Duro Ikhazuagbe

The biggest charity polo event in Africa, the 2017 edition of the Access Bank/UNICEF Charity Shield Polo Tournament is scheduled to hold at Fifth Chukker Polo & Country Resort, Kaduna, between May 15 and May 21, 2017.

Already, 15 teams have been listed to battle for honours in two major categories.

Four high-goals teams fortified with the best Nigerian players and professionals from Argentina, England and South Africa are listed for action in the big stake Charity Shield that pitches four equally matched teams from Lagos, Abuja, Keffi and Kaduna.

Campaigns for the prestigious Access Bank Cup would be an exciting experience with 12 regular and ambitious debutants bracing for fierce games in a potentially explosive week long confrontations.

Speaking at a media briefing to herald the 2017 edition of the tournament in Lagos wednesday, Group Head, Inclusive Banking, Access Bank Plc, Ope Wemi-Jones, said the bank has continued to maintain its yearly commitment in supporting UNICEF towards its projects for orphans and vulnerable children in Northern Nigeria.

“This year’s tournament is more than an affirmation of our commitment to socio-economic wellbeing of mankind and acknowledgement of the impact the initiative has had on the lives of vulnerable children in northern Nigeria especially in Kaduna State. It is also an opportunity for providing special care for Access Bank’s customers through our inclusive banking services,” stressed Wemi-Jones.

Fifth Chukker Polo Captain, Babangida Hassan, said they are proud to continue in the development of the established partnership with Access Bank and the UNICEF Charity Shield tourney, which is in its tenth year.

“Fifth Chukker is proud to continue in its development of this established partnership with Access Bank and UNICEF. As the level of play continues to raise the bar in Nigerian polo and captures a truly international following; the charity work follows in a similar fashion,” Babangida added.

Also speaking at the event, UNICEF’s Chief of Field-Partnership in Nigeria, Manuel Rosini, said: “We are hoping to get more children needing support for instance, children orphaned by HIV/AIDS – especially the girl-child into schools.”

He also disclosed that through the Access Bank and Fifth Chukker partnership, the school project at Maraban Jos in Kaduna has witnessed a 35 per cent increase in enrolment from a little over 8,000 last year, to 11,000 this year.
“We have no doubt created the space for a lot of them to enjoy their rights to education through this partnership, but we aim to seek more community participation to achieve greater results,” he stated.

Rosini pointed out: “UNICEF looks forward to expanding this partnership with Access Bank to advocate the realisation of children’s rights.”

A special event to mark the Centenary of Kaduna City and Children’s Day celebration would form part of the major highlights of the 2017 edition of the tournament.

The Access Bank Charity Shield Tournament was inaugurated by Fifth Chukker Polo and Country Club in 2003 as a fund raising platform to support local charity organisations.

Since 2006, however, this effort has been exclusively geared towards UNICEF’s intervention projects for orphans and vulnerable children and its environs.

So far, more than N100 million has been raised during the charity event, for underprivileged children in northern Nigeria and this has been hailed as a huge achievement for a sporting partnership that began a decade ago.