This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Eagles Get Heroes' Welcome in Abuja

The Super Eagles Tuesday brought traffic to standstill when they returned to the country with the Africa Cup of Nations trophy. The players were feted to a grand reception only reserved for heroes.

The players and officials arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja about 3.20pm from Johannesburg, where they last Sunday emerged the winners of the Africa Cup of Nations after beating Burkina Faso 1-0.

The players who came without Victor Moses and Ambrose Efe, did not however, alight from the terminal building until late because of their excess luggage.

Aviation travellers to within and outside Nigeria had a hectic time in gaining access to the airport terminal as the entire place had been taken up by the crowd from all works of life.

The crowd largely made up of secondary school students, football fans and officials from government parastatals, which had gathered outside the arrival hall since about five hours before the arrival of the players, was energized when captain Joseph Yobo emerged from the arrival hall with the glistering gold plated trophy.

FCT Minister Bala Mohammed received the team at the airport tarmac on behalf of the Federal Government.

Pupils of the nearby Government Secondary School and Junior Secondary School mounted a guard of honour and rendered soul lifting songs just before the arrival of the team.

While water tight security was provided by the men of the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, State Security Service (SSS) and Customs and Immigration, who battled to put the crowd in check, pickpockets had a free day as they pilfered mobile handsets and money from unsuspecting victims.

One of the hoodlums, however, ran out of luck when he was nabbed by an official of the SSS when he attempting to rob John Mikel Obi of his hand set.

Overzealous security men also turned the heat on journalists who were on duty at the airport to cover the team's arrival. Daily Independent reporter, Tony Ezimakor, was assaulted by Police Superintendent SA Sanni and OG Kanu of the Nigeria Air Force at the entrance of the Airport terminal.

Soon after the brief airport reception, the convoy led by senator drove out of the Airport to the National Stadium where another reception was scheduled. But the Eagles bus made a detour at the stadium and headed for the State House where a dinner was planned by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The common feature on the team's way out of the airport was the sight of soldiers who left their posts and gave the Eagles hearty salutes as the long convoy snaked through the Bill Clinton Drive on its way to the city.

The victorious team was also routinely cheered by school children waving miniature national flags along the international airport road where motorists coming from the Gwagwalada end of the road had a herculean task.

Super Eagles captain Stephen Keshi has also vehemently denied resigning from his post. He told reporters that he remained the national coach, insisting that report of fall out with officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was blown out of proportion.

Keshi said that he retraced his step after a rapprochement with Sports Minister Bolaji Abdulahi yesterday morning in South Africa.

"I actually resigned following a dispute with NFF, but we have sorted out everything. I have rescinded my resignation after a stormy meeting with the minister of sports. Nigerians should take note that I'm back to work for them" Keshi said.

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