THE Minister of Sports Development, John Owan Enoh, has promised to investigate the non-inclusion of Nigerian referees among the match officials listed for the 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), scheduled for Cote D’Ivoire in 2024.
The apex football body on the continent, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), had listed 85 referees from 26 countries for various departments ahead of the competition, with no Nigerian referee on the list.
Expressing displeasure over the issue, Enoh said despite the country’s population and pedigree in football, it should not be treated in such a manner.
The minister promised to hold meetings with concerned bodies on the matter.
“At the last AFCON (2021), Nigeria only had one assistant referee listed among the match officials. Two years prior, we didn’t have any centre referee too. Going into the next AFCON, we still won’t have any Nigerian officials.
“I am going to interrogate this matter. We will have engagements with the NFF, the Referees’ Association, and the League Board because we need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
However, he noted that without prejudice to the outcome of his findings, the development called for a reflection on sports administration in the country.
He pledged his commitment to ensuring that sports thrive in the nation and that the country stands tall among its contemporaries.
The African Nations Cup is billed to hold between January 13 and February 11, 2024, across five cities in Cote D’Ivoire.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles have qualified for the tournament after finishing at the top of Group A.
The ICIR’s check showed that in the last five AFCON editions, only three Nigerian referees were included among those who officiated.
At the last edition in Cameroon, Samuel Pwaduta was the only Nigerian listed amongst the 31 assistant referees, while there was none in the 24-man list of centre referees.
Also, the 2019 edition in Egypt had 26 referees and 31 assistants, with no Nigerian referee selected.
But, in the 2017 edition, Abel Baba was included as an assistant referee, while Peter Edibe was on the list at the 2015 and 2013 editions.