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Controversy trails time limit for election petition cases

Controversy trails time limit for election petition cases

The 2011 general
elections have come and gone, the exercise was adjudged by many as the
freest and fairest poll in the history of Nigeria’s democracy. However,
some candidates and political parties felt cheated and claimed that the
elections were marred with a lot of irregularities and have gone before
the election petition tribunals to challenge some of the results at the
poll.

The Chief Justice
of Nigeria (CJN), Aloysius Katsina-Alu, in conformity with the 2010
Electoral Act as amended recently constituted 210 judicial officers
selected as chairmen and members of the election tribunals for the 36
states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

The CJN had said
“In Nigeria, allegations of corruption have in recent past, placed the
role of Election Tribunal in jeopardy. Election petitions, just like
the ordinary day-to-day civil cases, are intended to be dealt with by
tribunals consistently fair, without bias or impartiality.” Mr
Katsina-Alu asked the judicial officers to bear in mind that when
election petition tribunals fail in their duties, the consequences will
be murder, arson, and grievous bodily harm.

With the time for
the filing of petitions by political parties now over, all is now set
for the election petition tribunals to begin work.

The Congress for
Progressive Change (CPC) filed a petition at the presidential election
tribunal to challenge the result of the April presidential election,
alleging irregularities and noncompliance with the 2010 Electoral Act.

The party is
contesting the result of the election in about 20 states of the
federation, cutting across the six geopolitical zones. The CPC
presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, told journalists shortly
after casting his vote in Daura, Katsina State that thumb-printed
ballot papers were used in several states.

The national
chairperson of the CPC, Tony Momoh, said the party was challenging the
results of the 2011 presidential election that returned President
Goodluck Jonathan to show the world that the election was fundamentally
flawed.

Speaking after the
party filed its petition at the presidential election tribunal, Mr
Momoh noted that the party was asking the tribunal to cancel results in
over 20 states of the federation, mostly in the South-South, Southeast,
and some parts of the North and the Southwest.

According to the
result announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission
(INEC), Mr Jonathan polled a total of 22,495,187 votes to defeat CPC’s
Muhammadu Buhari, who got 12,214,853. Nuhu Ribadu of the Action
congress of Nigeria (ACN) got 2,790,151 votes while Ibrahim Shekarau
got 917,012 votes. The total valid votes were 38,209,978.

Section 134 of the
Electoral Act 2010 as amended stipulates that “an election tribunal
shall deliver its judgment on a case within 180 days (six months) from
the date of the filing of the petition.” It also stipulates that the
petitions be filed within 21 days after the elections. “An appeal from
a decision of an election tribunal or court shall be heard and disposed
of within 60 days (two months) from the date of the delivery of
judgment of the tribunal.”

Wasting time

Though the CPC has
filed its petition challenging the result of the election, the
Presidential Election Petition panel is yet to be inaugurated 30 days
after the presidential election was held, even though the party met the
condition of the Electoral Act which stipulates that the petitions be
filed within 21 days after the elections. With the delay in the
inauguration of the panel, many are wondering if the Presidential
Election Tribunal will meet the provisions of the act which says “an
election tribunal shall deliver its judgment on a case within 180 days
(six months) from the date of the filing of the petition.” The CPC had
filed an application before the Presidential Election Tribunal sitting
at the Court of Appeal, Abuja seeking to compel the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) and all its Resident Electoral
Commissioners to release certain documents and materials to be used for
its petition. Joined as defendants in the suit are the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chief National Electoral
Commissioner (Attahiru Jega), Goodluck Jonathan, Namadi Sambo, Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP) and the Resident Electoral Commissioners for the
36 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

When asked for his
comment on whether there would be enough time to dispose of the cases
before swearing in of the elected officials, Kayode Ajulo, an FCT
senatorial candidate for the Labour Party and a lawyer, said there is
controversy over the period to conclude the election petition cases at
the Election Petition Tribunals. He said the 2010 Electoral Act as
amended says all election petitions must be filed not later than 30
days from the date of return (from the day the result of election was
declared).

According to him,
the period for the filing of cases is too short considering the
electoral guidelines that require front-loading of evidence to be
relied upon. “With the new electoral guidelines that require front
loading of evidence, the time for filing and determination of the
petition is to short, considering that you need time to gather your
evidence from the party agents who were on the field. And considering
also that some people will want to hide some evidence especially INEC,
it will take some time before you will be able to get documents from
the commission, so I believe the time stipulated by the Electoral Act
is too short.”

Mr Adegboye
Awomolo, one of the leading counsel to INEC, said the confusion over
the issue of duration is caused by the fact that there are many pirated
copies of the Electoral Act in the market; that unless one sees the
gazetted copy one cannot say which one is correct.

Controversy over
duration In his own response a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike
Ozekhome, said section 142 of the act says “Without prejudice to the
provisions of section 294(1) of the Constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria, an election petition and appeal arising therefrom
under this Act shall be giving accelerated hearing and shall have
precedence over all other cases or matters before the Tribunal or
Court.” According to him, with that section it is expected that the
tribunals will round off within a reasonable period of time and that
even if there was any delay it would be minimal.

The national legal
adviser of the CPC, Abubakar Malami, said recently that based on
lessons learned from past election tribunal cases, the party would use
scientific means to prove its case at the tribunal. “This case will
therefore depend mainly on the authentication and verification of the
fingerprints on the disputed ballot papers cast.”

“To the CPC, this
use of the Forensic/Biometric system based on INEC’s capturing of all
the 10 fingers of every voter is a novel idea that can help solve
forever the challenges of multiple voting and outright concoction of
results; two critical issues in our electoral malpractices,” Mr Malami
said.

“Our present case
in the tribunal is thus aimed at establishing the truth and preventing
future elections malpractices in our country’s democratic experiment,”
he added.

Explaining the
legal backing for this, Mr Ozekhome said section 151(1) of the Act
gives power to the tribunal for “An order for inspection of a polling
document or an inspection of a document or any other packet in the
custody of the chief National Electoral Commissioner or any other
officer of the commission may be made by the election tribunal or the
court if it is satisfied that the inspection is required for the
purpose of instituting, maintaining or defending an election petition.”

He submitted that
given the time that would be spent on inspection of electoral
materials, the tribunal may not be able to deliver its judgment on a
case within 180 days (six months) from the date of the filing of the
petition.

In the light of
this limitation, it remains to be seen whether the parties aggrieved
over the outcome of the general elections and which have piled up
evidence to prove their cases, would see justice done at the end of the
day.

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‘Government must build pillars of economic growth’

‘Government must build pillars of economic growth’

Vice President of the World Bank, Oby Ezekwesili, speaks to our reporter in Cape Town, South Africa. Excerpts below.

Economic competitiveness in Africa

Looking at the many
indicators of economic competitiveness, one will see a whole range of
things that have to do with the quality of the country’s macro-economic
and sectoral policies and institutions, as well as governance and
regulatory systems, particularly the cost of doing business in one’s
neighbourhood.

In all these,
Nigeria still has a huge agenda to accomplish and the areas of specific
focus are numerous. Therefore, the earlier the government starts to
tackle these obstacles and constraints to business, the better for the
country.

Productivity does
not just happen without those obstacles being tackled. When one looks
at the progress recorded so far in the information, communication and
technology as well as the telecommunications sectors, for example, it
was because there were important policies and regulatory systems put in
place by the government for the private sector to see the signals and
move in to invest.

However, in the
energy sector, the situation is in the opposite direction. Even with an
important piece of legislation, really operationalizing the Energy
Sector Reform Act has not happened, because the Petroleum Industry Bill
(PIB) is still pending before the National Assembly for approval. So,
that gap is there. Therefore, private capital will not go into that
sector until the confidence about trustworthy and credible regulatory
systems as well as the legal framework is in place.

Gaps in useful skills

If one looks at the
issues about the human capacity, the skills and entrepreneurship
matters a lot for productivity. Nigeria is struggling with skills
adequacy, particularly the quality and their relevance to areas of
need, because of the poor state of her education system. The issue of
infrastructure deficit in general is huge, and the government needs to
address this as urgently as possible. For a nation like Nigeria, the
4,000 mega watts (MW) of electricity currently being generated and
distributed is just inadequate to power the economy and drive
productivity in key sectors.

Looking at the
important sectors like agriculture, which accounts for some 45 percent
of the gross national product (GDP), enough focus is not given to
ensure that all obstacles to its growth are removed. But, one thing
that one knows for a fact is that institutions, policies and good
quality, effective and efficient public investments are the key things
needed to facilitate the process of economic growth in any country.
Priority for the economy The government must pursue an all-inclusive
growth of the country’s economy.

This is essentially
saying that government should not desire the growth to only affect a
small section of the population, but everybody.

When one looks at
most economies in Africa with natural resource endowments, the tendency
is for them to allow that sector to be the only game in town.

In the case of
Nigeria, petroleum has been the dominant natural resource, and
government tends to focus all its attention to this sector, to the
neglect of the other key sectors. But, government needs a change
towards diversifying the structure of the economy. For so long, the
continent, and Nigeria in particular, has talked about diversification,
but this does not just happen.

There are certain
important policies and measures that the government needs to take to
bring it on. In the agriculture sector, for instance, which is still
the mainstay of more than 60 percent of the country’s population, what
quality of policies does the government have? Or what kind of framework
for investment is in place? What kind of institutions are there to
enable the regulatory underpinnings of a functional agriculture sector?
By the way, the agriculture sector in Africa, based on the World Bank’s
analysis, is the most viable private sector, and government needs to
see it as such, because it is business.

Right now, what
countries are learning is that, if one follows the World Bank
Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which
looks at agriculture from four principle pillars, namely markets and
infrastructure, land and water management, food security and
vulnerability as well as technology and research, one would ensure that
the quality of investments, institutions and policies that enable the
interaction between the farmers and the private sector, whether in
terms of the commercial agriculture investment and the role of the
government as well as the systems that allow these interactions to
function in a coherent manner to support agricultural expansion and
productivity as well as improvement in the yield from agriculture.

If government wants
to address the joblessness situation in the continent, and Nigeria in
particular, the agricultural sector is where focus needs to be on, to
remove all the bottlenecks and constraints to operators in that sector.

One cannot use
platitudes to do it. It must be through concrete and specific
strategies. Nigerians in Diaspora and infrastructure development The
World Bank is currently working on the possibility of establishing
Diaspora bonds as a response to resource gaps in dealing with the
challenges of infrastructural development. Africa has a need to spend
some $93billion annually on this. But, currently about $45billion is
being spent, leaving an additional need for about $48billion. When one
looks at the sources of domestic revenue mobilization by governments in
Africa, it is probably hitting the limits of what they can have.

So, it requires the private sector to come in as a part of the combination to tackle the infrastructure deficit.

But, as part of
that private sector initiative, there is a huge population of citizens
of the continent that are in other territories of the world, who are
remitting an average of $23billion into the continent. Therefore, they
represent a very important growth population to target, to see how much
more can be raised to help address these development finance gaps that
the continent has.

The bank is still
looking at how that process could be facilitated through countries
floating those kinds of bonds for their own citizens abroad to
subscribe.

The technicalities
of how the process will work are still being worked out, to identify
the incentives that would underpin the attractiveness of those kinds of
bond instruments. But, the theoretical construct is that these
remittances happen, though, sadly, right now they go towards
consumption, and that there is some space for determining how much of
the money spent can be redirected into the process of building some
medium to long term funds required for investment in the continent’s
development process.

The countries that
have done that are those that have moved ahead, namely Kenya, Zambia,
Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where the policy environment towards their
Diaspora is very strong.

These countries are
providing the capacity and training their Diaspora get exposed to that
is fundamentally global class, which makes a big difference to the
quality of governance. The World Bank hopes to partner with the African
Development Bank (ADB) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Since 2007, it was
discovered that the Diaspora was an important development community
that was missing in the World Bank’s engagement and relationship with
Africa. But, over the last few years, the bank’s relationship with the
Diaspora has grown significantly.

World Bank and women in Africa

The bank’s 2012
flagship report, The World Development Report (WDR), is going to be on
gender, focusing on the many levels of the optimal and productive use
of women in economic policy development to bring about growth.

The report will be
looking at the issues that have to do with access to quality education,
training and finance as well as related kinds of issues. It will also
look at the involvement of women in the whole policy arena in decision
making as well as the impact of education to health outcomes.

What we see is that
when women are educated, they tend to delay decisions on certain issues
till such a time they can make the right choices, particularly the
decision on when to get married. So, they are not like people who do
not have any choice. And that is important, because then it will enable
the woman to make the right choices concerning her children’s education
and their health needs.

All these work
together to improve the possibilities of accomplishments of the
families, and by extension, the society. Therefore, the woman is a
major factor in economic development, which is why it is normally said
that investing in women is smart economics. It is not something one
does on the basis of sentiments, because 50 percent of the population
is women.

If one does not invest in women and get them to the point where they
are participants in the economic growth strategy, to enable them
deliver at their best, one is basically operating at less than optimum.

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Mark set for record senate presidency re-election

Mark set for record senate presidency re-election

Some senators-elect
from the north central region of the country converged Friday on the
senate press centre to address journalists on their preferred choice of
senate president for the next senate session.

It turned out that
they want David Mark, the incumbent senate president representing Benue
South senatorial district, to lead the seventh senate. This declaration
of support is coming after the ceding of the post to the zone by the
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

According to the
senators-elect, Mr Mark has led the national assembly successfully. “He
was able to introduce the ‘doctrine of necessity’ to resolve a near
political crisis that almost tore Nigeria (apart) last year through his
doggedness and commitment to ensuring that Nigeria moves forward,” said
one of them, Zainab Kure (PDP – Niger South).

The endorsement of
the incumbent senate president to lead the next senate by
senators-elect from his region was the climax of a series of public
endorsements and antics by the incumbent senate president to ensure his
re-election into office, which would be a record.

Mr Mark has had his
sight set on leading the next senate from way back as the last quarter
of 2010; he has carefully orchestrated his manoeuvres ever since.

His first
endorsement came late last year when he supposedly entered into an
agreement with the president for mutual support to reclaim their
respective offices. The frequency of endorsements has surged since he
secured re-election to be a member of the next senate.

Mr Mark is also
said to have won the favour of his party for the job following a recent
power-sharing deal which doled out the senate presidency to the north
central region of the country.

Open campaign

On June 6, when the
seventh session will convene for the first time to elect its leaders,
only the 109 senators-elect will be voting to decide who leads the
seventh senate. But the heated campaign for who holds the prestigious
office in the senate has gone beyond the senators-elect themselves to
the general public. Mr Mark is clearly ahead of other contenders in
popularity rating as well as a recently popularised merit-based
requirement for the next senate president. He is also the favourite
amongst his peers, the returning 39 senators to the next senate. He is
however not relenting on his campaign and acquiring endorsements from
all over.

Groups ranging from
Idoma professors from his district, to former colleagues at the senate,
have all supported his bid at various points. They have avoided public
support for his rivals, Bukola Saraki and Danjuma Goje, outgoing
governors of Kwara and Gombe State, respectively, both of whom have had
to carry out their campaigns through lobbyists.

National Assembly
workers were stunned at the close of work on Thursday to find pamphlets
stuck to their cars titled, “Eight Basic Reasons Why Sen. David Mark
Should Return as President of the Seventh Senate.” Most workers were
agreed it was a new twist in the campaign for the position of senate
president.

Mr Mark is being
praised especially for the stability of the senate under his reign.
Suleiman Adokwe, a re-elected senator (PDP – Nasarawa South), said on
Friday that “since we no longer experience frequent changes in the
leadership of the senate, it means we have found the formula.”

Unnecessary rule-tweaking

The efforts of the
senate president to make his way back to the most prestigious office
will come to a head on Tuesday this week when the senate intends to
adopt an amendment to the standing rules in a way that will place other
rivals at a disadvantage.

The proposed rule
will replace Rule 97[1][f] of the current standing order of the senate.
The new rule introduces a ranking system through which senators can
aspire for prestigious offices in the senate. It ranks experienced
lawmakers before first-timers without legislative experience, placing
the latter as last and least eligible to aspire to high offices in the
senate.

At the top of the
rank are senators returning, and based on the number of times
re-elected; this is where the sitting senate president belongs. They
are followed by senators who had been members of the House of
Representatives.

Third on the
ranking are senators who have been members of a State House of assembly
or any legislative house. The least in the ranking system are senators
getting elected for the first time – where Messrs Goje and Saraki both
belong.

Analysts are of the
opinion that tweaking the rules to favour the incumbent is unnecessary
at this point, considering the senate president’s virtues.

However, the senate
president is not leaving anything to chance. He has also reached out to
opposition lawmakers who will be members of the seventh senate.

A “Door 2 Door for
Mark 2011” campaign organisation was recently co-opted into the
re-election efforts. Its members undertook the pamphlet placement
campaign on Thursday on the premises of the national assembly.

This week, all the
elected lawmakers will be retreating to the central points in their
respective geopolitical zones; the campaigns are bound to continue at
these places. An official of the senate, who did not want his name
mentioned, said the incumbent “will leave no stone unturned” in his
quest.

Ayogu Eze, the senate spokesperson and a strong promoter of the
incumbent’s second term bid, on Thursday belittled every other
contestant eyeing the post as he declared Mr Mark the clear favourite
for the office, saying, “There is no contest for the senate president’s
office.”

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Eagles, Black Stars in semi final showdown

Eagles, Black Stars in semi final showdown

Super Eagles coach Samson Siasia remains unbeaten since taking
over the reins of leadership of the country’s national football team last
December and today the Beijing Olympic silver winning coach will lead his team
out against the Black Predators (Ghana U-23 team) in the WAFU Nations Cup
semi-final match at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta with victory already on
his mind.

“Our objective is to get to the final. It doesn’t matter if we
are playing Ghana,” the Nigeria coach said.

He added: “We are playing a match that we want to win, and who
we play against is not the issue.”

The Nigerian team, consisting of players plying their trade in
the domestic championship, is in the race to retain the regional trophy won
last year under the tutelage of former coach Daniel Amokachi, and also open the
account of silverwares for Siasia as Super Eagles coach.

Although the Nigeria team started their tournament campaign on a
shaky a note, beating Liberia’s Lone Stars by 1-0, they have since stepped up
their game as they were more convincing in their 4-0 drubbing of Niger in their
second match.

No easy progress

Though Siasia is not expecting an easy passage into Saturday’s
final, he is upbeat that his boys can continue their good run at the
tournament.

“We can’t come this far and relinquish our ambition to retain
this trophy. Now that we have got more time to train, I believe my team would
give their best against Ghana. It should be an interesting match,” said Siasia.

On his part, Ghana coach, David Duncan, has already predicted a
tough duel with Nigeria as both teams already have their sight on Saturday’s
final.

Ghana finished behind Togo in Group B. Togo shaded a rematch 4-3
on penalties after winning 2-1 in regulation time in this two-team group.

Ghana won the first game 2-1 and so the winners of Group B had
to be decided through a penalty shootout.

As a result, Togo will face Group B runners-up Liberia in the
other semi-final, also on Thursday.

“Against Nigeria, it could be anybody’s game. It will be a tough
encounter as it is a derby,” said Ghana coach Duncan.

“Playing against Nigeria would be a completely different game.
When you take the game against a brother like Nigeria, with the whole of the
country behind them and who are going to act as the 12th man on the pitch that
day, you won’t expect anything less.” Togo meet Liberia in the first semi-final
on Thursday at 2pm, while Nigeria and Ghana go head to head at 4pm.

The final and third-place match are to be played on Saturday.

Nigeria are the defending champions of the revamped annual sub-regional
tournament after they defeated Senegal 2-0 in last year’s final also at the MKO
Abiola Stadium.

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FIFA demands evidence from England

FIFA demands evidence from England

Football’s world governing body, FIFA, has called on the English
Football Association to provide a complete report on the statement David
Triesman made on Tuesday regarding claims of corruption within the 2018 and
2022 World Cup bidding process.

Triesman, a former chairman of the English FA, told a British
parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday that FIFA executive committee members Ricardo
Teixeira, Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz and Worawi Makudi had asked for favours,
including money and a knighthood, to vote for England’s unsuccessful bid to
host the 2018 World Cup.

Cash-for-vote

According to Triesman, Warner allegedly requested for the sum of
£2.5 million to be channelled through to him to build a football education
academy in his homeland,

Trinidad, while Paraguay’s Nicolas Leoz allegedly asked for a
knighthood in return for his vote.

Triesman also told the parliament’s department of culture, media
and sport committee that Brazilian FIFA representative Teixeira and Thailand’s
Makudi also asked for money in return for their votes.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke has however written to the
FA requesting a complete report of the statements made and any other
documentary evidence.

“In his letter to the FA, the FIFA secretary general expresses
the extreme concern of FIFA and the FIFA president at the latest allegations
questioning the integrity of some FIFA executive committee members in
connection with the bidding procedure for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups,”
read a statement posted on the FIFA website.

“He adds that to be in a position to examine the situation
thoroughly and with clear-sightedness, FIFA asks the FA to submit a complete
report from Lord David Triesman, by means of which the latter would relate his
declarations fully and provide any and all documentary evidence at his
disposal.” Also on Tuesday, the committee was told by member of parliament
Damian Collins that there was evidence from the Sunday Times newspaper that
Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and Jacques Anouma of Cote d’Ivoire were paid by
Qatar.

Hayatou, who’s the president of CAF, and Anouma, were separately
alleged to have been paid £912,200 to vote for Qatar’s successful 2022 bid.

The FIFA statement went on: “The secretary general has also sent
a letter to the Sunday Times to ask the newspaper to provide FIFA with any
piece of evidence with regard to the statements made to MP John Whittingdale.

“The Sunday Times had already provided world’s football
governing body with all of the evidence and documentation at its disposal.
Nevertheless, FIFA asks the English newspaper to submit as soon as possible any
other piece of evidence that it may be in possession of and which has not yet
been sent to FIFA.

“In particular, reference is made in the letter to the
allegations regarding a ‘whistleblower who had worked with the Qatar bid’, who
allegedly made some declarations regarding the matter in question.”

Qatari denial

Meanwhile, the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid team has denied
allegations it paid Hayatou and Anouma to vote for the tiny Gulf nation in last
December’s hosting decision.

“We categorically deny these allegations,” read a statement from
the Qatari bid team. “We have nothing to hide and are prepared to support and
cooperate with any further investigations and will be happy to counter any
allegations from whistleblowers with real evidence.” The statement added: “The
Qatar 2022 bid team ran an historic campaign that changed football. We were
beset by rumours and allegations from the outset.

“Bidding, like football, is a rough sport. Happily, our promise
of bringing football to new lands and expanding its legacies across the
developing world compelled FIFA.”

Hayatou not left out

Hayatou has also categorically denied allegations of corruption
brought against him before the British parliament.

“This kind of reporting to create and propagate false information to destroy
his reputation, leadership and integrity, will not succeed,” read a statement
on the CAF website. “The president of CAF said all these accusations brought
against him are pure invention and an attempt to discredit him. He is anxiously
waiting for the so called proof.” The statement added: “[Hayatou] is ready to
co operate with whosoever would like to investigate the accusations and
reserves the right to seek legal redress against those propagating this
campaign of denigration.”

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Barcelona are favourites to win final, says Vidic

Barcelona are favourites to win final, says Vidic

Manchester
United captain Nemanja Vidic reckons Barcelona will start as favourites
to win the Champions League final at Wembley on May 28.

United lost to Barca in the 2009 final and are out for revenge on English turf.

“There will be no
surprises because they haven’t changed their style in years but they
will be a tough prospect and definitely the favourites in the final,”
the Serbia centre back told Belgarde’s B92 television website
(www.b92.net).

“Maybe we have a
little bit of an advantage in logistics because we are closer to the
venue, but we know that their fans will turn up in numbers just like
our own.”

Vidic, who scored
in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Chelsea which all but secured United the
Premier League title, said his side were still completely focused on a
record 19th domestic crown.

Blackburn before Barcelona

“We haven’t had
time to think about Barcelona yet because we have to concentrate on our
next game away to Blackburn and make mathematically sure that we’ve won
it,” he said.

“Only when we have
done that can we turn our attention to Barcelona, I’ve seen them
several times this season including their semi-final tie against Real
Madrid.”

United, who are six
points ahead of Chelsea with two matches left in the Premier League,
need only one point from their last two games against Blackburn and at
home to Blackpool to secure their 12th league title under manager Alex
Ferguson.

Vidic, who was
named captain this season, revealed anxiety had crept into United’s
dressing room after Chelsea were able to cut a 15-point deficit with
nine wins in 10 games prior to their visit to Old Trafford.

“The pressure was
immense after they whittled down our big advantage to just three points
before the showdown, but it makes the victory that much sweeter because
we are on the verge of winning the title after beating our closest
rivals,” he said.

“It means a lot to
me that I scored but the team comes first and the most important thing
is that we are now in a commanding position to cross the finish line
first.

“As the team’s captain I just try to do the same things I’ve always
done and be at my best all the time, because being the United captain
is a great honour and I know I have to repay the faith vested in me by
the club.”

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Real rally round Ronaldo in his quest for goals records

Real rally round Ronaldo in his quest for goals records

With the La Liga title effectively in Barcelona’s hands, Real
Madrid are doing their best to help Cristiano Ronaldo set new goal-scoring
records as their campaign draws to a close.

The Portugal forward bagged his second hat-trick in as many
matches in the 4-0 demolition of Getafe at the Bernabeu on Tuesday, making it
seven scored in the last four days and taking his league tally to 36.

He set a new club record of 49 goals scored in all competitions
for a season, passing the previous best of 47 set by Ferenc Puskas in 1959/60.

Ronaldo is also just two short of matching the league record of
38 achieved by Real’s Hugo Sanchez in the 1989/90 campaign, and Athletic
Bilbao’s Telmo Zarra in 1950/51.

“Our objective now is to help Cristiano to be league top
scorer,” Real striker Gonzalo Higuain told reporters.

Ronaldo moved five ahead of his great rival, Lionel Messi of Barcelona,
who has 31 league goals so far, but he is still three short of the World Player
of the Year’s season tally in all competitions of 52.

Real’s players were clearly looking to set up Ronaldo at every
opportunity against Getafe as the 26-year-old scored with a header and a goal
off each foot.

“We still have one objective, which is to ensure Ronaldo
finishes as league top scorer,” Real assistant coach Aitor Karanka said.

“It’s logical that some of his team mates look for him.

“The goals record is down to the unity of the team and the
enormous potential that he has. We don’t know where Cristiano’s limits are.”

Real and Ronaldo have two league matches left this season, away
to Villarreal and at home to Almeria.

Mourinho vs Valdano

Real coach Jose Mourinho was conspicuous by his absence in front
of the media again, as a new rift appeared in the strained relationship between
him and the club’s director general Jorge Valdano.

The Portuguese has not spoken in public since UEFA gave him a
five-match touchline ban in European competition last week for his sending off
and verbal outburst against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final first
leg.

“Mourinho decides when he wants to speak and when the
opportunity is right,” Argentine Valdano told Spanish television.

“There has been a lot of noise connected with him and it was
important he stepped to the side for the decibels that surround him to go
down.”

Mourinho’s spokesman countered soon afterwards:

“Valdano is the spokesman for Real but not for Mourinho,” Eladio
Parames told Spanish radio.

“When Valdano says Mourinho took a step to the side he is deluding himself.
Jose will make noise when he wants to and he will without ambiguity.”

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Liberia turns to God for semi-final ticket

Liberia turns to God for semi-final ticket

The
national team of Liberia in the on-going West Africa Football Union
(WAFU) yesterday embarked on intensive prayers as they managed to roam
into the semi-finals of the championship taking place in Abeokuta, Ogun
State Capital.

The players had
played two matches in the competition losing the opening encounter to
Super Eagles by 1 goal, while they (Liberia) in their second match at
the Moshood Abiola Stadium defeated their Togo counterpart by 2 goals
to one.

However, at their
training session yesterday the team on arriving the pitch embarked on
what could be described as firebrand prayers which lasted for about 30
minutes with passionate appeal to God, to see them through to finals of
the match scheduled for Saturday.

At the stadium,
players in company of their coaching crew converged on the half side of
the pitch, which was allocated to them for training, while the host
Super Eagles was training on the other half side.

Before embarking on
their training, they commenced intensive praise worship given thanks to
God for their victory over Togo, and further call on God to be with
them in their next encounter which is expected to take place between
them and winner from Group A match which is between Ghana and Togo.

Not stopping there, the Liberia Team in their prayer session also
passionately appealed to God, to take them to finals, and subsequent
winning of the trophy. However, their next match scheduled for Thursday
will determine their better chances in getting to the finals .

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New Zealand ends Flying Eagles’ Suwon Cup dreams

New Zealand ends Flying Eagles’ Suwon Cup dreams

Nigeria’s
Under-20 team, the Flying Eagles, on Tuesday suffered a shock 4-3
defeat at the hands of the Junior All Whites of New Zealand at the
Suwon U-20 Cup.

It was the first
loss at the four-nation tournament for the Flying Eagles and ended
their hopes of claiming top prize at the tourney which came to a close
yesterday in South Korea.

John Obuh’s side
had earlier beaten hosts South Korea 1-0 in their opening match of the
tourney before pulling off a 2-2 draw with Uruguay over the weekend.

For their part, the
Junior All Whites began their quest at the Suwon Cup with a 1-0 loss to
Uruguay before succumbing by the same score line to South Korea, and
were expected to follow a similar path against the Flying Eagles in the
encounter played in the early hours of Tuesday, Nigerian time.

And the Junior All
Whites appeared to play along with the laid down script when Uche
Nwofor struck from 25 meters out to put the Flying Eagles ahead after
just 18 minutes on the clock.

But New Zealand
clawed their way back to level terms when Cameron Lindsay curled an
equaliser in from the edge of the box, just minutes after Dakota Lucas
failed to convert from close range.

The Flying Eagles
then had two opportunities to restore their lead before the end of the
first half but were denied, first by New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan
Marinovic and then by the offside flag.

But 15 minutes into
the second half, the Junior All Whites struck through captain Nick
Branch who volleyed a Marco Rojas free kick past the helpless Danjuma
Paul.

The lead was short lived as quick fire goals to Nigeria earned the Flying Eagles a 3-2 lead with 25 minutes left.

Delightful

But two goals
within the space of seven minutes, the second as a result of a poor
clearance by the Nigerian goalkeeper, saw the Junior All Whites
claiming their first win of the tournament which delighted their coach,
Chris Milicich.

“Today was very
pleasing for no other reason than we’re learning how to win,” said
Milicich. “We’ve had two really close results and in this one we’ve
come back twice to get the result.

He added: “This is
a team that beat Korea, drew with Uruguay and were trying to win the
tournament. They tried to beat us with everything they had. They are
African champions and we stood toe to toe with them and came out on the
right side of the ledger.”

The Suwon Cup
served as a preparatory tournament for all four teams who will later in
the year take part at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia.

The Nigerian team is expected back in the country on Thursday and
will thereafter observe a two-week break before commencing preparations
for the World Cup where they will come up against Guatemala, Croatia
and Saudi Arabia in Group D.

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FIFA execs asked for bid favours, says Triesman

FIFA execs asked for bid favours, says Triesman

Former
FA chairman David Triesman has accused FIFA executive committee members
Jack Warner, Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz and Worawi Makudi of asking
for favours in return for their votes for England’s 2018 World Cup bid.

Triesman was giving
evidence to a British parliamentary inquiry into the reasons why
England failed in its bid to secure the finals which were awarded to
Russia last December.

He said Warner, of
Trinidad and Tobago, asked for £2.5 million to be “channelled through
me” for a school while Paraguayan Leoz requested a knighthood.

Teixeira asked him
“What can you do for me?” and Thai Makudi wanted control of the
television rights for a proposed Thailand v England friendly.

“I will take my evidence to FIFA,” Triesman said.

‘Shocking accusation’

FIFA president Sepp
Blatter responded to Triesman’s comments. “I was shocked but one has to
see the evidence,” Batter told a news conference in Zurich.

“There is a new
round of information, give us time to digest that and start the
investigation by asking for evidence on what has been said.

“I repeat, we must
have the evidence and we will react immediately against all those in
breach of the ethics code rules.” Blatter said the executive committee
members were not elected by the same Congress as him.

“They are coming from the others (other confederations), so I cannot say that they are all angels or all devils,” he said.

Meanwhile, further shock claims were highlighted by MPs at the culture, media and sport committee in the House of Commons.

Tory MP Damian
Collins said that evidence submitted by the Sunday Times, which the
committee will publish, claimed that FIFA vice-president Issa Hayatou
from Cameroon and Jacques Anouma from the Ivory Coast were paid $1.5m
(£917,000) by Qatar.

Collins said: “The
Sunday Times’ submission, and this is to be published by us later,
claims that $1.5million was paid to FIFA executive committee members
Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma who went on to vote for Qatar.” FIFA’s
ethics committee last year banned two other executive committee members
after a Sunday Times investigation into World Cup bidding.

Collins said the submission claimed Qatar specifically employed a fixer to arrange deals with African members for their votes.

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