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UEFA: Barca, Liverpool held to goalless draw by Lyon, Bayern

FC Barcelona were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at Olympique Lyonnais in their UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg tie on Tuesday.

The result ensured both sides remained unbeaten in this season’s competition.

The La Liga leaders dominated the match at the Groupama Stadium but lacked accuracy upfront and were grateful to their goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen who made two great saves.

Lyon were lively in the first half but ran out of steam after the break.

They were holding on in the closing stages as Lionel Messi tried in vain to open up the home defence.

Barca had a total of 25 shots but only five on target and their best chance came in the last minute.

That was when Sergio Busquets’s 18-metre attempt was tipped over the bar by Anthony Lopes.

The second leg will be at the Nou Camp on March 13, a game where Lyon will welcome back France striker and captain Nabil Fekir, who was suspended on Tuesday.

“We could have done better in the first half and converted our chances, but we did not concede a goal. So, our chances are intact,” said Lyon defender Leo Dubois.

Lyon coach Bruno Genesio sprung a surprise by fielding Martin Terrier on the left wing instead of Maxwell Cornet, and the 21-year-old did not disappoint.

Barca dominated possession early on, but Lyon had the first two shots on target.

It took a couple of superb saves from Ter Stegen to deny the hosts, who never came that close again.

He stretched to his left to parry a vicious low shot by Hassem Aouar in the fifth minute.

The German later made a one-handed save to tip a 25-metre Terrier missile onto his crossbar.

Barca forward Ousmane Dembele came close in the 19th minute when he dribbled past Dubois on the left flank, only for goalkeeper Anthony Lopes to deny him in a one-on-one.

The visitors had the upper hand but were uncharacteristically wasteful as they spurned several counter-attacking opportunities.

A Dembele attempt shaved Lopes’s post, before Terrier skied his shot over the bar.

That was after a superb series of one-twos tore the Barca defence apart as both sides tried to break the deadlock.

Lyon were under siege early in the second period but their defence was perfectly marshalled by Jason Denayer, with Dubois also proving decisive against Luis Suarez.

Lopes beat Messi’s angled shot away to keep his side level before Dembele was replaced by Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian had a clear chance in the 76th minute, but he was denied by in-form Lopes.

Barca have now failed to win any of their last six away games in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage, with their last victory coming at Arsenal in February 2016.

Elsewhere, Bayern Munich showed all their UEFA Champions League experience and quality organisation as they held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw at Anfield on Tuesday.

The result from the first leg game of their last 16 pairing leaves it all to play for in the second leg in Munich on March 13.

However, the German side will be without defender Joshua Kimmich who will be suspended after picking up a yellow card.

Nigerians in diaspora beg Boko Haram to free Leah Sharibu

The Nigerians In Diaspora Organisation Americas (NIDOA) USA, has appealed for the release of Miss Leah Sharibu who was abducted in 2018 by a faction of the Boko Haram terrorists group.

NIDO, in a statement by its Board Chairman, Ms Patience Key, said it was disheartening that Sharibu was still being held in captivity by the factional Boko Haram terrorist group after one year.

“NIDO remembers and is deeply saddened by the predicament of Leah Sharibu,” the statement said.

“We call on the Nigerian government, Nigerians and the international community to unequivocally and forcefully denounce the continued captivity of Leah Sharibu, and to do everything in their power to secure her unconditional release.”

NIDO condemned all forms of terrorist atrocities, and and unequivocally denounced the practices of targeting schools and attacking children, it said.

“At no time and under no circumstance should a child, or any human being, ever be subjected to such brutal and inhumane violence and terror.

NIDO regretted that Feb. 19 marked one year that Sharibu had been held captive because of her refusal to renounce her faith.

“NIDOA USA, Nigeria and the international community must continue to insist on Leah Sharibu’s unconditional release, and ensure she returns and reunites with her heartbroken parents,” it noted.

The organisation condemned the activities of Boko Haram terrorists and any group involved in the devaluation of life and rights of Nigerians.

Leah Sharibu was abducted on Feb. 19, 2018, alongside 109 other children by Boko Haram terrorists during an attack on the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe.

How village head was abducted in Nasarawa

The police command in Nasarawa State has confirmed the abduction of Alhaji Yakubu Dauda, Village Head of Sabon Gida-Barkin Kogi in Lafia Local Government Area by unidentified gunmen.

ASP Samaila Usman, the Police Public Relations Officer of the command confirmed the incident to the News Agency of Nigerian (NAN) on Tuesday in Lafia.

Usman said that the monarch was abducted from his house at about 1:25 am on Monday.

According to him, the abductors came to the house, shot sporadically before whisking the village head away to an unknown destination.

“When the incident was reported, the Commissioner of Police Bola Longe, visited the village and directed for his rescue.

“The search and rescue team comprising Police Mobile Force, Special Anti-Robbery Squad as well as local hunters and vigilante groups are combing the bushes around the area,” he said.

He said the police have also beefed up security in the area and all roads linking other villages and towns such as Assakio, Obi and Lafia.

He said the command would not relent until the victim was rescued, and the culprits arrested and brought to justice.

Russia accuses US of planning to create new state in Syria

The United States nurtured a plan to split off a part of Syrian territory on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and create a puppet “quasi state” there, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow Tuesday.

“The task of restoring Syria’s territorial integrity, which the entire international community, including the United States, agreed upon, was used by the United States in a deceptive manoeuver,” Lavrov said at a press conference after meeting with Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak.

At the moment, Washington said that its main task is to prevent the Syrian government from returning to the eastern bank of the Euphrates, he said.

The United States openly declares that after withdrawing from Syria, it will support the Kurds, but only if they do not cooperate with the Syrian government and Russia, Lavrov said.

He said that the United States, under the pretext of fighting Islamic State (IS) terrorists and taking main Kurdish structures in the region as allies, has begun building a quasi state in the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

The United States is already actively investing in it, including forcing their allies to pay for development of the region and banning them from investing in the rest of Syria, which is controlled by the legitimate government, he said.

The fate of that part of Syria should not be determined by the whims of the United States, which is illegally present there, Lavrov said.

In December, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, citing that the local IS force has been largely defeated. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned shortly after Trump’s withdrawal decision.

PDP planning to win polls via crooked means: Oshiomhole

Mr Adams Oshiomhole, the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, has said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not ready to win elections through legitimate votes, but through illegally procured votes and thuggery.

He stated this on Tuesday in Abuja at a news conference while reacting to a critical statement made by Atiku Abubakar, the PDP Presidential Candidate on President Muhammadu Buhari’s riot act to thugs and ballot box snatchers.

President Buhari at the APC expanded National Caucus meeting on Monday, warned that any politician that sponsored thugs or ballot box snatchers, would be dealt with by security operatives.

The President said that security operatives have been instructed to deal with such persons.

Oshiomhole said no responsible candidate or individual should find fault in the President’s directive, adding that it is only candidates who rely on thuggery that would fault it.

“Atiku has called on the President to retract his instruction to security agencies regarding violence, ballot box thieves, and other electoral malpractices.

“The question is how such instruction disturbs anyone that is truly interested in free, fair and credible elections,” Oshiomhole said and described PDP and Atiku’s reactions as shameful.

Oshiomhole said the APC was not surprised because PDP has marshalled plans to get to power by all means possible.

The APC national chairman said that the option of one man one vote is not on PDP’s table.

He said Atiku by his statement has admitted that he is not popular by recently claiming that he had two geopolitical zones while the APC has four other geopolitical zones.

Oshiomhole stressed that Atiku and the PDP should prepare for the shock of their lives on the election day.

“The South South and South East are not oblivious of the unprecedented developmental achievements recorded in the zones under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration,”he said.

This contrasts with PDP’s wasted years in government.

He maintained that the good people of the South-South, South-East and all the geopolitical zones would speak through their legitimate votes, not the procured ballots planned by the PDP.

Oshiomhole noted that in the aftermath of the configured card readers recently recovered from PDP agents in some states, its presidential candidate, Atiku, had gone to town with face-saving conspiracies that the APC had imported slow-working card readers from China.

He said Atiku claimed that the card readers would be deployed to the South-South and South-East which Atiku considers his stronghold.

Oshiomhole wondered how Atiku got to know where the card readers were made, if he does not have informants in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

He debunked allegations by Atiku that the APC planned to shut down communication network on election days.

Oshiomhole said it was illogical that a party that was in a contest with clear superior numerical support would shut down communication on election day, as this would not only affect the PDP.

He recalled that the APC had earlier reported the PDP’s plot before last Saturday’s postponed elections by the INEC national chairman.

“The recent arrest of several armed PDP political thugs and recovery of INEC card readers and arms from PDP agents in some states point directly to the PDP’s plan as revealed by the security reports,” Oshiomhole said.

PDP’s illegal plot requires improved surveillance by security agencies, particularly the Department of State Services (DSS), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and allied agencies, Oshiomhole suggested.

He urged the agencies to check illicit financial flows and movement in the PDP camp in the run-up to the general elections.

Oshiomhole also said that following the postponement of the elections, there was need for INEC to identify and change its officers who have now, beyond doubt, become partisan and are actively working for partisan interest.

Atiku to PDP’s NEC: We are at edge of victory

At the PDP National Executive Council meeting in Abuja Tuesday, Atiku Abubakar who is the party’s presidential candidate, tells party stalwarts that the party is at the edge of victory and urges them to focus on Saturday’s election. Here is the full speech.

I find it necessary to, firstly, pay tribute to every member of our great party, and our long-suffering people who directly bear the costs of the cancellation of the first phase of our general elections that was to commence on February 16th, 2019.

I am sure we can all relate to the losses and burden on our citizens who travelled to various destinations for the exercise.

This is in addition to the burden on election personnel willing to sacrifice in furtherance of our democracy.

Inadequately prepared and yet deployed to hostile centres, these personnel, like us all, have also become victims of the potentially destructive path upon which our country has been thrust.

Nevertheless, together we stand poised on the edge of victory, but we must not let down our guard or lessen our resolve as we have an opponent who will stop at nothing to retain power.

Our goal is not to gain power for our own sake, but for the people of our country who have been so hard hit by four years of APC cluelessness and incompetence.

Four years which have seen 14 million more of our people without jobs, more of our people killed than ever before and more of our people living in extreme poverty than any other nation on this planet.

Let us not forget that in the last three years of the last PDP, administration Nigeria had become the largest economy in Africa and in each of those years, we had the fastest growth rate in our continent.

And so true to our values and commitment to chart a new path for our beloved country, our campaigns have been issues based, offering Nigerians hope for a better tomorrow; while demanding free, fair, transparent and credible elections from the government.

The feedback from our supporters throughout the country confirmed their desire and willingness to entrust their destiny to us as a viable alternative to their hopelessness.

However, it now appears that our participatory democracy which we have enjoyed for 20 years, which empowers our citizens to decide who leads them, is under threat.

This is worrisome, considering the great sacrifices including the ultimate sacrifice made by many to uphold the tenets of democracy in our country.

You will recall that during the Peace Accord process, I stated in clear terms, quoting former President Goodluck that “my ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.”

Today, I call on President Buhari, to make that same commitment to the people whose mandate he holds, while also urging all security agencies to uphold our constitution with an understanding that voting is a civil activity and civic responsibility.

The Nigerian military is constitutionally responsible for protecting our national integrity and its borders and has no role to play in the conduct of elections.

Additionally, I call on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), once again to remain impartial arbiters while ensuring that they conduct credible elections, this time around.

INEC must ensure that all logistical challenges are addressed between now and Saturday, the 23rd, and that all materials retrieved from the field are inspected by participating political parties before the commencement of the elections.

My fellow Nigerians and party men and women, I am certain that you have also keenly followed with interest, utterances from the leadership of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Gen. Buhari, which is a painful reminder of the era of dictatorship and military rule.

Gen Buhari has repeatedly violated the constitution and failed to uphold the rule of law, recent instances include the unconstitutional suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the day before he was to appoint the judges for the electoral tribunals that will decide any appeals of whether any of our elections were subject to manipulation.

Thereby crossing the immutable line that divides the Executive from the Judiciary.

Alas, my concerns do not end there. Only yesterday Gen. Buhari said “the military and police should be ruthless” and “anybody who disturbs the voting system, will do it at the expense of his own life.”

It is quite shocking for any head of state to utter such words in a democracy. A pre-condition for ‘free, fair and credible’ elections is that the people are able to cast their vote without fear of violence.

Elected into office by the votes of the people in what is considered Nigeria’s most free, fair and credible election, you owe it to our people to let them give their verdict in the same way you were elected.

If you do, history will commend you for it. If you don’t history will condemn you for it.

We must now turn our attention to the upcoming elections this Saturday, where the destiny of our people and country will resoundingly be decided.

In spite of last week’s disappointment, I urge all Nigerians to come out and vote for the candidate of their choice, keeping in mind our desire to build a democratic and economically viable nation that will be respected amongst the league of democratic nations.

So, let me reassure you my friends: we are going to win these elections. And to our long-suffering citizens, I say do not despair, our time is now, and together we shall reshape the destiny of our beloved country.

Osaka beaten in first match after Australian Open

World number one, Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open, as she went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.

Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.

The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.

“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world number 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.

“Beating the number one is always special.”

The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.

Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.

She said earlier this week that she would not prioritise “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.

Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.

Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.

Halep said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elise Mertens.

“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.

“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”

A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.

Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.

“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.

“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with… maybe with my comeback at the end.”

Local favourite Ons Jabeur was forced to retire with the Tunisian trailing Svitolina 7-6 (7/4), 4-0.

Jabeur took a fall late in the opening set, rolling her ankle while also hitting her shoulder.

She took a medical timeout out but was only able to carry on in the second set for four games.

Third seed Svitolina is hoping to become the first women to win three Dubai titles.

“That is a big motivation for me here,” the Ukrainian said. “Today I didn’t really feel in a match mood, I don’t know why.

“I was struggling a bit, I had a very slow start. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

“I told myself that I’m here to make history of the tournament.”

Elsewhere, Hsieh Su-Wei defeated Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-1, 6-2 while Viktoria Kuzmova accounted for seventh seed Kiki Bertens, beating this month’s St Petersburg champion 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (8/6).

American Jennifer Brady downed French 14th seed Caroline Garcia 6-4, 7-5 as her compatriot Sofia Kenin defeated Russian 11th seed Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

A third US player, Alison Riske, advanced 6-2, 6-3 over Alize Cornet

Security unravels PDP’s cash for vote plan

Reports say that security agencies have discovered the plan by opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to deploy $3million (N1.8billion) to each state to induce voters.

The party is reported to have also co-opted former members of staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recruit loyal ad hoc staff for the elections.

Also, a member of the National Peace Committee, a body headed by former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, has also discovered to be in the work plan of PDP.

The Nation reported that the cash was remitted before last Saturday’s postponement elections.

It reported that most state chapters were finding it difficult to change the dollars to naira because of the surveillance on Bureau De Change operators by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Services (DSS).

Also, the agencies have intercepted alleged compromise of some officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), policemen and other security agents in some states.

The intelligence report, including the alleged implication of a former top official of INEC, may be presented to the chairman of the electoral commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, by the security agencies.

Ooni tasks INEC on free, fair elections

As Ile Ife people celebrate Aje festival, the Ooni, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, has urged INEC and other stakeholders to ensure free, fair and credible polls for the stability of the country.

The Ooni led thousands of Ile Ife indigenes, market men and women, professionals and business tycoons across the country to celebrate this year’a edition of Aje Festival.

He said that only a peaceful election could guarantee wealth and prosperity.

Oba Adeyeye, while addressing newsmen in his palace, on Monday, explained that Aje was a deity in charge of wealth and property.

He said that the festival had a great positive influence on Nigeria’s economy and peaceful existence.

According to him, the first economic activity in Africa started at the popular Igbomekun (Ojaafe) Market in Ile Ife.

He stressed that the role played by the Igbo people of the eastern part of country could not be over emphasised.

“We must go back to our history, this celebration belongs to all, including our brothers and sisters from the East.

“Igbos are part of this celebration, because Nigeria’s economy won’t be complete without mentioning them.

“In the ancient days, the Igbos were part of the natives in Ile Ife, we were one big happy family before they left for the East where they are today.

” Unlike some perspectives that they were from the Jews, the correct notion is that the Jews left Igbo land for their current location.” Ooni stated

In the same vein, Iyaloja of the Federation, Chief Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, said Aje was one of the most powerful among all Yoruba deities, in view of its economic potential.

Tinubu-Ojo expressed her deep belief in the celebration, and assured Nigerians that the country’s economy would receive a boost soonest.

She advised all and sundry to promote the prestigious Yoruba cultural and traditional heritage.(NAN)

Okowa visits widow, family of slain aide, Ngozi

Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa has visited the family of his aide, Mr Ngozi Ijei, who was shot dead recently in the state.

Okowa who visited his widowed wife, children and other family members present, mourned the death, saying it was painful to him, especially being that it was politically motivated.

The Governor who took to his twitter handle @GovIfeanyiOkowa to mourn his aide, commiserated with his family for their loss.

Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa@GovIfeanyiOkowa · 12hReplying to @GovIfeanyiOkowa

Ngozi was an architect of peace in the new Ekpan of our dream; he had worked largely with the security agencies in the last two years to make Ekpan peaceful, but, unfortunately, those who do not value life decided to strike.

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Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa@GovIfeanyiOkowa

I know that the loss of a dear one is very painful but I urge the wife, Mrs Veronica Ijei to stay strong, and I also urge other members of the family to take heart & take solace in the fact that nothing happens without the knowledge of God.

May he rest in the bosom of the Lord! pic.twitter.com/HXX9WmL7UZ1097:02 PM – Feb 18, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy

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“Today, I paid a condolence visit to the family of my political aide, Mr Ngozi Ijei who was assassinated on the eve of the botched Presidential and National Assembly elections in Ekpan, Uvwie local government area of Delta State.

“Ngozi was an architect of peace in the new Ekpan of our dream; he had worked largely with the security agencies in the last two years to make Ekpan peaceful, but, unfortunately, those who do not value life decided to strike.

“I know that the loss of a dear one is very painful but I urge the wife, Mrs Veronica Ijei to stay strong, and I also urge other members of the family to take heart & take solace in the fact that nothing happens without the knowledge of God.

“May he rest in the bosom of the Lord!,” he wrote.

Okowa with other members of the family of slain aide Ngozi Ijei
Okowa with other members of the family of slain aide Ngozi Ijei

According to the media office of Okowa, the governor who was in a pensive mood during the visit, signed the condolence register to honour his deceased aide.

The governor was said to have used the opportunity of the visit to call for issue-based campaigns and politicking, devoid of killing and maiming.

“We should continue to embrace peace as the election comes up because, going to the extent of using guns to get votes is not the best way for our country.

“I believe that it is important that all Nigerians should realize that getting votes can be achieved by what one has already done and the improvement that can be seen, not by violence.”

“I know that the loss of a dear one is very painful but, stay strong for the children,” the governor told Mrs Veronica Ijei, wife of the deceased who wept throughout the period of the visit.

He continued, “depend on God; I beg you, stay strong for the sake of these children and be prayerful; God will take control of every situation; accept our condolences and in everything that you think or do, you must look up to God.”