Three-time champions Super Eagles have been drawn to play Guinea and debutants Madagascar and Burundi in a tricky Group B of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
The colourful draw ceremony, which took place behind the historical Giza Pyramids, had ex-Ghana captain now CAF Assistant Secretary-General Anthony Baffoe in charge of the event, with other African football greats Ahmed Hassan, Yaya Toure and El Hadji Diouf assisting him.
The tournament takes place from June 21 to July 19.
Nigeria were among the six seeded teams in Pot A following the release of the draw procedures by the Confederation of African Football on Thursday.
The other five seeded teams are Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco and Cameroon.
Guinea, who picked silver ahead of Nigeria at the 1976 AFCON in Ethiopia, are making their 12th appearance with Nigeria going for their 18th appearance.
Group A has hosts Egypt, DR Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe, while Senegal, Algeria, Kenya and Tanzania are in Group C.
In Group D, Namibia face an uphill task against former champions Morocco, Ivory Coast and South Africa in what is seen as the group of death.
Group E will have Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Angola battling, while current champions and five-time winners Cameroon, four-time winners Ghana, Benin and Guinea-Bissau are in Group F.
Edema Fuludu, a winner of the AFCON in 1994, described Group B as an easy pool the Eagles should take advantage of.
“I see no reason why the Eagles shouldn’t come out tops of that group,” Fuludu said.
“They say big names don’t play football anymore but I don’t see the likes of Burundi and Madagascar constituting an obstacle to the Eagles’ chances in Egypt.
“Going by our current FIFA ranking and our achievements in the competition, it’s an easy group for the Eagles.”
Before the draw ceremony, Eagles coach Gernot Rohr was happy to avoid record winners and hosts Egypt.
“We are in the same pot, so we cannot meet Egypt. Because when you play the host country, it’s always very difficult,” Rohr stated in a short video interview posted on the Confederation of African Football’s Twitter handle.
“It becomes more difficult when you have a team like the one you have here in Egypt.”
The last time the Eagles competed at the tournament in 2013, they emerged champions but were absent in the last two editions in 2015 and 2017.
The Eagles first won the AFCON title in 1980 on home soil before Dutchman, Clemens Westerhof, led the country’s golden generation to another triumph in 1994 in Tunisia.
Nigeria’s Response to Coronavirus is Impressive, Says UN Chief
The United Nations has praised Nigeria for it’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country with an estimated 200 million inhabitants, currently has 190 cases of COVID-19 but has managed to keep the death toll to just two.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, while speaking at a virtual news briefing in New York, referred to Nigeria as a ‘developing country’ that has “shown a remarkable capacity to respond to the coronavirus.”
“I have to say this: some of these developing countries have shown a remarkable capacity to respond.
“I was quite impressed to see, for instance, Nigeria putting in place and immediately establishing a hospital. “And I saw difficulties in countries that are much more developed to do quickly the same.”
He also renewed his call for a global ceasefire, urging countries in a conflict like Syria, Libya and Yemen to lay down arms and allow for unified combat against the coronavirus pandemic.
“The worst is yet to come,” Guterres said, referring to countries beset with fighting.
Army Officer Becomes First Coronavirus Positive Case in Ondo
The Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has confirmed the first coronavirus case in the state via his Twitter handle. He also said the patient is an army officer who recently returned from India.
We have just received confirmation of our first positive#COVIDー19 case in Ondo State this evening. The infected person is currently under isolation and will be monitored. We have activated all necessary protocol to locate all contacts and will be working closely with @NCDCgov.
— Arakunrin Akeredolu (@RotimiAkeredolu) April 3, 2020
Akeredolu was the first in the state to undergo COVID-19 test after fears he was in contact with the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, who is currently undergoing treatment for the virus. The governor tested negative for the virus.
“We have just received confirmation of our first positive #COVIDー19 case in Ondo State this evening,” Mr Akeredolu wrote on Friday evening.
“The infected person is currently under isolation and will be monitored. We have activated all necessary protocol to locate all contacts and will be working closely with @NCDCgov.”
The state during the week was in celebration after 12 persons suspected to be carrying the virus came out negative.
The case of a female resident in Arogbo Ijaw, in Ese Odo Local Government Area of the state, who was said to have recently returned from abroad, created a stir in the area, but after a laboratory test, she was found negative.
As of 11 a.m. on Friday, the total national figure for infected persons had risen to 190, with 20 persons treated and discharged and two deaths recorded.
With Ondo State joining the list of affected states, the number is now 191, although the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is yet to formally announce the Ondo case.
“It is with great concern that the Ondo State Government announces the first index case. A suspected case tested positive to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Commissioner for Information, Donald Ojogo, said in a statement on Friday evening.
“We thank God for His protection thus far. Ours has been a case of anxiety while we enjoyed a COVID-19-free state status.
“This development has, however, repudiated that enviable status even as we urge all to be vigilant and keep ourselves within the precincts of measures put in place.
“God help Ondo State.”
Mr Akeredolu followed his earlier tweet with another, clarifying that the coronavirus index in the state is a military officer who recently arrived from India.
The governor said the returnee from India had been in isolation since he returned and had been monitored by the medical team of the military and the Ondo State team through the period.
“Upon showing some symptoms, his samples were taken and the diagnosis confirmed by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control at their lab in Ede,” the governor said.
“We have now commenced the transfer of the officer to the state isolation center.”
The governor said there was no need for any panic as the infected officer was in a very stable condition and “we ask for calm from all in Ondo State.”
“We are on top of this and ask that our citizens continue to follow all preventive measures to ensure they remain safe,” he added.
In his statement, Mr Ojogo said the state government considered it necessary to allay the fears of the people and explain that the confirmed index case, an army officer, had voluntarily isolated himself as soon as he arrived in the country from India over a week ago.
“During this period of self isolation, he was monitored by the State Inter-Ministerial Committee in collaboration with the NCDC,” said Mr Ojogo.
“Necessary tests were carried out and result is what we have today.
“However, we appeal to all and sundry not to panic as both the NCDC and the State Inter-ministerial Committee have jointly commenced efforts to effect needful protocols in line with COVID-19.”
However, in spite of the measures taken to stem the spread of the disease, residents in the state have continued to flout the stay-at-home order and the closure of markets.
Some markets still opened for business on Friday, as well as some shops in the outskirts of Akure, where enforcement is minimal.
The popular Oda market where farm produce are usually sold, came alive in the early hours of the morning, where residents made brisk purchases. The market is a morning market.
Chinese Medical Team to Arrive in Nigeria Soon, Says Health Minister
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Friday, said that Chinese doctors, nurses and medical experts would arrive in Nigeria in a few days to assist in the fight against COVID-19.
The minister said this during a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.
Cases in Nigeria have reached 210 as the global figure also surpassed one million mark. He said Nigeria was also exploring the possibility of producing some medical equipment after key stakeholders met in Abuja on Thursday.
The coming of the Chinese medical experts was announced just as the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said efforts to contain COVID-19 in Nigeria were being limited by finance, manpower and other indices despite the support from government and individuals.
Ehanire said, “The global number has crossed one million mark, barely three months after the first cases were first reported in Wuhan, China. It is an indication that it is a public health challenge that we must not take lightly.”
He continued, “We are already seeing what may be the indication of community transmission, in that 30 per cent of the cases have incomplete epidemiological information. 51 per cent are imported cases and 19 per cent are through contacts of known cases.
“Directors of the Federal Ministry of Health had discussions with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to explore the potential for local production of medical consumables such as face masks, gloves, sanitisers and even ventilators.
“This is in view of looming global shortages of medical supplies for the response due to high demands from all countries. Clinical trials and other processes are ongoing to validate various therapeutic for COVID-19 treatment.”
After the briefing, Nigeria recorded 20 new cases: 11 in Lagos State, three in FCT, three in Edo State, two in Osun State and one in Ondo State.