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Other Sports of Tuesday, 25 May 2004

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Nigeria deports wrestling officials to Ghana

Lagos, Nigeria, 05/24 - Nigerian immigration officials Sunday refused entry to the president of the Wrestling Alliance International, Jean Andre Pamphile, who arrived at the Murtala International Airport in Lagos to attend a fund-raising dinner ahead of a world wrestling championship in honour of President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Abubakar Atiku.

Spokesman for the Presidential World Wrestling Championships, Martins Odiette, said in a statement in Lagos that Pamphile, who arrived aboard Ghana Airways from New York in the company of top wrestlers, Tony Atlas and Dino Rossetti, were barely allowed to see the competition coordinator, Power Uti Eke, before they were put on the same plane that brought them from New York via Accra.

Indications are that they were refused entry because they had no entry visas.

Odiette quoted Uti as saying he was leaving for Accra immediately to meet with Pamphile, also known as "Mr Haiti," and the other wrestlers.

"I am leaving immediately for a Accra to meet with them and to secure the entry visas there," Uti was quoted as saying.

Uti lambasted the immigration officials who turned back the wrestling personalities, adding that the officials should have used their discretion to allow them into the country, given their (wrestlers) reputation and their mission to the country.

"Sports people, as harbingers of peace, almost always enjoy such privileges," stated Uti, who noted that the Ghanaian officials exercised such discretion in allowing them into their country.

The world wrestling championship, expected to feature many local and international wrestlers, will be held in Lagos, Abuja, Benin, Warri, Aba, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Makurdi, Jos, Yola, Maiduguri, Kano, Kaduna.