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.
COVID-19: Fresh Lockdown Likely After Two Weeks – PTF
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Monday lamented the increasing rate of COVID-19 cases among people in government, saying it was directly impacting on governance and security in the country.
The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who stated this at the task force press briefing in Abuja, also said the possibility of ordering a fresh total lockdown to curtail further spread of the virus could not be ruled out.
The SGF, who advised prominent Nigerians to take COVID-19 protocols seriously, said the virus does not respect status.
Mustapha’s warning came amid rising cases of COVID-19 among state governors and other prominent Nigerians. Recently state governors, including David Umahi of Ebonyi, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and their Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, contracted the virus.
Warning people in authority, the SGF said, “Of recent, we have witnessed a high rate of positive cases especially among people in authority. This has a direct impact on governance and security of our nation. We urge that vigilance and care should be exhibited by all Nigerians, irrespective of status. This virus does not discriminate and the PTF shall keep sustaining its sensitisation messaging.”
When asked if the task force would be considering a fresh lockdown in the face of what it observed as disregard for guidelines, Mustapha said events of coming weeks would determine the next line of action.
He said, “We will not speculate on what will happen in future but we will protect the lives of Nigerians.
“To achieve that, if it means to lock down again, we will not shy away from that responsibility. We will recommend to the President who will look at the report and take a decision on our recommendation. What happens in the next two three weeks will determine what we will do.”
Cross River Finally Joins the Fray As Nigeria Records 575 New COVID-19 Cases
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has announced 575 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 29,286.
Nine deaths were recorded from the virus on Monday bringing the total number of confirmed deaths from the virus to 654.
There was an increase in the number of confirmed cases reported Monday compared to what was reported on Sunday (544).
The health agency in a tweet Monday night said the 575 new cases were reported in 20 states including Lagos, Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), Delta, Edo, Ogun, Katsina, Bayelsa, Rivers, Borno, Plateau, Ondo, Oyo, Kwara, Osun, Enugu, Nasarawa, Abia, Cross River, Kaduna and Ekiti.
All the reporting states already had at least a case of the virus.
As of the time of reporting, all 36 states and the FCT have recorded at least a case of the disease.
NCDC has officially recorded the confirmed cases reported in Cross River, after days of controversies on the cases.
Lagos remains the epicentre for the disease in the country while Zamfara has not reported any new confirmed case in the past 48 days.
“Till date, 29, 286 cases have been confirmed, 11, 828 cases have been discharged and 654 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory,” the NCDC stated.
The 575 new cases were reported from 20 states: Lagos – 123, FCT – 100, Delta – 58, Edo – 52, Ogun – 42, Katsina – 24, Bayelsa – 23, Rivers – 22, Borno – 19, Plateau – 18, Ondo – 18, Oyo – 17, Kwara – 15, Osun – 13, Enugu – 9, Nasarawa – 7, Abia – 6, Cross River – 5, Kaduna – 3 and Ekiti – 1.
Since the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Nigeria in February, NCDC said, 152,952 samples have been tested.
As of the time of reporting, there are 16,804 active cases of COVID-19 in the country, while 11,828 have recovered and have been discharged.
A breakdown of the 29,286 confirmed cases shows that Lagos State has so far reported 11, 367 cases, followed by FCT – 2,281, Oyo – 1,530, Edo – 1,435, Delta – 1,285, Kano – 1,268, Rivers – 1,205, Ogun – 1,047, Kaduna – 868, Katsina – 628, Borno – 574, Gombe – 520, Bauchi – 518, Ebonyi – 503, Ondo – 474, Plateau – 454, Abia – 391, Enugu – 381, Imo – 352, Jigawa – 318, Kwara – 284, Bayelsa – 268, Nasarawa – 232, Osun – 178, Sokoto – 153, Niger – 122, Akwa Ibom – 112, Adamawa – 99, Benue – 97, Kebbi – 84, Zamfara – 76, Anambra – 73, Yobe – 61, Ekiti – 45, Taraba- 22, Kogi – 5, and Cross River – 5.
While confirmed cases of the virus have continued to increase in the country, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said the government is trying to boost overall COVID-19 sample collection, by preparing all public and private hospitals nationwide to become collection hospitals sites.
This, he said will require working with state governments to identify the facilities and the space within them, to conduct training for the personnel selected and supply both PPEs and sample collection kits, as well as the logistics to go around to recover test samples.
“If logistics around sample collection and delivery to test sites are better organised, a lot more will be achieved.
“However, the more we test, the more confirmed cases we shall find, of which the vulnerable will have to be prioritised for admission to treatment centres, even if they are not yet showing symptoms,” he added.
EFCC Acting Chair, Magu Spends Night in Police Custody
The embattled acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, spent the night in police custody on the orders of a presidential panel probing alleged infractions against him.
He was taken to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where he appeared before a presidential panel investigating alleged corruption and insubordination.
The allegations of insubordination and ‘relooting of recovered funds’ were levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
In separate statements Monday, the SSS denied arresting the anti-graft chief while the EFCC said Mr Magu was only invited for questioning.
Similarly, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption has also described Mr Magu as a victim of power play in the presidency.
Security and family sources informed PREMIUM TIMES Mr Magu was not allowed to go back home because the panel ordered his detention.
The EFCC official was grilled for several hours by members of the panel in the presence of an EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo.
When the panel rose for the day, it decided to send Mr Magu to Area 10 Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) of the police, sources said. He spent the night there, in police custody.
This newspaper learnt that several options of sanctions against Mr Magu were being weighed, pending the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“They are planning to take him to court,” PREMIUM TIMES was told Monday afternoon by a source who asked not to be named because he lacked the authority to speak officially
Another source at the presidency said there is a lobby group advocating for a soft-landing for Mr Magu, a police commissioner.
“According to this power bloc, disgracing Mr Magu will leave a dent on the EFCC and the government’s fight against corruption,” the source said.
“You cannot claim successes in the fight against corruption and turn around to say the man leading the war is a corrupt, immoral person. That is part of the argument of Mr Magu’s sympathisers,” said the source late on Monday.