COVID-19: Nigerian football leagues get approval for resumption

After months of inactivity due to the coronavirus pandemic, football leagues in Nigeria have finally received the green light from the federal government for resumption.

The government’s approval for the resumption of football leagues in Nigeria was conveyed by the national coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on Covid- 19 Sani Aliyu.

Mr Aliyu, however, said matches will resume without spectators at the stadiums.

“Restriction is removed on outdoor communal (non-contact) sports and use of recreational parks for supervised physical exercise and sporting leagues to resume with no fans in stadiums,” he said.

The Nigeria Professional Football League has been on a forced break since matchday 25 games were played in March, due to COVID-19.

The nigeria football federation had to use points per game ratio to determine the teams that would represent Nigeria in continental club competitions while there was neither relegation or promotion of teams from the lower divisions.

Plateau United, Rivers United, and Enyimba will represent Nigeria on the continent, while 2019 Aiteo Cup winners, Kano Pillars, will become Nigeria’s fourth representative on the continent.

The 2019/20 abridged Nigerian National League season, was declared null and void, while the yet-to-commence 2019/20 season of the Nigeria Women’s Football League and Nationwide League were aborted.

The leagues had tentatively been scheduled to resume for September and October 2020 and definite dates are now expected with clearance now received from the government.

Aside from the leagues, it is expected that the Nigeria U-17 women team, the Flamingos, will also effectively resume preparations for their World Cup qualifying match against Ghana.

The NFF had hinted they would be seeking a waiver for the girls to go into camp before but that may no longer be necessary going by the latest development.

Nigeria will travel to face Ghana in the first leg of the second-round qualifiers in October before hosting their perennial rivals in November.

The winners over two legs qualify for the World Cup in India next year.

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The Commander, U.S. Africa Command, U General Stephen Townsend, wrapped up a three-day West African visit February 22-25, 2021, with a stopover in Nigeria to meet with the nation’s leaders and further the long-standing partnership and security cooperation between the two countries.

A press statement by the Embassy on Friday, said: “During the visit, Townsend met with the Nigerian President’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, and National Security Adviser, Babagan Monguno, to discuss regional security issues and to express the command’s gratitude for the assistance provided during a hostage rescue operation last year.

“When we asked for their help, the Nigerian government answered the call. Our hostage recovery mission in October would have been impossible without their support.

“They quickly provided assistance that helped the U.S. military to save an American life. That is a strong example of our partnership with Nigeria.”

Townsend also met with senior military officials, including the Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magash, and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Leo Irabor, to talk about on-going cooperation in the region and greater maritime security and threat mitigation.

Nigeria is a key partner in countering violent extremist organizations throughout the Lake Chad Basin.

Townsend said furthermore: “The bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the U.S. is built on several pillars including security cooperation.

“U.S. Africa Command will do our part to advance the security cooperation pillar, so that Nigerians can enjoy the more secure future they all deserve.”

As close partners, the U.S. and Nigeria have worked at ensuring the collaborative relationship continues to grow to include a commitment to interoperability. Nigeria purchased 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, which will be delivered later this year.

“Nigeria’s purchase of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft is another example of their commitment to interoperability and security in the region,” he added. “Our economic relationship with Nigeria is already strong, and we look forward to the continued strengthening of security relationships. Nigeria’s leaders understand the importance of a collaborative approach to ensuring stability in West Africa and partnering on areas of mutual interest.”

The Commander also met with the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard.

Leonard said: “General Townsend’s visit to Nigeria demonstrates the strategic importance the United States places on our bilateral relationship with Nigeria.

“Our security cooperation partnership with Nigeria’s military will strengthen the country’s capabilities to secure land and sea borders, enhance overall security, and combat terrorism in the North East.”

As part of the visit, Townsend participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Nigeria Military National Cemetery to honour those who have given their lives in the service of their nation.

During the visit, the delegation expressed their condolences for the seven service men killed in the crash of a Nigerian Air Force aircraft in Abuja.