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Nigerian President Obasanjo Officially Opens New Stadium In Abuja - 2003-04-09

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has officially opened a new 60,000-seat national stadium in Abuja that will be the centerpiece of the eighth All Africa Games in October.

President Obasanjo described the stadium as a symbol of peace and unity through sports in Nigeria, Africa and the whole world. After inspecting the facilities, the Nigerian leader called for the need to maintain the stadium as a national monument.

Diplomats and top Nigerian ministers attended the ceremony. Nigeria's sports minister, Steven Akiga, described the stadium as a world class, ultra-modern sports facility. The sports minister said three foreign firms -- one German, one French and one Chinese -- helped build the stadium. Initial cost estimates for the Abuja stadium were about 300-million dollars. But, after several delays in construction, that figure has been revised far upwards.

Many Nigerians have criticized the stadium project as misplacement of government funds, when the money could go toward medical and social care and improving overall infrastructure. But President Obasanjo defended the stadium at its opening ceremonies, saying it has generated employment for many Nigerians and sharpened the skills of Nigerians who participated in its construction.

The eighth All Africa Games are scheduled from October fourth to October 18th in Abuja. About 7,000 athletes and officials from 53 African countries are expected to participate. Nigeria's first national stadium is located in Lagos. It was commissioned in 1973 to host the second All Africa Games.

Also at the opening ceremony of the Abuja national stadium, President Obasanjo's wife, Stella, made a special donation to the African Football Confederation. She gave CAF a new trophy for the African Women Nations Cup soccer tournament.

Nigeria's "Super Falcons" won the old trophy for keeps after they beat Ghana's "Black Queens" last year, two-nil, in Warri. The Nigerian ladies also won the first two editions of the biennial tournament in 1998 and 2000.

Mrs. Obasanjo handed over the new trophy to CAF executive committee member Amos Adamu, who is also the executive director of the All Africa Games organizing committee in Abuja.

CAF recently approved a women's soccer tournament for the All Africa Games. CAF said women's teams from Algeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and South Africa will be invited to compete against the lady Nigerians in Abuja.