An action perceived as government interference into the affairs of a duly elected independent board.
By the dissolution, the board was rendered invalid and substituted with a Caretaker Committee led by the first vice president of the Mbagwu led board, Iyorcha Grace. Other members of the board include Ntiense Williams and James Eakyns.
The NRFF board was dissolved alongside 30 other federations and replaced with a caretaker committee. Hence, leading to a suspension from Rugby Afrique and a statement from World Rugby backing RA’s action, urging reinstatement and demanding explanations from the Nigerian sports ministry.
In a May 3, 2021, letter, Rugby Afrique wrote: “the dissolution of the duly elected board of NRFF is against the stipulations of the approved Constitution and highly disruptive for the Union’s operations. Consequently, we have no choice but to impose an immediate suspension of Nigeria’s participation in all Rugby Afrique and World Rugby activities until further notice. We do appeal in all sincerity that the ministry allows the federation to follow its approved constitution”.
While the ministry or the minister is yet to respond, some local rugby players took to a peaceful protest at the national stadium and premises of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, in Surulere, Lagos.
On May 5, 2021, a two-page statement from World Rugby on the crisis, confirmed “the NRFF as a Full Member of World Rugby and the sole governing body of rugby in Nigeria managed by the constitutionally elected Board in accordance with its constitution.”
“World Rugby consider such a decision by the government of Nigeria to be political interference in the affairs of the NRFF,” the statement read in part.
It urged the sports minister to reinstate the board or risk a suspension or expulsion from World Rugby membership before the matter is raised on May 11, at the World Rugby Executive Committee meeting.
World Rugby highlights possible sanctions if the minister does not reinstate the Kelechi Mbagwu led-board “which include but not limited to the immediate freezing of all World Rugby funding to Rugby in Nigeria; a suspension of NRFF participation in any international Rugby competitions at any level for an indefinite period; the removal of NRFF’s right to representation at the World Rugby General Assembly to be held on November 25, 2021, and consideration of NRFF;s membership of World Rugby moving forward.”
It concluded with a full backing of Rugby Afrique’s interim position to suspend Nigeria while requesting a response from the sports minister.