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Our Talent Discovery Has Yielded Great Number of Dividends – Akpe

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Onoriode Kelvin Akpe, is the Director General of the Bayelsa Governor’s Cup otherwise known as Prosperity Cup, his involvement in grassroots football talents hunting and development over the last 9 years, has yielded tremendous results. Akpe hasbeen the brain behind Bayelsa State Governor’s cup Tournament where several young talents discovered are already playing professional football in different leagues across Nigeria, Africa, Europe and other parts of the world.

In this interview with Daily Asset South South Bureau Chief, Mike Tayese beared his mind on the achievements so far, the talents discovered, other plans and issues that is of public interest.

You conceived the idea of Bayelsa governor’s Cup in 2015, nine years after how has it been?

First, I want to thank the Lord Almighty for this vision to organize the Bayelsa Governor’s Cup, we actually tried to put it together in 2014 but we couldn’t, we finally hosted it in 2015, it was burnt out from the resolved of government appointees to involved in physical
activities, at a stage we realize that the passion which we exhibited and was supported by the youths of Bayelsa State was the enormous passion and skills that abound in the state, we believed that this talents were going to waste if not properly harnessed, so I and other came together and put this tournament together to see how it will help engage our youths in football talents development, so we put our own resources together to kick-start it and after we started the activities, we got the buying in of the government, Governor of
Bayelsa State then, Senator Seriake Dickson supported us and we start the first edition in Nembe, because Sampson Siasia stadium was under renovation at that time, since then the competition has been very interesting, very exciting but equally very challenging because the more the tournament grows, the more the issues.

Nine years after, what have been the results achieved with the governor’s Cup, in terms of talents discovery?

I will use this opportunity to go through a small trajectory of the tournament, first after the 2015 edition, we had the 2016 edition and the 2018 edition and then 2019 edition which was the most successful, because then Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare came in and was invited as a special guest in the final, when he saw the participation of the youth teams, he described it as a ‘largest grassroots football tournament’ which has been a name that has stacked to the tournament.It is a largest football tournament in Nigeria and in Africa with the number of teams that have registered for it, in that edition, we sent a select team of players to Cape Verde, African Youths Cup and that team came third in the whole of Africa, that was an enviable feat, that team came back and we kept them in camp and they eventually played Bayelsa League Cup and against all odd they beat all fancied teams to
emerged winners, so that really encourage us to know that youths of Bayelsa have lots of talents to be develop and propel to the greater heights and so we continued with it in the new administration of
Senator Douye Diri, and I must really commended the governor who was a commissioner of sports in the previous administration for his unravel commitment to the development of sports, especially football and the prosperity cup. When he came in, he first sent for me and asked how the arrangement for the tournament and I briefed him, and he said he was interested to ensure that more youths of Bayelsa are developed and propel to greater heights in their chosen career, then we started to build the tournament around the talents discovery and pushing the discovery talents to greater heights, that is why coaching talents scouting programmes were further expanded and developed to ensure we get the best for our youths, you could recalled that even from the 2015 edition, you have exciting players like Okardi, who was our most valuable player, his team won the pioneer cup and he went up to play for other teams before going abroad, he is in France now playing professional football, we have Nestor who is in Bosnia, we have quite a lot of others abroad, so that trajectory coming to this administration, so we have some scouting programmes, we have scouts from all over Europe and even Africa including South Africa coming to scout our players and we have seen quite a bit of success in that, so our players are there in Europe, we have some in Egypt, we have some in West Coast, in fact there is a core team of Bayelsa United that is make up of talents from this tournament, and one of the most prolific scorers in Bayelsa United, Basil was one of the players we discovered from Brass team, the Bayelsa United team is primarily made up from identified talents from this competition.

So, we must say that our talent discovery process has yielded great number of dividends and fruits, so, the last edition, we were equally blest to have the NFF president and his board in attendance, they saw exciting football which is favorable compare to the NPFL in the final match, and I must say that the final match was so interesting that the most valuable player of the tournament, Akpos Godbless and the highest goal scorer, Junior Christopher were immediately scouted, spotted and signed by the Bendel Insurance, so that was one exciting thing for the
last edition.

What about the scouting programmes?

In the past few years, we have also organized various scouting programmes alongside the tournament. In 2022, we hosted Gregory Paul of ASPIRE Football Academy from France, Passi Gerald of Olympique Marseille, Thembele of South Africa and a team from FDC VISTA Academy Russia including; Nikita, Poliakov, Dimitri Churkin, National team coach, Kennedy Boboye and Imama Amapakabo amongst others. In 2023 the LOC sponsored two teams of 40 players and officials to participate in international scouting tournaments organized by SPOCS a German Sports firm, at Remo Academy in Ikenne and Abuja. We also organized two scouting programs in Yenagoa with teams from the South-South and South-East participating. A total of 10 players have been selected for professional football abroad. Two players are presently engaged in the SPOCS Academy in Gambia and two others are billed to sign juicy contracts in the premier league in England.

A number of players have been scouted from this competition and now play in different clubs all over the country. In Bayelsa United, about seven players are currently there with the team. The likes of Gabriel Biriduba, Bob Philip, Monday Bassey and Biweribo Tarabina – Vice Captain of the team and Christian Mizo who only recently moved to Al Hilal in Libya, all featured in the competition. Junior Christopher and Akpos Godbless the highest goal scorer and MVP of the 2023 edition respectively now play for Bendel Insurance, while Endurance Ebedebiri plays for Rivers United. The likes of Egah Saviour, Prince Ebiobowei, Onyesom Precious, Bright Peremene and others who have gone abroad, equally played in the previous editions.

How have you been able to manage this tournament?

The tournament started in 2015 with 110 teams, now we have over 200 teams that are playing, last year we introduced the female and para-soccer editions, so we now have three tournaments in one, the female edition started with just four teams last year, now we have over 20 registered teams in the tournament which is equally another impressive development which I’m proud of, in both female and male edition we have depth of talents in the state that are clearly well harnessed and will be able to do great things for the state in terms of professional career in football, of course from the last edition, we begin to see some other female discovered talents being invited to Bayelsa Queens and other clubs that they are plying their trades, and we hope that this year, more will be discovered and developed to ply their trades in football. This year, we also introduced another novelty, that is the local government finals and in all the local government we went to, we saw great talents.

Do you consider introducing age grade competition into the tournament, for U13 or U14?

First and foremost, the basic idea of this tournament is for community development and interaction, to make sure there is inter-community
engagement, there is peace and tranquility, there is relationship between various communities in the state, and because of that focus, we have teams from various states of the country who are resident here partaking in the tournament, so with that, we did not instill an age grade process, because we want everybody who is interested in playing football at the community level to play, however, our talents hunt process is to discover the youths of Bayelsa from the ages of 14, 15, 16 to the ages of 21, but while the tournament is going on, our focused is discovering young talents, and we try to ensure that the teams have such age-grade players, Russian group came into Bayelsa two years ago for talents scouting, but now, we are having the ones between 18 and 21, by 1st of July 2024, ten international scouts, eight from Europe, two from Nigeria are coming for scouting programmes, to identify talents and see as many they can take. So if ten scouts come here from Turkey, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Holland, etc, if they come here and see our talents, with what we have, there is no how we cannot have 5 or 6 players taking away from the state to play professional football abroad.

What are the exciting things that you observed in the ongoing edition compare to the previous editions?

We have talked about the three editions in one that we have here presently, based on the pressure to enhance the capacity and skills of our players and officials, we introduced the referee course, that was done in May, we brought in international referee facilitators and accessors from the referees’ council to Yenagoa to organized a refresher course for the referees preparing them for the tournament, they sharpened their brains in the recent updates in refereeing and football, it was very exciting, it has greatly improve the quality of officiating in this tournaments, secondly, apart from a scouting
programme, we have introduced a coaching clinic, we did it last year, it was very small but this year, we make it big, we have international scouts and licensed coaches coming from Europe and they are going to put our coaches through two days of the classroom workshop and equally on the field here, they will do something like that, so the one on grassroots coaches is one of the most exciting because we have a lot of coaches who on their own are forging on, they are developing their
skills, they are making sure things are going on well for them, but one of the things these international coaches are coming to do is to help them developed themselves on football management, team management, team relationship, etc, we are having a basic coaching clinic for them, and that will start from 1st July, 2024, we will start with 50 coaches.

The ongoing edition is about entering round 32, how is the tournament going?

In the round of 32 which is going to come up in another few days, we have very exciting teams that have qualified, we have two teams from each local government that qualified but Yenagoa having eight centres, they have about 16 teams that will go into round of 32, so they will slug it out until they get to the round of 16, then the final which has been proposed for the 19th of July, depending on the availability of our special guests.

Looking at the future, how do you intend to see this tournament?

Prosperity Cup has turned into a brand, it is a brand that is known globally now, we got calls from Europe, from UK, from Germany, in fact we have a preposition to take our players to Ghana in a tournament organized by German organization this year, we also have preposition to select some players and take them to Portugal, so all these things are in the cards and the table, but we are looking out for a time when we will have a brand sponsor that will take over the sponsorship of this tournament, without government putting any reasonable resources,
maybe just the trophy and prize money, we are looking for the brand sponsor that will take up the bills and make sure that youths of Bayelsa pull of the streets and begin to be gainfully engaged, because this tournament has a lifespan of almost 6 months, so we will like to call on the corporate world, the oil multinational companies to key into this tournament to engage our youths, but with the promise of Governor Douye Diri, who has given us all the supports, we think that we should have at least ten community fields develop, which he has promised, at least one in every local government area, because if the players play in a very standard field, their level will increase, which is a very good sign, so once you have these ten community fields, you can imagine what happened in these fields every evening or early in the morning, you have people running, going athletics, playing football, basketball, doing aerobics and weightlifting, you
will discover that in every community field you will have over 200 people engaged daily, that means you are taking 200 youths off the streets, we also want to see our players in national teams, Super Eagles, Flying Eagles and the Golden Eaglets, so these is what we are trying to do, to develop our players to feature in local and international clubs, these are the vision of this project, last year, two of our player went abroad, one was signed in by Nottingham Forest for a trial, we believe by this summer we should have a feedback for his acceptance, we are really excited and believe the best is yet to come for Prosperity Cup and Bayelsa Governor’s Cup.

Environment

Cross River State Forest Protection Needs Community Support – Egot

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Dr Martins Egot is Executive Director of Panacea for Developmental and Infrastructural Challenges for Africa Initiative (PADIC-AFRICA), In this Interview with DAILY ASSET Correspondent, PATRICK ABANG in Calabar, he spoke on a wide range of issues Concerning Cross River National Park and Community Forest.

Excerpts

The Federal Government recently gave license to two firms to mine the Cross River National Park, what is your take on this?

Apart from the fact that the environmental organisation is very concerned about the environment of Cross River State and it’s forest communities, we have been in very close partnership with the Cross River National Park for over ten years now.

They have been part of building capacity of our community eco-guards that we train and support to take care of, manage and carry out surveillance and protection of community forests. The National Park has been very cooperative and they have been seeing results from our partnership but this same National Park is being encroached. For example, in Ofumkpa, where this mining activity is really happening, for two years now we have been having joint patrols with the National Park officers, Rangers and the community eco-guards that we put together in Ofumkpa and they have been protecting the forests together. But suddenly, we hear that there is licence given to companies to mine, there is so much disaster in that place and for us, it is very disheartening.

What is your concern?

Our major concern is that for over eight to 10 years now, Cross River state has been suffering from deforestation, degradation and timber exploitation recklessly, without control. We have been fighting this throughout with all our might and it has not been easy because we have lost so much in the forest. We have three forest regimes in Cross River state. These are Community Forest, National Park and the Government Reserve. The community forest and the government forest reserve, which are under community and state government management, have come under serious attack and we are losing them massively. Our hope in Cross River State forest is the National Park, that is why we have the bulk of forest left but if we do not take our time, the experience we have within the last 10 years in the community and government forests, is coming over to the National Park.

As we speak, there are several areas that mining is happening in Cross River State except the National Park. Mining is coming into Cross River State massively and now, they have entered the National Park which is a big worry. If we do not take things more seriously in the National Park, there will be a disaster there and Cross River State will have nothing to show in forest because we do not know how to manage the community and government reserve forests that we have. Government institutions are not helping matters, so that is the major worry that made us make noise and tell people about it in order to stop the anomalies.

Is the National Park fulfilling its mandate?

The National Park Service Act (2006) unequivocally underscore that national parks are sanctuaries meant exclusively for the propagation, protection and management of vegetation and wildlife. Notably, Section 22 of the Act delineates the functions of Management Committees, reinforcing the exclusive dedication of national parks to the propagation, protection and management of vegetation and wildlife.

Section 29, clearly makes an offence for any unauthorised person to go into the National Park without the permission of the Conservator-General. Mining activities are explicitly prohibited in section 30(1) of the Act” which says, “a person who, unless authorised to do so under this Act or the regulations under this Act, carries out an undertaking connected with forestry, agriculture, grazing or excavation or does any levelling of the ground or construction or any act tending to alter the configuration of the soil or the character of the vegetation; or does an act likely to disturb the fauna or flora; or engages in drilling, mining, prospecting or exploration of any kind of natural resources.. Is guilty of an offence.

The National Park therefore has the mandate to manage and protect the National Park and the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development should not in anyway, give out leasing rights to any mining company in the National Park and they know this. We are trying to get to the appropriate authorities to ensure that this is reversed as soon as possible. As we speak, it is still happening in Ofumkpa.

What are the benefits of the National Park to the state and the people?

Even as environmentalists, we are not completely in anyway opposed to government making money from resources that they have but we are saying that things should be done rightly. The status of Cross River State nationally and internationally, as custodians of the highest and remaining rainforest in Nigeria, is there. They ought to be ecological benefits, international recognitions and even funding to gain from this. At some point, discussions are on the way to begin to pick community and state benefits for having their forests intact. If we do not show working to show that we are compliant to conservation and protection, then we would lose out of it. Conservation is not completely saying do not make money from it, it is saying let us do it in the right direction and the proper way. We have always told people, timber dealers and community people to do the right thing by ensuring that they know the numbers of trees that they are extracting from the forests and ensure that they are of marketable size approved and following best practices as they would still make money from that. The National Park is a reserve that can give us funds from eco-tourism and we would still have our forests intact at that level.

For the Federal government to designate National Parks, they are for ecological, ecosystem benefits and tourism. Our sons, daughters and people from Cross River state are also being employed and they get salaries being paid as staff of the National Park. 

Some persons have argued that the National Park is of no benefit to the people and the state, what is your view on this?

You cannot monetarily quantify what you have in the forest, apart from the ecosystem services which is life itself. But if you do real tourism projects in the National Park, there is no way Cross River State would not be making millions monthly from eco-tourism. There are lodges and people come in there from different areas and we make foreign exchange from that.

What is the size of the National Park?

Looking at the Ekuri axis, we have over 50,000 hectares that is for National Park and there is also the Oban axis, bringing the National Park to over hundreds of thousands of hectares, even though some parts of this are suffering from encroachment as we speak.

Any specific threat to the communities?

Yes. At some point, we pity them and want to reason with them, even though they are not completely right. I have been engaging directly with the Ofumkpa people, we have been working closely and they have been part of our patrols, listening closely to our conservation debates and discussions and they participate. When this happened, we took them on and they said they are accepting these people because they are promising roads, schools, employment and little stipends for working with them at the mining site. These are the things that really pull and push communities to be part of it and we do not blame them, it is life survival as a community because these communities have no good roads nor schools and the people there are so poor. Our governments that are supposed to be supporting communities with all these amenities, are not forthcoming. Again, the National Park authority that is supposed to be empowered to engage well in these communities and provide for the communities, are actually not doing that. We talk about livelihood but what degree of livelihood projects are we pushing to these community people? We empathise and sympathise with the community people and so in that direction, I will be calling on the Federal and state governments, even international NGOs to intervene. 

As forest communities embrace illegal loggers and miners to enhance their livelihood, what would you proffer as a solution?

If we must succeed in protecting the National Park, community and state forests, we need to engage adequately with community people, ensuring that we know their problems and support them in solving their problems. If we do not look at livelihood very strongly in communities, our fight would continue and we would have a problem interacting with them. As we speak, I hear they are chasing people because they think those people are coming to deprive them of making money from these companies. Going forward, I think government and international non -governmental organizations  (NGOs) should sit on a round table and engage these communities by targeting individuals and households and within two years, be able to check and assess how they have built the livelihood capacity of certain family heads.

These are the kinds of things that would help us win this struggle because the struggle will continue in Cross River State forests.

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interview

Subsidy removal : Kosofe LG distributes food palliatives to 5000 residents

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Mr Moyosore Ogunlewe, Executive Chairman, Kosofe Local Government says his administration is irrevocably committed to the welfare and well-being of residents and will continue to do its best to positively impact lives in the area.

Ogunlewe made the statement at a programme to commemorate the second anniversary of his administration in Lagos.

Ogunlewe said the distribution of the items, such as rice, beans and yam, and launch of “Kosofe Food Bank“ were part of the council`s interventions to cushion the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government.

“We are launching Kosofe Food Bank to assist our people here in Kosofe with foodstuffs in order to alleviate the burden of fuel subsidy removal.

“When we were given this mandate, we promised the good people of Kosofe
that we would erase poverty and all forms of human miseries and usher in success, liberation and renewal of hope.

“What we are doing today is just a step in that direction“, he said.

Speaking on plans of his administration for the next two years, Ogunlewe said his administration would continue to be about service to the people and would always carry them along in the scheme of things.

The council chairman added that he would fashion out policies to make his administration inclusive and participatory .

“By this, we will make people the centre -piece of our administration, they will be involved in our day- to day management through their suggestions.

“And we shall create suggestion boxes in various wards and area offices for people to air their views, which will help shaping our policy formulation,” he said.

The chairman said that his administration would also hold periodic town hall meetings to interact with the people to know their needs.

He added that the commitment of his administration to reinventing the local government area was irreversible .

“Our administration will not relent in its efforts to ensure that we touch every area of needs. Our construction works took off immediately we assumed office.

“To God be the glory, we have embarked on series of projects such as Primary Health Care Centre at Oworonshoki Ward A in collaboration with Access Bank Plc .

“We have constructed a new customary court and administrative offices.We have also done massive grading of roads at Mechanic Village, Ogudu.

“Education is key and very dear to our administration, and we have made our impact felt in this sector.

“We distributed free 150 GCE e-pins and completed registration for 150 beneficiaries at the maiden edition of in 2021,” he said.

Ogunlewe added that the council distributed 300 GCE e-pins ,1000 JAMB/UTME e-pins and completed registration for 300 beneficiaries in 2022.

In the area of health , Ogunlewe said his administration had procured ambulances to improve service delivery in Primary Health Centres in the area.

“We have also been fueling generators in all Primary Health Centres to ensure 24 hours supply of electricity.

“We have provided toll- free ambulance emergency number : 09093000011, for rapid response .“,he said.

The chairman said his administration had provided 1,900 glasses to people in need and had treated residents with eye problems such as glaucoma and cataract ,after screening.

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Wealthy Woman Faces Prosecution After Serial Beating of 7-Year-old Maid

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By Prosper Okoye, Abuja

Seven-year-old Angela David has been rescued from her wealthy employer, Mary Mohammed, who had cruelly beaten her every day during the eight months they lived together. This has resulted in severe medical complications that endangered her life.

“The doctors at Adamawa State Specialist Hospital, who examined her, said that one of her kidneys could not be located.

The kidney they did find was infected and her liver was enlarged.
She was also diagnosed with Hepatitis B,” said Farah James, Coordinator of NEPWHAN Adamawa chapter, in an interview with DAILY ASSET.

Obtaining justice for the victim appears to be highly unlikely due to the influence and connections of the alleged perpetrator.

The perpetrator was granted bail after the initial arrest, and the case was unjustifiably dismissed by the Adamawa State police headquarters.

“When the coalition of civil society organizations involved in the case approached the officer on duty to inquire about it, they informed us that they were aware of it but the woman had been discharged and the case file was closed since the victim’s mother has forgiven her.

“When we asked for further details, they explained that they were not the ones who handled the case and the officers who did were unavailable,” Farah explained.

 Angela David, whose parents had separated, was taken by Mrs. Mary Mohammed living at off Abuja road, Yola South, Adamawa state, with the promise that she would send her to school and care for her as if she were her own daughter, as she was unable to have biological children.

“She never sent the girl to school; instead, she turned her into a domestic maid who cleans the house, washes her car, and runs errands for her,” Farah said.

She added, “When we asked Angela if she wets the bed or steals, she said no. that her only offense was not completing her chores on time.

“As punishment, Mary would use a cable to hit her and make her kneel down for extended periods, which resulted in blisters on her knees and disfigured fingers. Moreover, Angela was only fed once a day, which explains her malnourished appearance.”

Angela’s mother said she initially accepted to close the case when she was told by the private hospital doctor that her baby was fine and would recover in time.

She also mentioned that the perpetrator’s family merely gave her some cups of rice, a bottle of oil, noodles, and 8,000 Naira to send her daughter back to the village after she was discharged from the private hospital in Yola.

Angela’s family, along with the women’s civil society group, is seeking justice. They have written a petition to the Human Rights Commission.

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