Ex-tennis champion, Tanya Okpala rescued from begging on the streets in Anambra

The governor of Anambra state, Charles Soludo, has taken decisive action to rescue former Nigerian tennis player Tanya Okpala, who was discovered in a distressed state, begging for alms on the streets of Anambra.

Recall that Tanya, in a viral video on social media, was captured begging for alms on the streets of Anambra.

During a conversation with an unidentified man in the video, the tennis star, also seen nursing a wound on her left leg, stated that she is a former lawn tennis player who has been abandoned.

She mentioned that she had been labelled a prostitute by people in the area and had been asked to return to her country, but she considers herself an Igbo lady.

She, however, appealed for help, saying that she was planning to return to her village the next day to care for her daughter.

Mrs Ify Obinabo, Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, confirmed the intervention of the Anambra Government under Governor Charles Soludo on Monday.

The commissioner said that Okpala was evacuated from the street on Sunday night.

Obinabo said the athlete had been moved to a rehabilitation centre where she was already receiving medical attention.

She said that Gov. Chukwuma Soludo and his wife, Nonye, had followed the pathetic story of the lady and promised to give her the best medical and psychological support that would return her to normal life.

“Yes, we have taken her to a rehabilitation centre; her case is a case of drug and frustration and from my interactions with her, she understands she is in a mess and wants to come out of it.

“She expressed sadness that she could not give her child the type of care she enjoyed under her own parents.

“Mr Governor and First Lady are particularly interested in this case and have promised to do anything possible to make her live a normal life again,” she said.

Reacting to the development, the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) expressed delight over the timely intervention of the Anambra Government in the plight of Okpala.

Tony Nezianya, Public Relations Officer of NOC said Okpala was a tennis champion for many years.

Nezianya described the lady as a national asset that deserved every attention that she could get.

‘The Olympic movement in Nigeria is deeply saddened by the plight of Tanya Okpala, but we are delighted that the Anambra government has taken charge of the situation.”

Also speaking, Godwin Kienka, Director of International Tennis Academy who tutored Okpala at a time said she was a promising young star who competed and won competitions in age group cadre before progressing to the senior level.

Kienka said Okpala, Jacquelyne Okwueze among others performed so well that they all got scholarships to study in America but she returned to Nigeria around 2007 due to drug related challenges.

He said efforts had been made to normalise the 41-year-old Okpala but each time she was taken to rehabilitation centre she escaped.

The tennis buff advised young athletes and youths generally to avoid peer pressure and to stay off drugs as it always led to catastrophic end.

“Tanya Okpalla was No 1 in the ladies singles ranking at some point and won several singles and doubles titles including the CBN Senior Championships.

“Jacquelyne Okwueze is her teammate; she is still in the US as a criminal lawyer.

“I am also grateful to the gentleman who shot the clip and brought her situation to national attention and also the Anambra government that has intervened,” he said.

Culled from Ir