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Precious Orji on turning talent into Paralympic gold for Nigeria



Nigeria’s Precious Orji set a world record as she won para powerlifting gold at the 2019 Rio Paralympics (Photo: Para Powerlifting)

It was love at first lift for Josephine Precious Orji, the Nigerian para powerlifting star who is now an Olympic champion and world record holder.

Orji’s life changed dramatically for a second time in 2001 when she visited a gym in her hometown, Owerri, in Imo State, to try out powerlifting for the first time in her life.

Just two hours later she surprised herself by declaring: “I want to reach the peak of this sport.”

It as a defining moment for the 41-year-old, who has lost the use of her legs following a bout of polio as a child.

Determination, natural talent, a lot of hard work and some support from state and national governments has saw her reach that peak at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.

Since then she has had her second child and suffered several setbacks but is determined to reach the heights again in a sport that she is as passionate about today as she was in 2001.

“I lifted 70kg on the first day, it was very simple and normal to me,” she told BBC Sport Africa.

“The coach said he had never seen anyone lift that even 50kg on their first attempt.”

Para powerlifting for disabled athletes sees competitors lie on their backs to push the weights above themselves.

“Coach Lucky Ibe told me, I would be a champion, and that I’d get on a plane, travel the world to international competitions,” Orji continued.

“I couldn’t sleep I was carrying those weights in my dream that night, so I went back home and quit my job and I started training.”

The then 22-year-old was so determined to make a success of her new-found passion that she walked away from her job the very next day.

She had been working as a computer expert in a busy cyber-cafe, a job she says she was good at, enjoyed and a popular member of the team.

It was the beginning of career that would see her achieve the heights she was so determined to reach but also leave her with those low moments that all athletes endure.

Her highlight so far was winning gold in her category at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio with a world record lift, that has not been bettered since.

“I felt like walking that day, leaving that wheelchair to walk with my legs,” she remembers.

“People from other countries were jubilating, holding me, asking me to take pictures with them, asking for my shirt, and to sign autographs on their face or anywhere.

“I remembered all these popular musicians – I felt like them, that night I could not sleep.”

Orji’s category in Rio was one of the final events in Rio and her gold was Team Nigeria’s eighth of the Games and sixth in para-powerlifting to match the six they won in the sport four years earlier.

Training of a lifetime

Precious Orji in action
Precious Orji competing at the 2019 World Para Powerlifting Championships in Kazakhstan (Photo: Hiroki Nishioka/World Para Powerlifting)

Orji’s gold medal did not come as easily as that first lift 15 years earlier instead it involved an intense training camp with the Nigerian Para-Powerlifting Federation.

“We were in camp for six months, we were training like soldiers, my body was strong like stone,” she explained.

“We were being taken care of and paid due allowances for the duration, the atmosphere was really positive.”

While some Nigerian teams and athletes have to protest and organise strikes in order to be paid their bonuses for their international success Orji was one of the lucky ones.

After the games the then Governor of her state of birth (Imo) Rochas Okorocha not only lauded the teams achievements but also ensured they were rewarded financially too.

“It is only normal to support people with disabilities and who are less privileged, Imo state athletes won medals and it was only normal reward them,” Okorocha, who is now a senator, told BBC Sport Africa.

That support extends beyond just rewarding success with the state effectively employing a number of its able-bodied and disabled to allow them to train all year-round.

From highs to struggles

Precious Orji
Nigeria’s Precious Orji is still waiting to see if she will be able defend her Paralympic title in Tokyo in 2021 (Photo: Hiroki Nishioka/World Para Powerlifting)

Since that golden moment though things have not been plain sailing for Orji.

She missed winning a second World Championships in Mexico 2017 as she gave birth to her second child.

With just one athlete being chosen in each category for international events that meant her position as the country’s representative hung in the balance.

“I was under pressure from the federation and coaches to come back as soon as possible, despite my medical report, it was like no one was listening,” she explained.

“I lost some strength, I did not enjoy my maternity leave because I had to get back 3 months after, I was bleeding at times during training.

“But somehow it wasn’t enough, I am still struggling, I get sick sometimes, and I never got sick before.”

She overcame those struggles to establish herself as number once choice again and represented Nigeria at the 2019 World Para Powerlifting Championships in Kazakhstan, which also doubled as a qualifier for the Tokyo Paralympics.

However things did not go to plan after an error from the team manager left her struggling to challenge for the title.

He mistakenly told officials that her first lift would be a relatively modest 125kg, meaning she would be lifting in Group B with the lower-ranked athletes.

With a limited number of lifts permitted it meant she was not able to react to the totals that other competitors lifted successfully.

“My name was showing on the score board as a World Record holder, yet I was stuck in Group B, that was so disappointing, I didn’t want to compete,” she said

“But I needed to maintain my position despite that when a champion is defeated, it is shameful.

“For the first time in life I came back empty handed, it was a disgrace to me.

“But I am doing this for my name and my children will know their mother kept giving her all.”

Precious Orji on stage at the 2019 World Para Powerlifting Championships in Kazakhstan
Precious Orji missed out on a medal at the 2019 World Para Powerlifting Championships in Kazakhstan (Photo: Hiroki Nishioka/World Para Powerlifting)

Orji’s biggest lift of 143kg was 17 kilos lighter than her world record and was only good enough for fourth place, the first tournament has returned home from without a medal.

She in fact lifted the same weight as Egypt’s bronze medallist Randa Mahmoud, who was given the podium place as she has the lower body weight.

Her lift was enough to qualify her for the postponed Tokyo Paralympics, which are now set for 2021 due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, however she is not assured of a place on the team yet.

Loveline Obiji is also pushing for selection after claiming the silver in Kazakhstan leaving the world record holder waiting to prove herself at further trials to impress the Nigeria Para-Powerlifting Federation.

Once again though Orji’s fierce determination in the face adversity has come to the fore.

“I do not believe in ‘what will be will be’, we have to stand and work for what we want, I will not quit until I reach the peak of the sport again,” she insisted.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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