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9th Chuma Anosike Cricket Championships to commence April 25 — Organisers




Lagos, April 10, 2019 Organisers of the South East Cricket Championships tagged Chuma Anosike Cup says the 9th edition of the competition will hold from April 25 to April 28.

Chuma Anosike, organiser of the championships, told newsmen on Wednesday in Lagos that six male and four female teams would participate in the round-robin championships in Afikpo, Ebonyi.

“This year Ebonyi will play host to the South East Cricket championships and this is a way of rotating the sport among the states in the zone.

“More effort has been put in place to ensure a successful event for participants of the forthcoming 9th edition of the competition.

He noted that the championships has contributed to the development of cricket in the South East, urging states in the zone to support the growth of the sport.

“We are happy with some of the success and awareness we have been able to create with the competition and we hope to do more in subsequent editions.

“Two players from the zone were part of the U-19 cricket team that qualified the country for her first ever ICC World Cup and others have represented the country as well,” said Anosike, a former Vice Vice President, Nigeria Cricket Federation and Chairman of Anambra Cricket Sssociation.

The sponsor said that plans was in place to increase the number of participating teams in the next edition.

He commended individuals who have contributed in various capacities to the success of the championships since inception.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that University of Nigeria, Nsukka male team and the Anambra female cricket team won the male and female categories, respectively, last year.



Anambra male, female teams win 10th Chuma Anosike Cricket cup



Anambra on Sunday demonstrated class in cricket when it won the male and female cricket finals decided at the Paul University Cricket oval in Awka.

The male team saw off their contemporaries from Enugu comprising largely of players from University of Nigeria, Nsukka with a 81 runs 13.1 overs seven wickets down against their university boys’ 77 runs 19.1 10 wickets down.

The male team played a total of four games and won all including against Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu twice.

Abia were third and Ebonyi picked the rear in the championship.

Speaking on the victory of the decade edition, Somtochukwu Okafor captain of Anambra lauded the Enugu boys for being the major contenders in the championship.

Okafor said his team did their best and came out tops in spite of initial technical hiccups .

“We are happy for the victory and that they hosted and won; it has boosted our confidence and prepared us better to face tough opponents,” he said.

Imo state cricket team did not participate in the competition but official information revealed that 10 players from the team including eight males and two females joined their friends in Abia, Ebonyi and Anambra to make up their teams.

In the female category, Anambra were champions after winning Ebonyi, the lone rivals in a formality final game having beaten them in their two previous encounters.

With the victory, Anambra is now second time winners in the female category out of the three editions ladies had featured, Ebonyi won the second edition.

Miracle Nwigboji, captain of Ebonyi female team said they were not mentally ready for the first game and her teammates could not bat very well but argued the Anambra girls were not better than her team.

Nwigboji said part of the lessons was that they could now bat straight balls and field bette and advocated that more training for team would make them far better at National Sports Festival, Edo 2020.

She said her team was a young side with average age of 15 years that had the potential to rule Nigeria cricket if well supported.

She thanked the sponsor, Chuma Anosike for his efforts at supporting and sponsoring the game in the zone.

Speaking at the end of the championship, Anosike said his idea of 10 years old had grown to become a reality he looked forward to.

Anosike, who is the Chairman of Anambra Cricket Association said at inception, only Anambra and Enugu were actively involved in cricket but expressed satisfaction that the game had become popular in Imo, Abia and Ebonyi states.

He said his dream was to ensure that cricket players from the South East part of the country featured prominently at the national and international scale.

Anosike thanked the Anambra government for promising to make available a place for the association to build a cricket oval in the state promising that if fulfilled, international cricket games would be played in Anambra.

In his remark, Tony Oli, Chairman of Anambra Sports Development Commission congratulated the participating teams for their exploits especially the Anambra teams for emerging victorious.

Oli said the championship was a major boost for the state cricket teams which would be competing at the national sports festival in Benin City.

Oli appreciated Anosike for sponsoring the championship for 10 years without seeking government assistance and pledged that the state government would do all that was possible to make the association excel with all its programme .

According to him, the cricket oval will not be a problem for us.

Okeke Chijioke won the bowler and cricketer of the series while Somto Agu won the batsman of the series

Edited By: Maureen Atuonwu

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General news

Mick Schumacher second in F1 test debut with Ferrari




The 20-year-old Schumacher came out of the garage for his F1 test debut behind the wheels of the SF90 on the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir.

He finished a rain-interrupted session in second place after clocking up 56 laps, just under six-tenth of a second behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

He is set to drive for both Ferrari and partner team Alfa Romeo on Wednesday in the two days of Bahrain testing.

It is what could be another major step in his father’s footsteps into Formula One racing.

“It’s like we’re turning back time,” tyre makers Pirelli tweeted along with a photo of Mick Schumacher.

The Formula One website tweets included one that read: “A Schumacher. A Ferrari.”

And the Mercedes team, for which Schumacher had come out of retirement for three seasons in 2010 to 2012, tweeted:

“Special to see the Schumacher name back on an F1 car!”

Record F1 champion Michael Schumacher won the maiden Bahrain Grand Prix in a Ferrari in 2004, and also made a comeback with Mercedes on the track six years later.

He won five of his seven world titles racing for Ferrari between 1996 and 2006.

He has not appeared in public since sustaining severe head injuries in a skiing accident in late 2013.


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FirstBank leverages technology for customers’ virtual accounts opening



FirstBank of Nigeria Limited has put in place measures to enable customers open accounts through their mobile phones, without visiting its branches nationwide.

Mr Chuma Ezirim, FirstBank Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, said in a statement on Friday in Lagos, that investment in its mobile banking infrastructure was in furtherance of  deepening financial inclusion in the country.

Ezirim said that investment in the bank’s mobile banking infrastructure would enable account opening to be carried out on its *894# USSD banking, FirstMobile (self-service telephone banking) and its website –

He said that account opening could also be carried out by bank’s staff, through the Direct Sales Executive (DSE) application installed on their mobile phone, ATMs and the bank’s over 55,000 FirstMonie Agents spread across the country.

“Opening an account with FirstBank through any of these means is seamless, convenient, fast, and user-friendly.

The DSE App is an end to end encrypted mobile application installed on the phones of FirstBank staff which enables them to open an account for to-be customers.

“Upon the completion of the account opening process via the DSE App, the customer is notified of his or her account number through text message on the mobile phone used to register the account.

With FirstBank’s *894# USSD banking, various activities are carried out on mobile phone across the four major GSM network operators in the country without the use of the internet.

“To open an account via this means, dial *894# then select ‘open an account’ to provide the information required or by simply dialling *894*0#,” Ezirim said.

He further said, “the bank currently has over 9.5 million of its nearly 20 million customers on its USSD banking platform.”

According to him, the FirstMonie Agent Banking is an agent bank initiative designed to take banking closer to people, thereby bridging the gap between the banked and unbanked.

FirstMonie is a channel through which various banking activities like FirstBank account opening, funds transfer, bill payments, data and call credit recharge services, amongst others are carried out.

“The agent banking initiative has also contributed to reducing poverty, being responsible for the indirect employment of over 150,000 people across the country,” the group executive stated.

Ezirim said that beyond opening an account in any of the over 700 branches, the bank was delighted with the investments at reinventing its business processes over the years, especially with the use of technology.

“This has been critical to staying relevant in the industry for over 126 years and being the financial partner of the first choice to all customers and Nigerians, irrespective of where they are,” he said.

The group executive noted that creation of the virtual ways of opening account reinforced the bank’s  resolve to ensure that more people have access to banking.

Edited By: Chinyere Bassey/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)


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Chinese experts share COVID-19 response experience with Uganda, South Sudan




Chinese medical experts on Friday shared their experience of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with their counterparts in Uganda and South Sudan.

Speaking at the opening of the meeting held via Webinar, Aeneas Chuma, UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said the world is facing one of the biggest challenges that is not only affecting the health sector but could potentially set the world back by many years.

“Life will not be the same again, as all evidence thus far suggests that the virus is here to stay until we achieve herd immunity or find a vaccine,” Chuma said.

He said the epidemic knows no boundaries and therefore there is need for global solidarity in combating it.

“Now more than ever, it is important to stand together and extend help to each other, at all levels. We must show kindness, compassion, and empathy wherever possible,” he said, noting that there have been cases of global solidarity where countries have provided medicines, expertise and human resources to sustain health services.

Chuma hailed the support of Jack Ma and the Alibaba Foundation to many African countries in containing the disease. Jack Ma sent various medical supplies to Africa to help fight the pandemic.

Anthony Garang, acting chairman of South Sudan Doctors’ Union, described the meeting as a unique opportunity to learn from their Chinese counterparts who were on the COVID-19 frontline in Wuhan.

“We hope to see more of similar initiatives come up during and after COVID-19 pandemic,” Garang said.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) told the meeting that China implemented strict measures to stop the spread of the disease.

In case of imported cases, Wu said China is implementing among others screening of passengers among which include providing a 14-day history and health status. He said for suspected cases, they are transferred to designated hospitals while close contacts are taken to designated hotels quarantine.

He said travelers whether foreigners or domestic face two weeks’ quarantine in the designated hotels, depending on the risk evaluation and local policy.

Wu also responded to various questions which among others included creation of a herd immunity to halt the spread of the pandemic. He said there are two ways, one that includes exposing the population to the virus. He said this may lead to severe cases including fatalities. He said the other option is development of a vaccine, which is ongoing and may be available at the end of the year.

Luo Congjuan, chief physician The Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University made a presentation on the diagnostic and treatment protocol of COVID-19.

The meeting was organized by UNAIDS China Office, World Health Organization, and WeDoctor, a medical health technology platform. Uganda Medical Association and South Sudan Doctors’ Union were co-organizers.

The webinar came shortly after one held with the Kenya Medical Women Association on April 18.

The meetings, according to observers, aim at sharing experience and knowledge in COVID-19 prevention and treatment to contain its spread in Africa.

Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across Africa rose to 75,866 as of May 15 evening.


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‘Frozen’ musical becomes biggest victim of Broadway coronavirus shutdown



The Broadway family musical “Frozen” is closing permanently, producers announced on Thursday.

It is the first big casualty of the coronavirus shutdown in New York’s theatre industry.

The Disney production, which opened in March 2018 and is based on the blockbuster 2013 movie, will not return, Disney said in a statement.

Broadway theatres went dark on March 12 and, this week, extended the closure to Sept. 6.

Live performances, especially big musicals with their large casts and the challenges of social distancing on stage, are expected to be among the last events to return while the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“Frozen”, about two sisters pulled apart by a mysterious secret, features the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go.”

Along with “Aladdin” and “The Lion King,” the play was one of three Disney musicals based on popular movies running on Broadway.

It was the first musical and the biggest Broadway production to fall victim to the coronavirus, which has hit New York City hardest in the U.S.

Thomas Schumacher, President and Producer of Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a statement that it was hard to believe a few years ago “that a global pandemic would so alter the world economy that running three Disney shows on Broadway would become untenable.”

“Frozen” was taking an average of about $1 million a week in ticket sales, according to box-office data.

The actors union equity said the closure was a wake-up call showing the challenges faced by live theatre during the pandemic.

“Today’s news should be an all hands on deck moment for Governor Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio and Congress,” Executive Director Mary McColl said in a statement.

“Public officials at all levels must think much more boldly about supporting the arts, or our entire economy will be slower to recover,” she added.

Two plays – a new production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and new British comedy “Hangmen” – had opened in preview before the shutdown.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Ijeoma Popooka (NAN)

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Vettel to leave Ferrari at end of F1 season



Four-times Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the season, the Italian team announced on Tuesday.

“This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best,” team principal Mattia Binotto said in a statement.

“It was not an easy decision to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person.”

Vettel, who joined in 2015 with the dream of emulating boyhood hero Michael Schumacher in winning titles with the sport’s oldest and most glamorous team, is out of contract at the end of the year.

Where the 32-year-old German will go now, and indeed whether he will remain in a sport whose delayed season has yet to start due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are the big questions.

“The team and I have realised that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season,” Vettel said.

“Financial matters have played no part in this joint decision. That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices and it never will be.

“What’s been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life,” he added.

Vettel said he would now take time “to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future”.

German media, who flagged up the departure on Monday night, reported hat Vettel had rejected the terms being offered by Ferrari.

Italy’s Gazetta dello Sport newspaper recently reported Vettel, who won 14 races with the team and is their third most successful driver, had been offered a one-year extension with a salary reduction.

The German, who won his titles with Red Bull, told reporters last month that he could have a new deal done before the start of a season delayed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Ferrari had also said the German was their first choice to partner Charles Leclerc.

Binotto said there was no one reason that led to the split “apart from the common and amicable belief that the time had come to go our separate ways in order to reach our respective objectives”.

Leclerc, who won two races last year and is only 22, has a contract until 2024 and is seen as Ferrari’s future and likely first champion since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.

The Monegasque outperformed Vettel last year in his first season at Ferrari, finishing ahead of him overall and taking more points, poles, podiums and wins.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, at Renault, and McLaren’s Spaniard Carlos Sainz have been installed as the leading candidates to take one of the most coveted seats on the grid.

Six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton has also been linked to Ferrari, but has repeatedly indicated he intends to stay with Mercedes.

Edited By: Remi Koleoso/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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Demystifying Financial Inclusion through USSD



Demystifying Financial Inclusion through USSD



News Agency of Nigeria
Global disruptions caused by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have made individuals, organiastions and countries to think out of the box to be able to survive in the various aspects of life. It has also made them to make necessary adjustments.


In Nigeria, in an effort to curb the spread of the pandemic, President Muhammadu Buhari on March 30 locked down the Federal Capital Territory and Lagos and Ogun states.


The five-week lockdown brought to the fore the importance of the cashless banking policy initiated and implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and made many citizens and other residents to embrace the initiative more.


The policy was introduced to reduce the amount of physical cash in circulation thereby encourage the use of electronic platforms for settlement or payment for goods and services.


Cashless policy introduced by the apex bank in December 2011 and kick-started in Lagos in January 2012, had been greeted with mixed feelings due to lack of deep understanding of its functionality.


However, with the closure of financial institutions during the lockdown, banks customers resorted to the use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and other online financial platforms as advised by financial institutions.



A great benefit of going cashless is increased security for both vendors and customers. Cash has long been the target of thieves, and its removal has the potential to reduce crimes.

Cashless payments reduce errors and the cost of labour involved in processing cash.

The expenditure incurred in printing and transportation of currency notes is also reduced with cashless banking.


According to the CBN, cashless policy was introduced in line with the nation’s Vision 2020 goal of being one of the top 20 economies. It is aimed at driving development and modernisation of the Nigerian payment system as well as driving financial inclusion.


In line with the apex bank cashless banking initiative, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in 2015 launched *894# USSD mobile banking channel through which various banking activities are carried out on a mobile phone.


Analyst are convinced that the USSD banking platform supported many Nigerians during the lockdown to carry out various cashless transactions and services from the comfort and safety of their homes amid COVID-19.


A public affairs commentator, Mrs Obiageli Elemuo, says the banking channel promoted financial inclusion deeply during the lockdown.


She observes that many Nigerians who hitherto were not comfortable using the channel, for fear of fraud, resorted to using to it as a substitute for a physical banking hall.


She is of the opinion that even with banks’ re-opening of  banking halls following gradual ease of the lockdown, many Nigerians are still opting for the channel so as to reduce handling of currency notes for fear of contracting COVID-19 through the handling.


Elemuo believes that the *894# USSD banking service is quick, convenient and easy to use, and gives instant notifications, thereby re-assuring customers.


According to Mr Chuma Ezirim, FirstBank’s Group Executive, e-Business and Retail Products, over 9.5 million customers are active on the platform at present.


He describes the service launched in January 2015 as user-friendly, noting that the channel can be used across the four major GSM network operators in the country without the use of the internet.


“Customers are able to enjoy a wide range of banking services using the bank’s *894# USSD banking.


“These services include fund transfers, data and airtime top-up for self and third-party individuals, quick balance enquiry and bank verification number enquiry,’’ he says.



The official says FirstBank is satisfied with the impact so far made by the platform.


“At FirstBank, we are excited about the impact our innovative solutions are making in the Nigerian payment landscape.


“Our *894# USSD banking has been a viable platform through which we take our banking services to the doorstep of our customers, right on the palm of their hands, without the limitation of an internet connection,” Ezirim says.


He gives the assurance that the bank will remain committed to creating avenues to enable Nigerians to carry out various financial activities conveniently and securely.


A customer of FirstBank, Mr Moses Igbrude, describes USSD banking as amazing, saying that the banking product helped him much during the lockdown.


He urges service providers to come up with initiatives that will sustain their operations and the nation in the midst of COVID-19 as well as make them stronger after the pandemic.


Another customer, Mr Ugochukwu Okoroma, believes that USSD banking promoted financial inclusion during the lockdown.


According to him, some Nigerians, who were compelled by the lockdown to use the channel, found it interesting and are willing to continue with it.


“It has been wonderful. I cannot remember the last time I visited the banking hall. I am enjoying the product very well,’’ he says.


Okoroma, however, advised banks to secure the platform adequately against hackers, adding that they should strengthen their complaint frameworks in case of failed transactions. (END)


***If used, please credit the writer and the agency*



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EU marks 70th anniversary amid divisive crisis



The European Union on Saturday marked the 70th anniversary of its foundation in low-key fashion thanks to the coronavirus lockdowns still in place in much of the continent.

EU institutions had planned to open their doors to the public as per usual on May 9 to celebrate the signing of the Schuman declaration, considered the bloc’s founding document, but had to adapt in light of the health crisis.

Instead, the European Parliament kicked off a series of online events and exhibitions, inviting civil society organisations to participate.

The legislature’s President David Sassoli made a plea for greater solidarity among the 27 EU member states in the face of COVID-19.

“The only thing that can save us from the current crisis and enable us to restore our economies and protect our citizens is acceptance of the need for a common response,” he urged.

The Schuman declaration takes its name from the then French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, who envisaged in the wake of World War II the creation of a European steel and coal community to make conflict “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”

This year’s subdued festivities take place against an unusual backdrop.

“The pandemic has exposed old fault lines within the EU, with virus-stricken southern countries like Spain and Italy complaining about a lack of solidarity from northern peers such as Germany and the Netherlands.

“The EU is gazing into the abyss of the deepest recession in its history, which is also predicted to hit southern states harder and for longer.

“The economic and financial crisis has led to rising unemployment and widening inequality both between and within nations,” Sassoli said on Saturday.

EU states must mobilize a huge amount of resources for an expansive recovery initiative that “embraces young people and women, who are likely to bear the full brunt of the crisis,” according to the Italian.

The European Commission is due to present its highly anticipated and divisive recovery plan any day now, expected to be worth at least one trillion euros (1.1 trillion dollars) and be anchored in the EU’s next long-term budget.

The former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said that member states must be willing to shell out more to shore up the union.

“If we forego every European solidarity and keep the budget miserly in size, in a few years the EU will be standing there pretty naked,” the Luxembourger said.

EU capitals will have to sign off any proposal, but some states like the Netherlands are resisting significantly larger budgetary contributions.


Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)


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9.5m Nigerians use First Bank’s *894# USSD banking service — Official



First Bank of Nigeria Limited said on Thursday that its *894# Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) quick banking service was being used by no fewer than 9.5 million customers.

Mr Chuma Ezirim, First Bank’s Group Executive, e-Business, Retail Products, said in a statement in Lagos that the development was a clear demonstration of the bank’s acknowledged leadership in electronic banking.

He said that the bank’s USSD banking service, launched in January 2015, was an easy to use, convenient, fast, user-friendly mobile banking channel through which various banking activities were carried out on a mobile phone.

Ezirim said the USSD could be used across the four major GSM network operators in the country, without the use of the internet.

“Customers are able to enjoy a wide range of banking services using the bank’s *894# USSD banking.

“These services include data and airtime top-up for self and third-party individuals, quick balance enquiry, fund transfers and BVN enquiry, among others.

“At First Bank, we are excited about the impact our innovative solutions are making in the Nigerian payment landscape.

“Our *894# USSD banking has been a viable platform through which we take our banking services to the doorstep of our customers, right on the palm of their hands, without the limitation of an internet connection.

“We remain committed to creating various avenues to enable Nigerians carry out various financial activities conveniently, safely and securely anytime, anywhere in Nigeria,” Ezirim said.

Edited By: Fela Fashoro/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)

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