inferno at the headquarters of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in Abuja (Glass House) last week has certain peculiarities. The cause of the fire remains a mystery. It started from the top floor of the building which houses the offices of the general secretary, that of the president of the federation and the accounts department. Conspiracy theorists wouldn’t be wrong to suspect foul play, even if the fire was caused by electrical fault.

The NFF has been embroiled in a leadership tussle, pitting its president Alhaji Aminu Maigari against his deputy Mike Umeh. It was only a couple of days to the fire disaster that Maigari returned to office, following the directive of the sports minister, Tammy Danagogo.

On July 24, the NFF board passed a vote of no confidence in Maigari for the secrecy surrounding all financial dealings of the federation as well as his failure to call a meeting of the executive committee for eight months. He was also accused of financial misappropriation, misapplication and maladministration. Umeh, who led his team to protest the return of the NFF president, insisted that Maigari remained impeached by the NFF board. His grouse is that only the congress can either ratify or quash his impeachment. It is therefore curious that the beautiful edifice that houses the secretariat of this important sports association went up in flame about 9:15am, when officers are at work and 48 hours after Maigari returned to work.

More curious is the response of Maigari after assessing the extent of the damage. He said that the incident was regrettable and unfortunate.

While we appreciate his philosophical approach to the matter, we hope that the officers and men of the Department of State Services (DSS), who have been reporting to the Glass House since the return of Maigari, would have submitted a preliminary report of their investigations now. While it may be hasty and preposterous to slam his executive with a verdict of guilt, it is expedient to also dig deep into the opposition camp as well, to ensure that some fifth columnists were not out to undermine or blackmail him out of office.

Needless to say, what happened Wednesday was more than meets the eye. No matter how difficult it is, we urge Maigari and his executive to leave no stone unturned in accounting for every penny expended under their stewardship.  The revelation that all the fire extinguishers in the office expired since 2012 also calls to question the line managers’ integrity.

We, therefore, need an independent commission of enquiry to unearth the financial and administrative dealings in NFF and what led to the cooking of books and structures. Things cannot be allowed to run lawlessly at the NFF. FIFA should also think outside the box on matters peculiar to member-nations.

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