The 27th African Cup of Nations got under way in Angola last night with an impressive opening ceremony that most highlighted their traditional and cultural heritage.
But it was the dramatic opening match between the hosts and Mali that probably held the neutral watchers spellbound and the home fans at the November 11 Stadium, Luanda stunned.
The Palencas Negras, as the Angolan National team is fondly called threw away a hefty 4-0 lead and allows the Eagles of Mali to record a historic comeback form the dead.
While the star studded Mali side led by Frederic Kanoute of Sevilla FC and Mahamodou Diarra of Real Madrid, both of the Spanish La Liga, struggled to string parses together, Angola’s attack led by Flavio and Manucho forced Mali’s defence to make mistakes.
As the first half wore on, the hosts, apparently buoyed by the electric atmosphere and home support began to impose themselves on the game.
Two headed goals in a space of five minutes by Flavio ensure that Angola ended the first half in a very strong position for a dream start to the Nations Cup.
In the second half, Mali showed early sign of comeback when they created their first real scoring chance, which was fluffed by Skipper Mahamadou Diarra inside the six yard box.
But it was the Angolans, aided by woeful defending and poor overall play Mali, that grabbed two more goals from the penalty spot.
The first was a gift when Bagayoko tripped impressive wingback, Gilberto inside the box and defender picked himself up to score.
The second was a soft penalty after Gilberto easily went to the ground from the slightest of touches by Seydou Keita.
Mnucho converted the opportunity to give the hosts a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 lead in the 74th minute.
But five minutes later, the Mali revived and came back again.
Calamitous goalkeeping off a corner kick by Angola’s Keeper allowed Keita to scrambe home Mali’s firs goal in the 79th minute.
Angola’s late substitution of two goals scorer, Flavio proved to be a premature celebration as the side lost steam and Keita motivated Mali to a later Surge. An exquisite head by Kanoute in the 88th minute reduced the tally to 4-2.
The Malians were afforded a further five minutes of added time and they made every second count.
Keita latched onto a cross to slam home his second and Mali’s third goal, while Yattabore stunned the hosts with the equalizer at the death of record, probably the Nations Cup’s biggest comeback in history.
Meanwhile, Togo has finally withdrawn from the continentwide soccer tournament and its players reluctantly left Angola yesterday, two days after a deadly ambush on the team bus killed three and injured eight. A separatist leader warned, however, that violence would not likely end.
It took a call from Togo’s president to persuade the players to leave the African Cup of Nations; they said they wanted to stay and compete in honour of the assistant coach, team spokesman and Angolan bus driver who died in Friday’s attack.
The government dispatched the presidential plane, while Togo’s Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo said Angola had not done enough to protect the team after the attack in Cabinda-the oil-rich region in northern Angola which has seen occasional separatist violence.
“We fully understand our government’s decision to leave because they didn’t receive enough guarantees for our security,” forward Thomas Dossevi told The Associated Press. “We as players, we wanted to stay to honor the memory of our dead people, but both positions are understandable.”
Togo team captain Emmanuel Adebayor, speaking in an interview with France’s RMC radio Sunday, said the team had decided finally to “pack our bags and go home” after the Manchester City striker got a call from Togo President Faure Gnassingbe himself urging them to return.
“That’s what made the difference,” Adebayor was quoted as saying in a transcript of his interview on RMC’s Web site.
Boarding the plane, Adebayor told journalists: “We have to mourn our dead. We go back home to do this.”
Togo Sports Minister Christophe Padumhokou Tchao, who was accompanying the team home, told the AP three days of mourning had been declared in his homeland.
“We can’t be in a period of mourning and at the same time be in the festival” of sport, he said. He added Togo had asked organizers to postpone the tournament.
The airport scene was chaotic, with dozens of police struggling against a crowd of Journalists. Two planes carrying the players and officials then sat on the tarmac for several hours before taking off.
The tournament began earlier Sunday with an opening ceremony in a Chinese-built stadium in the capital, Luanda, livened by fireworks as well as both traditional and contemporary performers. Several African heads of state attended, including President Rupiah Banda of Zambia and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, whose country will host the World Cup later this year.
“Despite the terrorist attack, Cabinda will remain a hosting city,” Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said in an opening speech. “There is no need to be afraid.”
Most top officials of the African Football Confederation, known by its French initials CAF, went Saturday to Cabinda, where some of the injured were still recovering, and implored Togo to stay.
CAF president Issa Hayatou said he’d received a guarantee from Angola Prime Minister Antonio Paulo Kassoma that security would be beefed up for all teams and at all venues.
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
Wike, Pride Of Nigeria’s Democracy, NUJ Affirms
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has described Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, as an exhibit of pride to democracy in Nigeria.
The NUJ also noted that Wike has redefined governance through demonstration of democracy in action with his service to Rivers people.
The National leadership, the 36 State Executives, and the FCT, including members of the NUJ across the country made the assertion in Port Harcourt during the inspection tour led by the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim of both completed and ongoing projects being undertaken by the governor in the state.
The National President of the NUJ, Chief Chris Isiguzo, said the 1999 Constitution bestows on the media the responsibility to hold governments accountable to the people.
Isiguzo posited that having placed the projects side-by-side with the expectations of the populace, it was obvious that the governor’s investment in critical infrastructure would remain lifelong empowerment tools for the people.
”We were at the Mother and Child Hospital. We took time to look at the facilities there. That can easily be said to be first of its kind in the country.
”At the much-talked about Real Madrid Football Academy, where they are going to train the young ones, we saw that they have good facilities. At the moment, they have also offered admission to 140 pupils.
”That’s also to catch-them-young, and I want to believe that by the time this kind of resources is continuously invested in sports development in Nigeria, it’s just a matter of time, it will gain its pride of place in sporting world.”
On her part, the National President of Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs Ladi Bala said that the projects she had seen were entirely unique, unprecedented and very uncommon in the country.
According to Bala, the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges’ Quarters stand out as first of its kind in Nigeria, with its serene ambiance that would translate into enhancing the productivity of judges of Rivers origin.
”I believe that democracy is at work in Rivers State, and, for Rivers people, I want to congratulate them, and to say, this is the true reflection of what democracy should be across board.
”I want to call on other governors across the country to borrow a leaf from what the governor of Rivers State is doing. Wike is working, and we are very proud of what we have seen here”, she added.
In his reaction, the National Internal Auditor of NUJ, Muhammad Tukur, stated that Wike was a committed leader with the vision of uplifting the standard of life of his people.
Tukur, who expressed gratitude to Wike for his support to the NUJ National Conference in Port Harcourt, said that his show of love for journalists confirms his commitment to the welfare of the people.
On his part, Chairman of Oyo State Council of the NUJ, Comrade Ismail Ademola Babalola, asserted that the Mother and Child Hospital, and the Real Madrid Football Academy were part of projects Governor Wike was using to secure a productive future for the youths of the state because they meet global standard.
Also speaking, the Vice President of NUJ North Central Zone, Chief Wilson Bako, commended the quality of the various roads and flyover bridges constructed in the Port Harcourt metropolis to make the city tourists’ destination of choice.
In the same vein, the Vice Chairman of NUJ in Jigawa State, Comrade Larai Musa, said she has confirmed all that the news media had carried about Wike and his projects’ mantra, and asserted that it was leaders like him that were needed at the national level.
Also, Comrade Ikechukwu Ordu of Enugu State Council of the NUJ noted the need for other political leaders to emulate Wike in providing dividends of democracy to Rivers people and changing the fortunes of his state.
Also from the Enugu State Council of the NUJ, Comrade Ugochukwu Chukwudieke, said she was completely overwhelmed by what Wike has done in constructing the Okoro-Nu-Odo Flyover Bridge, Rumuogba Flyover Bridge, and Rebisi Flyover Bridge delivered within one year.
Chukwudieke also praised the quality of work on the Rumuola Flyover Bridge, Ogbun-nu-Abali Flyover Bridge, GRA Junction Flyover Bridge, and the Orochiri-Wurukwo flyover project at Waterlines Junction by Aba Road.
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