Ifeanyi Ojeli and Patience Okon-George emerged the athletes to beat on the second day of the Athletics Event following their impressive performances in the Men And Women’s 400M semi-finals of the 20th National Sports Festival.
The race held on Saturday morning at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin, the capital of Edo State where the biggest sporting event in the country is taking place.
Ojeli, competing for Lagos became the second Nigerian athlete to break 46 seconds in 2021 as he effortlessly won the first of the three semi-final heats.
He ran 45.99 seconds to finish first ahead of Okezie Chidi of Delta State who came second with 46.32 seconds to take the second automatic slot.
Nathaniel Samson also ran 46.72 seconds to win the second semi-final ahead of pre-race favourite, Sikiru Adeyemi of Oyo State who raced 46.82 seconds.
In the third semi-final, Johnson Nnamani of Enugu State posted 47.36 seconds to win ahead of Afam Ogbuagu of Anambra State who finished in 47.85 seconds, while Bayelsa State’s Olanrewaju Eriolowa with a time of 48.09 seconds and Imo’s Destiny Majemite who finished in 48.20 seconds completed the eight-man list for Sunday’s final.
In the women’s 400M, Okon-George proved that she was still the athlete to beat after easily winning her semi-final heat with a commanding 52.79 seconds run, while Ovwighoadkebere Blessing of Bayelsa State (54.30 seconds) and Josephine Oloye of Ondo State (54.66 seconds) secured the remaining automatic slots for the final in the heat.
Nse Imaobong was also impressive in the other semi-final heat, crossing the finish line in 53.29 seconds to win ahead of Blessing Oladoye of Lagos State (54.13 seconds) and Opeyemi Oke of Ondo State (54.33 seconds).
Joy Usenbor of Ondo State (54.42 seconds) and Delta State’s Glory Patrick (54.90 seconds) completed the line-up for the final which would be a battle for supremacy between two Akwa Ibom athletes, Okon-George and Nse Uko.
Interestingly, Okon-George won on the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium track in March 2020, producing 51.84 seconds in her first and final competition, and has been tipped as favourite to win on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Edo State led the track and field medals table on Saturday, winning two gold medals from the opening day.
The duo of Fadekemi Olude with a time of 1 hour, 40 minutes, 05 seconds, and Dele Elegbede recording 1 hour, 42 minutes, 16 seconds, gave Edo the first gold in the Women and Men’s 20KM walk race to put the hosts in a good position to compete for more medals in track and field.
Ibrahim Baba of Delta State with a throw of 46.39m won gold in the Men’s Hammer event while fast-improving Utitofon James confirmed her superiority with a throw of 48.36m to win the Women’s Discus event.
Rivers State also picked its first gold of the festival through sprint hurdler when Grace Aiyemoba ran 13.65 seconds to win the 100M hurdles while Oyeniyi Abejoye from Lagos picked the Men’s 110M hurdles gold with a time of 13.79 seconds.
Rose Akusho completed the gold medal haul for the opening day of track and field, running 17minutes, 13.95 seconds to win the 5000M event for Plateau State.
The Men and Women’s 100M final would be concluded on Saturday with Grace Nwokocha tipped as the overwhelming favourite to win, following her very dominant displays in the Nigerian athletics scene since 2020.
The Delta State athlete has won all available local events and raced to an impressive 11.09 personal best in March.
The time remains the fastest ever run on Nigerian soil by a home-based athlete in over two decades and the fastest since Blessing Okagbare ran 11.02 seconds to win the 100M gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games trials in Sapele, Delta State.
Nwokocha will have the trio of Ese Brume (11.69), Praise Ofoku (11.67), and Joy Udo-Gabriel (11.66) challenging for the silver and bronze medals for Team Delta and Team Lagos respectively, with the pretty Udo-Gabriel who ran a new 11.34 seconds personal best some 12 days ago in Lagos ahead in the battle for silver.
Edo and Bayelsa states have shared the gold medals available in the Team Time Trials event in cycling at the ongoing National Sports Festival decided at Irhirhi road in the outskirts of Benin City.
The Edo women’s quartet team led by Tombrapa Grikpa finished the 10km race in a time of 12mins, 02.14secs to win the gold medal.
Their closest rival, Delta with Ese Ukpereseraye as the lead settled for the silver after posting a time of 12 minutes, 16.48 seconds.
Oyo State Quartet which had Joke Durogbade as lead rider finished in a time of 12 minutes, 42.36 seconds to clinch bronze ahead of Plateau state.
Bayelsa State clocked 10 minutes, 25.99 seconds to win the men’s gold. Caleb Kalizibe made a difference as they finished ahead of Delta state which settled for Silver after returning in a time of 10 minutes, 29.42 seconds.
Edo recorded a time of 10 minutes, 29.49 seconds to finished third in the event that had 16 participating states.
The 20th National Sports Festival currently ongoing in Edo State will continue after the Presidency’s intervention.
This is according to the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development which stated this on Thursday via a statement.
According to the statement, the uncertainty surrounding the continuation of the Sports Festival has been resolved following reassurance by the Federal Government to support the Edo State Government.
“Following the news making the rounds that the Edo State Government will shut down the National sports Festival if the Federal Government support does not come through,” the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Nebeolisa Anako was quoted as saying in Benin.
“The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development is the Organiser of the National Sports festival while the Edo State Government is the host.
“I wish to announce that the Athletes are in their various game villages and games are ongoing following the intervention of the Presidency assuring that the financial support to the Edo State Government is in its final processing stage.
“The games are not under threat. There was an Information gap earlier but as we speak, the games are ongoing and we assure you there won’t be any closure till the closing of the National Sports Festival.”
The Ministry’s reaction comes amid a threat shutdown threats by the Local Organising Committee over the funding of the competition.
The LOC on Wednesday had said the Federal Government was yet to redeem its pledge to support the host state financially for the cost of postponements, which has left it with no option but to end the games at noon on Thursday.
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State says despite the challenges facing Nigeria, the country has come to stay as one united entity.
Obaseki said this on Sunday when he received the Torch of Unity for the 20th National Sports Festival (NSF) at the Government House in Benin City.
“We also want to make a statement that we have not been overcome by this pandemic. Despite the pandemic, we must continue to do the things we need to do to keep life going,” he said when he received the torch from the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, represented by the Ministry’s South-South Director of Sports, Peter Nelson.
“For us as a country, we have come to stay as one united, indivisible entity. We have our challenges, but I see this festival as a stepping stone. We would go through this stage and get out stronger and better.”
He added that the festival is important enough to encourage youths and get them to do one of what they know how to do best, which is sports.
“We are hosting, not to make money, but as patriotic Nigerians: We need to do things to heal the land as we have passed through a terrible year,” the governor added.
The governor said that, more than ever before, Nigerians need to come together at this time.
“This is why our administration decided to hold the 20th NSF in Benin City,” Obaseki stated. “We are happy to receive this torch and promise to keep it alive and pass it on to the state which will host the 21st NSF.”
A new date has been confirmed for the 20th edition of the National Sports Festival to kick-off.
The Ministers of Youths and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, on Friday confirmed April 2nd to April 14th as the new date.
The Sports Minister made the announcement during a visit to the Edo State Government House in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
He also announced that Edo State will be used for the National Camp in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games taking place later this year.
Dare said further that the Federal Government is determined to go ahead with the Unity Games which is the sequel to participation at the Tokyo Games.
However, he noted that due to logistics under the circumstances occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of athletes has been reduced from 14,000 to 8,000 athletes.
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki in response assured that the state is ready to host the games.
He appealed to the Federal Government to make funds available to enable the state to take good care of visiting athletes and officials at the sports festival.
He explained that the series of postponements have taken its toll on the state government and that the country is winning the war against the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes the games safe enough to go ahead as scheduled
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Festival had witnessed series of postponement after the initial date of March 18th to April 1st, 2020 date was fixed.
The Federal Government has postponed the 20th National Sports Festival for the fourth time since its original date of March 21 to April 2020.
The event, which was scheduled to begin on February 14, was again shifted to a yet to be confirmed date in April 2021.
This decision was reached on Monday after the emergency meeting of the National Council on Sports convened by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, who is the chairman of the council.
In attendance were the commissioners of youth and sports from the states of the federation and directors of Sports.
The Deputy Governor of Edo state who is also the chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the “Edo 2020” games, Philip Shaibu was also present at the meeting.
Before the announcement of this current postponement, the Festival was fixed February 14th – 28th. This is the fourth postponement the games will be suffering since its original date of March 21st to April 1st 2020.
This recent postponement was occasioned by the second wave of the pandemic and the paucity of funds.
The Edo Govt had requested for financial support due to the cost implications it suffered arising from the postponement. The accommodation prepared at the University of Benin was no longer available for the Athletes because students are back to school.
Rising from the meeting of the National Council on Sports, the Council resolved that it was best to shift the festival to a later date due to financial challenges raised by the host state and accommodation problems at the University of Benin.
According to the resolution of the council, the Federal Government, Edo State and the Council on Sports agreed that the festival will now hold in April since the earlier February date was no longer feasible.
The Minister provided more explanation on the postponement.
“We have seen the Sports Festival postponed three times. As we speak now, most of us should have arrived Edo state getting ready for February 14, to start the Edo 2020 Sports Festival,” he said.
“But flowing from our last meeting a few things came up. There was an undertone that the postponements have occasioned some financial difficulties and strains on the host state, and I dare say even on our part as the Ministry the postponements have also occasioned some financial difficulties.
“On the strength of this similar experience myself, His Excellency the Governor and also Deputy Governor have bounced Ideas, the conversation, back and forth. Of course, when December came, we know that almost everything stopped but it was agreed that it was important to approach the Federal Government for financial support.
“I’m glad to report that the Federal Government is favourably disposed to assisting Edo State to host the Festival. In the next few days, we hope to push through the document through the Ministry of Finance to get the financial support to get the festival on track. The February 14th date was not cast in stone as we wanted to avoid another postponement. But we must agree that the February 14th date is no longer feasible.
“The importance of the Festival cannot be overemphasized. The idea of not holding the Festival should be thrown out completely. It is an Olympics year; it would help shape the athletes for the Olympics.”
On his part, the Edo Deputy Governor said: “I agree the festival should hold before the Olympics to get our athletes fit and to secure points they require for the Olympics. Every postponement goes with a cost, but we are totally committed to hosting the festival. We are very expectant of the support of the Federal Government to make the festival a reality.”
The National Council on Sports did not provide an exact date in April when the games will take place and that confirms the growing uncertainty and harsh reality of Covid-19 pandemic on sporting activities in Nigeria.
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has approved January 3-17, 2021 for the 20th edition of the National Sports Festival tagged Edo 2020.
The new date was agreed during a virtual meeting on Thursday, convened by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, which reviewed circumstances around the recent rescheduling of the sporting event.
The new date is to allow the PTF, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Edo State Government and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to complete the necessary steps and processes, as assigned, to ensure a hitch-free Festival and also achieve the deployment of rapid diagnostic test kits for over 11,000 athletes.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development is hoping this shift will be the last the event will suffer and called on all those involved to ensure the requirements are achieved so the games can happen next year.
The virtual meeting had in attendance the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, PTF National Coordinator – Dr. Sani Aliyu, PTF’s Deputy National Incident Manager/ Head of Operations – Dr Assad Hassan, Representatives of NCDC, amongst others.
Edo 2020 was originally scheduled for March 21st – April 1st but was postponed two days to its commencement due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Council on Sports has given approval for the 20th National Sports Festival tagged Edo 2020 to hold from December 3rd to 8th in Benin City, Edo State.
The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, who is the Chairman of Council assured that all the guiding protocols of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID – 19 will be fully implemented.
He said that the required infrastructure has been achieved as confirmed by the National Assembly’s inspection visit to the state.
Corroborating the views of the minister, the deputy governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu who was present at the meeting in Asaba, re-affirmed the state’s commitment and readiness to conduct daily testing of COVID-19 for all athletes and officials who will attend the competition.
“It is indeed heart-warming that the long-awaited NSF is holding this year 2020 as jointly approved the National Council on Sports, today in Asaba,” Shaibu stated.
The council fixed December 3rd for the opening of the games village. The first phase of arrival will be December 3-4, 2020 while the opening ceremony will be done on December 5.
Competition days phase 1, comes up Dec. 6-10, break and arrivals for 2nd phase come up Friday, December 11.
Competition days for phase 2 will be done from Dec 12-16, the closing ceremony is scheduled for December 17 while the closure of Games Village will be done on December 18.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has issued certificates of return to Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, and his deputy, Phillip Shaibu.
The National Commissioner, INEC in charge of Edo, Rivers, and Bayelsa, Mrs May Agbmuche-Mbu made the presentation on Tuesday at the INEC office in Aduwawa, Benin City, the Edo State capital.
She commended stakeholders particularly the security agencies for their role in the smooth conduct of the governorship poll.
“I hereby certify that Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been elected to the office of governor of Edo State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at the election held on the 19th of September 2020,” Agbmuche-Mbu said while presenting the certificate to Obaseki.
Governor Obaseki was returned elected by INEC after polling the highest number of votes in the keenly-contested election conducted on Saturday, September 19.
INEC Returning Officer for the poll, Professor Akpofure Rem-Rukeh, declared the governor as the winner on Sunday at the office of the electoral umpire in Benin City, which doubled as the final collation centre.
The governor secured 307,955 of the total votes, 84,336 more votes than his closest rival Ize-Iyamu, who got 223, 619 votes.
Obaseki Offers Olive Branch
Meanwhile, Godwin Obaseki offered an olive branch to leaders and members of the opposing party, All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
Obaseki while giving an address after he received his certificate of return said the fight is over between him and his predecessor Adams Oshiomhole who is also the former Chairman of the APC.
He also called on the flagbearer of the APC, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and other members to join in the administration of the state and in moving Edo State forward.
The Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Reverend Bishop Mattew Kukah, has commended the people of Edo State for their conduct during the state’s governorship election on Saturday.
According to him, the people have left a legacy of efficiency which the entire country can emulate.
“The way they conducted themselves and I think in every sense of the word, they left us a legacy of efficiency,” he said on Tuesday during an interview on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily.
The bishop who is also a member of the National Peace Committee, also commended the Independent National Electoral Commission, security agencies and civil society groups for their roles in the election.
“We worked very closely with INEC and I must commend the INEC chairman for his incredible leadership, zeal and enthusiasm.
“The Inspector-General of Police kept to his word on the promises he made to the people of Edo State and to the peace committee.
“Our commendation also goes to the people of Edo State. I have received quite a lot of messages from old friends that I haven’t spoken to in a long time, commending the work of the National Peace Committee but really this is not an honour that one individual should take.
“It is the people of Edo State, the way they conducted themselves,” he said.
Speaking generally about the political atmosphere in other parts of the country, he lamented that Nigeria is currently not practicing a democracy.
“What we are practicing in Nigeria, it’s just theoretically we answer the name democracy but in reality, what we are dealing with is a feudal system that is tied to agencies and ideologies that have got nothing to do with a democracy.
“When last did you see a politician across Europe which we are trying to imitate go and bow to the queen or king or seek blessings from a bishop. We have too many intervening variables that are confusing the narrative.
“We are really not practicing the principles of democracy and it lies in the fact that only those who have money can hope to be voted into power.
“If you feel you need to be anointed to ascend to power then we are running a theocracy”.
Election observation groups – Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and Edo Civil Society Organizations (EDOCSO) have rated the Edo State governorship election as largely ‘free and fair.’
The group, however, flagged incidences of voter inducement across the 18 local governments in the state by the groups.
“The two major political parties, APC and PDP were involved and trying to outdo each other in voter inducement with suspected party leaders glaringly seen sharing money to a group of voters mostly women in many polling units,” the groups said.
This was disclosed in their preliminary report released on Saturday and signed by the TMG Chairperson, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi.
The group noted that despite the few lapses observed, the election was relatively well executed and largely free and fair.
They also cited impressive voters’ turnout, fair and adequate security, adequate election materials as some of the incidents that contributed to the success of the election.
See the full preliminary report below…
PRELIMINARY REPORT ON THE EDO STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION OF SEPTEMBER 19, 2020. RELEASED BY THE TRANSITION MONITORING GROUP (TMG).
Issued: September 19, 2020.
This is the preliminary report by the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), and Edo Civil Society Organizations (EDOCSO), from the TMG/EDOCSO Election Observation Platform on the Governorship Elections of September 19, 2020.
This report is based on a preliminary assessment of the field reports by our observers, both regular and citizens. These observers were deployed to polling units across the 18 local government areas (LGAs) of Edo State to observe the Election Day processes.
Field Reports Summary:
Voters turnout was impressive in most polling units across the 18-local government observed.
Security was fairly adequate in most places. This provided the confidence that most voters required to come out to vote.
The election processes in most places were peaceful and orderly.
Election materials were generally adequate
INEC Ad-hoc staff showed commitment and largely appeared well trained.
There was not much compliance with Covid-19 protocols in terms of social distancing, use of face masks, and hand sanitizer in most polling units, although provision for hand sanitizer were made in many polling units.
ASSESSMENT OF INEC LOGISTICS EFFICIENCY.
A.There was a notable efficiency in INEC logistics, but some challenges were also noticed.
* Late arrival of election officials and materials in some polling units, resulting in late commencement of the election processes.
* Difficulties in the authentication of some registered voters due to the malfunctioning of smart card readers.
* Cases of voting irregularities – unaccredited voters, assisted voting through party agents.
Voter turnout was generally encouraging across the state, though it was low in some polling units observed by our field observers. Voters were observed to arrive at many polling units well ahead of opening time. This was witnessed across different polling units in the state. The patience and the tenacity of voters to vote and defend their votes was a general trend observed.
COUNTING AND RESULT DECLARATION AT THE POLLING UNITS
Vote counting and result declaration at the polling units generally proceeded without much hitches. Counting and sorting of ballots were done openly in the presence of party agents, security personnel, and election observers in most cases and the announced results were sent to the INEC portal and also displayed in conspicuous places for people to see. This enhances the credibility of the polls
VOTE BUYING AND OTHER ELECTORAL IRREGULARITIES OBSERVED
Incidences of voter inducement were noticed across the 18 local governments with the two major parties, APC and PDP involved and trying to outdo each other. Suspected party leaders were glaringly sharing money to group of voters mostly women in many polling units. In some cases, some unscrupulous INEC officials and security agents were involved in the bribe saga at the polling units.
Some party agents were seen giving out money, food, wrappers, (clothe) face masks to voters at the polling centers. Few Incidences of Illegal thump printing of ballot papers/stuffing and snatching were reported across many local government areas in the state. Pockets of electoral violence and intimidation were also noticed as a method of scaring away voters to disenfranchise them. Voters and security agents resisted in some instances.
COMPLIANCE WITH COVID-19 PROTOCOL
In most polling units visited, voters did not observe social distancing, many were allowed into various polling units without face masks. Cases of highest noncompliance with COVID-19 protocols were common in places where hundreds of voters voted in clustered polling units
TMG Election Observation Platform is of the preliminary opinion that the election was relatively well executed and largely free and fair. The lapses observed were consistent with our experiences in previous elections. Our final report, which will be issued later, will expand on some of the other issues observed.