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Tricky finale as NPFL Championship Playoffs ends

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Finale

It is a deserving end to the six-club competition which, in spite of its abridged nature from the beginning in January, is climaxing with three matches crucial to the available rewards.

Three matches daily over four match days since June 4 have shown that the Super Six competition can always be an exciting prospect.

With 36 goals scored during eight wins and four draws in 12 matches, Wednesday’s three matches offer hopes of more exciting moments.

The day’s first match at 3 p.m. will see Rangers International Football Club of Enugu needing to beat FC IfeanyiUbah of Nnewi to finish among the top three.

Rangers who won the Group A of the abridged regular season and are presently fourth need the full points to leapfrog now third-placed Akwa United FC of Uyo.

FC IfeanyiUbah are already out of contention for any of the three tickets to play on the continent next season, but they will not just lie in wait to be crushed.

However, going by the statistics, Rangers look capable of beating them, even by the slimmest of margins, in spite of their Eastern Nigeria rivalry.

But the question is whether beating FC IfeanyiUbah will be enough to earn Rangers a CAF Confederation Cup competition ticket, given that Akwa United can still upstage them with a win.

The Uyo side will take on Enyimba International FC of Aba from 5 p.m. and a win will keep them within the top three bracket for a return to the continent.

They, apart from having won Group B of the abridged regular season, are unbeaten so far at the playoffs just like Kano Pillars.

However, Enyimba will need just a draw to be in line for a CAF Champions League ticket, and they can seek a win to be able to claim the season’s title.

Lobi Stars FC of Makurdi and Kano Pillars meet from 7 p.m. to round up proceedings at the playoffs, with the latter needing a draw to win a continental competition slot.

However, as it is presently, the three continental competition tickets are between the trio of Enyimba, Kano Pillars and Rangers, with Akwa United having an outside chance of an upset.

Nonetheless, Match Day 5 fixtures hold so much and they undoubtedly provide a fitting end to the playoffs.

CURRENT STANDINGS

Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts

Enyimba 4 3 0 1 7 4 +3 9

Kano Pillars 4 2 2 0 7 4 +3 8

Akwa United 4 1 3 0 7 6 +1 6

Rangers 4 1 2 1 6 6 0 5

Lobi Stars 4 1 1 2 5 6 -1 4

FC IfeanyiUbah 4 0 0 4 4 10 -6 0

FC IfeanyiUbah vs Rangers International ——- 3 p.m.

Enyimba International vs Akwa United ——- 5 p.m.

Lobi Stars vs Kano Pillars ——- 7 p.m.

OLAL

(Edited by Olawale Alabi)

Olawale Alabi: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Sport

Mourinho’s Spurs pose tricky test for Liverpool

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Spurs manager Jose Mourinho would love to be the one who ends Liverpool’s year-long unbeaten run in the Premier League and Saturday’s game could be closer than the standings suggest.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho reacts Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

The late match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will be the first between Juergen Klopp’s men and a Mourinho side since Manchester United dismissed the Portuguese after a 3-1 defeat at Anfield in December 2018.

“Don’t sack Mourinho,” the crowd chorused mockingly during that 2018 humiliation, so revenge in North London would be sweet.

Spurs have been shockingly leaky and some are expecting a classic demonstration of Mourinho’s bus-parking expertise in defence and a few tactical tricks.

“The way Spurs used to play under Mauricio Pochettino, you would have expected them to come out and have a go at us but I can’t see that happening under Jose Mourinho,” former Liverpool striker John Aldridge wrote in a column for the city’s Echo newspaper.

“I am sure they will try to soak up pressure and hit us on the break with Lucas Moura, Son (Heung-Min) and Dele Alli.

“They will allow us to have possession and try to break them down, no doubt that is how Mourinho will play because I think he is very intimidated by Liverpool.”

The match could still be an awkward trip for the visiting Reds who beat Tottenham in last year’s Champions League final and have a near-perfect record of 58 points out of 60 this season to sit 13 points clear at the top.

Mourinho, who replaced the sacked Pochettino at Spurs in November, has only twice been on the winning side against Klopp in their 10 previous games as opponents.

To do it again, Tottenham will have to rise to the challenge without injured captain Harry Kane.

Former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp suggested it could still be a lot closer than the 28-point gap between Liverpool and sixth-placed Spurs, who have kept only two clean sheets this season.

“I can’t see any other result but Liverpool winning the title, but Tottenham away will be a tough game, make no mistake about that,” he told Sky Sports.

“They’ll want to break that Liverpool unbeaten run and it will be a tight game for sure — you wouldn’t write Tottenham off, they’ve got outstanding players in the team.”

Second-placed Leicester City host Southampton on Saturday.

The Foxes thrashed the Saints 9-0, the biggest ever top flight away win in English soccer, in the reverse fixture in October but Southampton have tightened up considerably since that humiliation, conceding only 13 goals in 11 games.

Four more goals for Leicester would set another record, however, as the most one club has put past another in the league.

Leicester have top-scoring striker Jamie Vardy back in action, with the England international turning 33 on Saturday, after he missed three matches with a calf problem but centre-back Wes Morgan is out with a groin injury.

Third-placed champions Manchester City, looking for a fifth win in a row in all competitions, travel to relegation-threatened Aston Villa on Sunday.

Chelsea, fourth, are at home to Burnley while Manchester United, fifth and without injured defender Harry Maguire, host bottom side Norwich City.

Edited by: Emmanuel Okara/Silas Nwoha

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2019 AFCON: Lions plot squirrels fall in tricky ECOWAS derby

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The Teranga Lions of Senegal will on Wednesday square up against giant killing Squirrels of Benin in the first quarter-finals match of the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.

From Dakar to Cotonou, the two ECOWAS members would surely be putting aside francophone and regional ties to battle for a semi-final place in the tournament.

The tricky West African derby has been termed a David versus Goliath battle in view of Senegal being the highest ranked team on the continent while lowly ranked Benin had never qualified for the knockout stage of AFCON before now.

A 1-0 victory over Uganda was enough to see Senegal through to the quarter finals; Sadio Mane’s effort in the 15th minute proved to be the difference, although the Liverpool forward went on to miss a second half penalty.

Aliou Cisse’s men continued to underline their status as one of the favourites for the title with a string of stellar displays.

With three wins in four matches and keeping clean sheets in all their victories.

Mane with three goals in the competition so far is expected to continue in attack alongside Ismaila Sarr while Keita Balde is likely to return to the starting lineup having played as a second half substitute against Uganda.

Benin on the other hand stunned Morocco on penalties to book their place in the quarter finals.

Moise Adilehou’s first half effort had been cancelled out by the North Africans for a 1-1 draw in regulation time before the Squirrels triumphed 4-1 in the penalty shootout.

Michel Dussuyer’s men have still never won an AFCON match in regulation time with eight defeats and five draws from 13 previous matches.

Benin would be without key defender Khaled Adenon, who was sent off in extra time against Morocco.

Steve Mounie is set to return having missed the Round of 16 due to suspension while Mickael Pote is likely to continue in attack despite failing to score in his last three matches.

Senegal have never lost to Benin, claiming three wins and one draw from four previous matches.

The most recent meeting was 2-1 victory in a friendly back in 2008.

Mane would be the one to watch for Senegal with the forward looking to add to his three goals in the competition.

His combination with Keita Balde and Sarr would definitely give the Beninionise defence trouble.

Napolis’s Kalidou Koulibaly has also been solid at the back for Senegal, leading them to three clean sheets in four matches.

He would be confident of shutting out the duo of Mickael Pote and Steve Mounie, both of whom have struggled in Egypt.

Soccer pundits have tipped Senegal to win the match but with Benin knocking out another favorite, Morocco in the round of 16, an upset might just be on the cards.

NAN reports that West African still holds the ace in the quarter-finals stage with four teams (Nigeria, Senegal, Benin, Ivory Coast), North Africa: two (Algeria, Tunisia) and Southern Africa: two (South Africa, Madagascar).

“We are glad we have four ECOWAS countries in the quarter-finals stage of the 2019 AFCON.

“With West Africa being the powerhouse of African football, we hope one of the teams will go ahead and lift the trophy at the end of the competition,” President, ECOWAS Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said.
MUYI/IS

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AFCON 2019: Super Eagles will face tricky, tougher tie against Bafana Bafana — Disu

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The former Technical Director, Nigeria Football Association (NFA), Olatunde Disu OFR, on Monday warned that the Super Eagles would face a tricky and a tougher encounter against the Bafana Bafana in the quarter-finals of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.

NAN reports that the Gernot Rohr tutored-side will on Wednesday face the Stuart Baxter-side in the quarter-finals duel in Cairo.

The Bafana Bafana got a 1-0 surprised win over the host Pharaohs of Egypt in the round of 16

While the Super Eagles got the quarter-finals through a 3-2 win over their eternal rivals, Indomitable Lions of Cameroon at the Alexandria Stadium in Egypt.

It is on record that the Super Eagles had failed to beat Bafana Bafana in during the qualifiers as the first meeting at the Nest of Champions in Uyo went the way of the Baxter side.

Tekelo Rantie and Percy Paul goals condemned Nigeria to defeat while the return leg in South Africa ended one goal at piece.

Disu, a former Green Eagles Assistant Coach, said that the Bafana Bafana now know the Eagles pattern of play better than before, adding that the team should brace up for tougher challenge.

“The Eagles must not be careless against this South Africans because they now know us better than before. We need to play with caution because they can outwit us.

“We should remember that they defeated us right here in Nigeria and we also failed to defeat them in South Africa that should mean something to us.

“I am not saying that the Eagles cannot beat them, no, we have a stronger team to beat them, but technically we must not rely on that, we should play better than them.

“The Eagles are better now, with what they have displayed so far in AFCON, not minding the Madagascar debacle, they are at their best,’’ he said.

Disu said the technical crew should look into the goalkeeping department, adding that the current first choice goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi could be suspect.

“Technically, I may not be supporting the idea of putting Akpeyi in between the sticks because the South Africans knows him better, he plays in their league.

“Akpeyi remains a suspect in goal for the Eagles because he sometimes fumbles with the balls which resulted in our first defeat in the hands of the Bafana Bafana during the qualifiers.

“The goalkeeping area remains an issue because the South Africans can shoot from outside the box because they understand our keeper very well, he himself may be too cautious against them,’’ he said.

Disu also said that he preferred Kenneth Omeruo to be in the heart of the defence with the pairing of Troost Ekong or Leon Balogun.

“I will prefer Omeruo to be at the heart of the defence because he is strong and has a lot of tackles won, maybe anyone between Ekong or Balogun can pair him.

“So far so good, the Eagles have showed character in this AFCON, but they should not be careless, they have good ball distribution and well organised defence.

“I will want them to attack more instead of defending; they need to play to attack the South Africans because they make use of the middle while the Eagles play from the flanks.

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Wimbledon: Pliskova uses ‘amazing’ serve to see off tricky Hsieh

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Wimbledon: Pliskova uses ‘amazing’ serve to see off tricky Hsieh

London, July 5, 2019 NNNFormer world number one Karolina Pliskova served superbly to beat Hsieh Su-Wei, 6-3 2-6 6-4 on Friday to reach the Wimbledon fourth round for the second time.

Czech third seed Pliskova fired down 14 aces on Court One to counter the unorthodox Hsieh’s fast feet and soft hands, securing victory in an hour and 46 minutes.

“I thought my serve was amazing today… I’d love to call myself a specialist on grass,” Pliskova said. “This year I’m doing better and I’ve made the second week.

“On grass she’s a very tough opponent, she’s done a good job the past couple of months and I’m just super pleased that I’ve made it,” added Pliskova.

“There’s nobody like this playing any more in the draw so I think I’ll feel much better in the next match after this test,” Pliskova added.

Both players started the opening set strongly before an unusually untidy game by world number 16 Hsieh allowed Pliskova to claim a break for a 5-3 lead.

That was the opening the 27-year-old needed as she switched gears and closed out the set with her sixth ace.

Hsieh responded with an early break in the second set to race 4-2 ahead and the 33-year-old Taiwanese saved four break points in the seventh game before taking the match into a decider.

Pliskova put Hsieh on the back foot with searing groundstrokes early in the third set to break for a 3-1 lead.

She beat last year’s Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber in the Eastbourne final last week but lost to Hsieh in Dubai this year.

Appearing less rattled by Hsieh’s variations as the match wore on, Pliskova staved off a late comeback attempt by Hsieh to close out victory.

Edited by Silas Nwoha

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Defending champion Kerber outclasses tricky compatriot at Wimbledon

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Defending champion Kerber outclasses tricky compatriot at Wimbledon

London, July 2 , 2019 NNNDefending champion Angelique Kerber needed to call upon all her cunning and experience to navigate her way 6-4 6-3 through an awkward first-round encounter with German compatriot Tatjana Maria on Tuesday.

The three-times Grand Slam champion has enjoyed mixed fortunes since beating Serena Williams in the final last year, dropping to fifth in the standings, and went out in the first round of the French Open last month.

It was with some nervous tension that she stepped out on Centre Court, opening the action on the second day of the tournament in traditional fashion as the women’s champion.

Maria’s combination of slice and guile, rare on a circuit dominated by big-hitting power players, frustrated Kerber, especially in the first set.

“She’s playing tricky on grass,” Kerber said straight after leaving the court.

“I was hoping to stay in the match because you never know what’s going to happen with her. She really plays tricky with the slice on both sides.”

The players exchanged breaks throughout the match and Kerber thumped shots long and into the net as she came to terms with her 65th-ranked opponent’s subtler delivery, producing 12 unforced errors in the first set and 19 overall.

But the left-hander was able to match Maria’s all-court game when it mattered, winning the first set with an perfectly judged lob, off balance and on the run.

The pair served up skilled and entertaining tennis in the second set, Maria drawing gasps of admiration from the crowd for speed and deftness at the net.

Not to be left out, Kerber produced a running shot through her legs and, to earn match point, a smash from the baseline.

She finished the match with a thumping forehand that Maria could not handle.

 

 

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FIFA U-20 World Cup: Qatar may seem easy for Flying Eagles but still tricky hurdle

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Nigeria begin their quest for glory at the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Poland against Qatar on Friday.

But it is a match which appears to be a seemingly easy but tricky hurdle for the Flying Eagles.

The Flying Eagles will be making their 12th appearance on the global scene, thanks to their fourth-place finish at the Africa U-20 Cup of Nations staged in Niger Republic in February.

For the Asians, Poland 2019 will be their fourth appearance and they will be hoping to better their second-place finish achieved in Australia 1981.

However, to achieve this, they must first navigate past the Nigerian side before taking on Ukraine and the U.S. in Group D.

Two-times runners-up Nigeria, on their part, will be going all out for the three points when they take to the pitch of the 15,300 –capacity Tychy Stadium.

Coach Paul Aigbogun and his assistants have somewhat calibrated a new ensemble, leaving out half of the squad members from the Africa U-20 Cup of Nations.

Aigbogun has gone on to also infuse into the team a number of exciting talents in midfield and attacking realms.

While the choice of goalkeeper is between Detan Ogundare and Olawale Oremade, Valentine Ozornwafor and Igoh Ogbu are likely to keep their spots in central defence.

Team captain Ikouwem Udoh Utin would be at left back, while Jamil Muhammad could be at right back.

In the midfield, much attention will be on the England-based duo of Nnamdi Ofoborh and Ayotomiwa Dele-Bashiru, as well as AC Perugia’s former junior international Kingsley Michael.

In this sector also are home-based professionals Effiom Maxwell and Aniekeme Okon, who are rapid raiders on their day.

Dele-Bashiru, who is of England champions Manchester City, has already been tipped by world football ruling body FIFA as one of the players from whom much is expected of in Poland.

At the fore, Nigeria has a cosmopolitan flavour with England-based Chinonso Emeka, Norway-based Jerome Adams, Czech Republic-based Tijani Muhammed, Sweden-based Henry Offia and home-based Success Makanjuola vying for available spots.

Aigbogun was quoted on Thursday as saying that the group was aware of the pedigree of Nigeria at the FIFA U20 World Cup and cannot afford to under-perform.

“We have a tough history to match. Silver medals on two occasions and bronze medals once, and a number of quarter-final appearances.

“That’s why we must start very well, by taking the points against Qatar and then march on with confidence and self assurance.

“We are flying the flag of nearly 200 million Nigerians, as well as that of the African continent. We have put a lot of work into building a squad that will make Nigeria and Africa proud,” he said.

Utin was also quoted as saying that the game against Qatar was a big match for the team just as every other match in the competition.

“We know the importance of picking up the three points in our first match, which is why we are determined to go all out.

“Taking the first three points will help us plan our approach better for the remaining matches in the group phase, and also boost our confidence,” Utin said in Katowice on Thursday.

A cross-section of football enthusiasts who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria in separate interviews however noted that participating teams at the cadet World Cup had vastly improved.

They therefore warned the current Flying Eagles team not to underrate any of their group opponents in the tournament.

Samson Siasia, an ex-international and former coach of the Super Eagles, said winning the first game was always very important in a tournament, adding that the team must not be complacent.

“I don’t want them to see any of the countries as non-footballing nations but I just want them to be careful because football at this level is won from the first game.

“Once you are able to tidy up your first game, and then your second game, you should have at least been able to qualify from your group to the second stage already,’’ he said.

Emmanuel Babayaro, also an ex-international, said while he was not expecting any of the teams in the Flying Eagles’ group to be push-overs, Nigeria should have no problems qualifying from there.

“Having ceded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, they will be well prepared to meet the standards expected of them. I am very sure that they will be coming out very strong in order to prove a point.

“However, I don’t expect anything short of Nigeria qualifying for the next stage,” he said.

NAN reports that the team will leave their hotel in Katowice for the short drive to Tychy on Friday.

Friday’s game kicks off at 5p.m. Nigeria time, while the second match of Group D, between Ukraine and the U.S., will begin at 7:30 p.m. Nigeria time.

(Edited by Olawale Alabi)

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Warriors’ title defence gets tricky after Durant injury

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(Reuters) Golden State Warriors’ title defence may now hobble along with their leader Kevin Durant who suffered a calf injury on Wednesday that makes him doubtful for the playoffs.

 

Durant limped off the court with a non-contact right leg injury during the third quarter of his team’s Game Five battle with Houston Rockets.

His team announced that Durant had sustained a calf strain and is scheduled for an MRI on Thursday.

In spite of the Warriors pulling off a 104-99 triumph to take a 3-2 best-of-seven second round series edge, the mood is now one of concern for the two-time defending champions.

The defending champions know their path to another NBA Finals would be substantially tougher without Durant.

“We’re excited about the win but concerned for Kevin,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr told reporters.

“He’s been on this incredible play-off run. I’m proud of our guys for pulling the game out, and we’ll see how Kevin is doing (Thursday).”

A Finals MVP in each of the last two Golden State title runs, Durant entered Wednesday’s game averaging 36 points in the first four games of the series and 35.4 points in this year’s postseason.

The Warriors have become even more reliant on him against the Rockets as sharpshooter Stephen Curry has gone cold and is connecting on just 26 per cent of his three-pointer attempts.

Curry fought through his struggles late Wednesday to score 12 fourth-quarter points that helped push the Warriors past Houston.

“It’s just next man up mentality. It’s the perspective you have to have,” Curry said. “(Durant’s) done a lot for us and we have to have his back. That’s what tonight was about.”

If Durant cannot play on Friday, when the series resumes with Game Six in Houston, the Warriors may need a vintage performance from three-time champion Curry.

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Coronavirus

Latvia mulls relaxing coronavirus restrictions in several four-week stages

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Latvian health authorities will propose measuring various COVID-19-related variables over several four-week periods to decide on relaxing the restrictions introduced in the country to contain the spread of COVID-19, Health Minister Ilze Vinkele said on public radio Monday.

Data shows that changes in the infection dynamic appear over a period of four weeks, the minister said, adding that a set of measurable criteria will be proposed as a basis for easing the restrictions.

The criteria will include the number of infected people, the rate of new infections, hospitalizations and severe cases, as well as possible cluster outbreaks at institutions or in populated areas.

By monitoring these variables over a four-week period, it will be possible to determine whether efforts to curb the epidemic have been successful or not, Vinkele said.

Epidemiologists also propose using the basic reproduction number, or the expected number of new cases directly generated by one COVID-19 case, as one of the criteria.

The health minister believed that COVID-19 infections are currently plateauing in Latvia but that it is still too early to claim victory as there are too many unknowns associated with this new virus.

The Health Ministry is well aware that maintaining the state of emergency in the long run would be too tiresome for society, but on the other hand, the cost of relaxing the restrictions too soon could be a new spike in infections. “Unfortunately, such is the tricky nature of this virus. Relaxation of the restrictions must be based on certain criteria,” the minister said.

A nationwide state of emergency which Latvia declared on April 13 expires on May 12, but Vinkele believed that some of the precautionary measures will be left in place long beyond that date.
(XINHUA)

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Defence/Security

EFCC cautions Nigerians against fraudulent COVID-19 antics

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has cautioned Nigerians against emerging online fraudulent tactics being adopted by Internet fraudsters in the wake of donations arising from COVID-19.

In a statement issued by Acting Spokesperson of the Commission, Mr Tony Orilade, in Abuja on Monday, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu, said that the caution had become imperative now that people are more vulnerable.

Magu explained that there is no online testing for COVID-19.

He added that such online link requesting for personal information to test for the coronavirus, or provide a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) method, was part of fraudulent methods aimed at defrauding Nigerians.

Magu said there had been increasing number of complaints received by the Commission from innocent Nigerians falling prey to the antics of Internet fraudsters who were taking advantage of the pandemic to defraud unsuspecting targets.

“In the last couple of days, home-bond  Internet users have complained of  receiving several e-mails, sms, Whatsapp messages offering free services.

“These services included ‘Do-It-Yourself’ COVID-19 tests;  subscription to either Netflix, hulu, DSTV, Government Intervention/Grant of N30,000; and other tricky offers.

“Some of the fraudulent schemes are coming in the form of links that offer free data or request for the Bank Verification Number (BVN) and account details of their victims.

“They often assure victims that they will be credited with money, as part of the federal government’s palliatives to cushion the effects of the Stay At Home order, ” he said.

According to Magu, many of the fraudulent online messages require recipients to click and fill out an online survey and forward same to ten (10) Whatsapp users.

He pointed out that the messages are embedded with malwares and other malicious codes, which when clicked, trigger a programme that steals and compromises mails, banking logins passwords, credit- related information and other critical data contained on the recipient’s devices.

“ Magu said the victim stand the risk of losing both confidential information and monies; since unauthorised access may have been granted to cybercriminals.

“Victims are also in danger of being infected with a ransomwarewhich will automatically lock their electronics device,” he said.

Magu further advised the general public to immediately take some steps in protecting their data from theft.

The steps include not opening unsolicited e-mails and clicking only on those that are from known and trusted sources, while taking a closer look at URLs for spelling errors before clicking.

“In case of online financial transactions, you must cross-verify with the recipient before making the payment.

“Install and update Anti-virus on your devices.

“”Do not divulge to anyone via telephone, e-mail, any personal information such as Passwords, PIN numbers, ATM Cards numbers etc, ” he said

The EFCC boss also cautioned against   offers of bitcoin and any offer to advertise a business and get paid.

“Be wary of suspicious recommendations from friends on Facebook and Whatsapp claiming to offer investment opportunities they have benefited from,” he said.

Magu also advised members of the public to report any such fraudulent activity to the EFCC via its verified handle – @OfficialEFCC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or call the hotline: +234 (Phone/Email) .

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Wale Ojetimi
(NAN)

 

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FEC re-awards 9th Mile section of Enugu-Onitsha road at N29.4bn

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The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has re-awarded the 9thMile section of the Enugu—Onitsha expressway for N29.4 billion.

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, briefed State House correspondents after FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Fashola said that the previous contractor handling the highway linking Enugu and Anambra States was disengaged while RCC had been given the contract.

“We had one memorandum in respect of the 9thMile section of the Enugu—Onitsha highway; so just to disengage the contractor who was previously handling that 15 kilometer section and award it to the contractor that now has the majority of the route which RCC.

“So, that section was determined and approved for re-award to RCC so that we now have a wholesome strategy to complete that road.

“The 9thMile section, as you might know, is a very tricky, difficult area; very steep, dangerous, point of many accidents before.

“So, we had to change design and a lot of other alterations in quality to ensure that we manage not the erosion there but that very good is work is done; so, council approved that in favour of Messrs RCC for the N29.4 billion,’’ he said.

He said that the completion was rolled into the existing contract–24 months.

Edited By: Sadiya Hamza
(NAN)

 

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EU ministers to approve negotiating mandate for UK trade talks

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European Union governments were expected to adopt a negotiating mandate on Tuesday for the tricky task of reaching a deal with Britain on future ties after it left the bloc in January.

The EU mandate aims to offer Britain, which sells 45 per cent of exports and buys 53 per cent of imports from the 27-nation bloc, no tariffs and no quotas in the future.

In exchange, it wants London not to undercut European companies with lower and, therefore, less costly environmental, labour, tax and state aid standards.

However, Britain does not want such a commitment, stressing its “primary objective in the negotiations is economic and political independence’’.

It is ready to accept tariffs and quotas similar to a deal the bloc has with Canada.

“We can have an agreement with zero tariffs and zero quotas if we can be sure,’’ France’s Europe Minister, Amelie de Montchalin, told newsmen on entering the meeting with colleagues from the bloc in Brussels.

“We will have common norms regulatory proximity on the basis of EU rules.

“If we cannot maintain this regulatory proximity, then we must apply tariffs or quotas, it’s not a position of revenge, it’s an economically rational position,’’ she said.

Britain would publish its own negotiating stance on Thursday and talks are to start coming week.

However, both sides want a deal by the end of the year, when Britain’s transition period ends.

According to German Europe Minister Michael Roth, this is an extremely ambitious timetable.

Without a trade deal, business contacts would be based on World Trade Organisation rules, which assume tariffs, quotas and cumbersome paperwork.

“Fisheries are important but also our trade relations, security, people-to-people contacts, and that makes the negotiations so challenging.

“The time pressure is immense, the interests are huge, it’s a very complicated treaty, so it will be very hard work,’’ Dutch Foreign Minister, Stef Blok, said.

The agreed text of the EU negotiating mandate says any new trade treaty between the EU and Britain “should prevent distortions of trade and unfair competitive advantages so as to ensure a sustainable and long-lasting relationship’’.

“The envisaged agreement should uphold common high standards and corresponding high standards over time with European Union standards as a reference point,’’ the document, seen by Reuters, said.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Entertainment

Men gradually taking over beauty business in Jos – Survey

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Sport

Mane’s goal breaks Norwich resistance for Liverpool to go 25 points clear

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Liverpool’s Sadio Mane marked his return from injury with a late goal to break Norwich City’s resistance on Saturday.

His goal helped them to secure a 1-0 win to extend his side’s English Premier League (EPL) lead to 25 points.

On a windy evening, bottom club Norwich were proving a tough nut to crack for Juergen Klopp’s team.

But Senegalese forward Mane, who came on as a substitute on the hour, pounced to drill home a fine finish from inside the area in the 78th minute.

It was his first appearance since going off injured in Liverpool’s win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Jan. 23 and he marked it by claiming his 100th goal in English football.

A battling Norwich had defended resolutely and twice came close to taking the lead, but Liverpool’s relentless romp towards a first English title for 30 years continued.

Victory was their 34th in their last 35 league games and their 17th in succession, one shy of Manchester City’s record.

They have scored in 35 successive Premier League games, are unbeaten in their last 43 and have conceded only once in their last 11 league games.

Fifteen more points will guarantee them the title as they have collected 76 points out of a possible 78, now 25 ahead of Manchester City, who have played a game less.

“It was a difficult game for different reasons,” Klopp said. “The wind, the organisation of the opponent and the way we played in the first half made it tricky for us.

“Sadio was fresh and made the difference.”

Norwich, for whom Alexander Tettey struck the woodwork in the second half, remain seven points adrift of 17th-placed Aston Villa who host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

They battled until the end, however, and Teemu Pukki fired straight at Alisson in the 89th minute after a flowing move.

“It was moment of magic from Mane to win the game,” Norwich boss Daniel Farke said.

“We were pretty close to coming away with a good result. The lads left their hearts on the pitch.”

Liverpool began the match 55 points ahead of Norwich, the biggest ever gap between top and bottom after 25 games in the Premier League, but lacked their usual cutting edge.

They enjoyed overwhelming territorial superiority in the first half with Trent Alexander-Arnold especially dangerous in the wide open spaces down the right flank.

Yet Liverpool struggled to create clear-cut chances and it was Norwich who should have taken the lead.

That was when Lukas Rupp was picked out by a long ball with the visiting defence nowhere, having pushed up for offside.

Rupp’s attempted lay-off to Pukki, though, was superbly read by Alisson, who spared his side’s blushes.

“It was a must goal,” Farke said of the glaring chance. “Two-on-one on the goalkeeper. We should have been a bit more tidy.”

The second half was a Liverpool siege with goalkeeper Tim Krul saving Norwich several times.

The Dutchman produced a fingertip save to keep out Naby Keita’s powerful effort, and then a magnificent double stop to deny Mohamed Salah and Keita again.

Norwich’s excursions into Liverpool territory were few and far between but one ended with Tettey’s slightly miscued effort thudding against Alisson’s near post.

It was Mane, on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who eventually broke the deadlock with a superb finish.

Bringing down Jordan Henderson’s flighted pass with his outstretched right leg, he then swivelled and crashed a low shot with his left foot past the helpless Krul.

There was a suspicion that Mane had pushed a marker as he brought the ball down, but VAR ruled in his favour.

With the title virtually assured, Liverpool turn their attention to their defence of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

They visit Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, scene of their triumph in the final last season.

OLAL

(
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)

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Defence/Security

Niger resuscitates motorcycle movement restriction

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The Niger state Government Thursday announced that it is resuscitating the law restricting movement of motorcycles from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. in Minna and environs.

A statement issued by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Ahmed Matane, also warned commercial motorcyclists, in Minna and environs to desist from carrying more than one passenger at a time.

Matani further called on the operators of tricycles to desist from overloading of their tricycles.

He explained that the resuscitation would commence on Feb. 15, adding that the action was necessitated by the violent attacks, abductions and killings in some part of the state.

“All motorcycles and tricycles operators must ensure that they obtained plate number from Board of Internal Revenue, this is in line with the amended Niger State Road Transport Traffic Law 2015.

“Niger state had long been reputed as the most peaceful state in the country. Today, that status has been put to a tricky test by armed bandits.

“All hands must be on deck to secure the state from the unnecessary security challenges that it has witnessed for sometimes now,” Matane said.

He said that the present security challenges are troubling for the government and residents, particularly those directly affected by the activities of the criminals.

“Governor Abubakar Bello led administration is leaving no stones unturned in its bid to restore peace, orderliness, sanity and calm,” he said.

Matane stated that government regretted any inconveniences the resuscitation of the restriction order might cause the commuters.

He called on motorcycles and tricycles operators in Minna and environs to adhere strictly to the order as security agencies have been directed to enforce the restriction.

Edited By: Ismail Abdulaziz

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APO

Womens Central League draws close to the end

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The second week of the URU Women’s Central Regional league had Black Pearls hosting Avengers at the Kings Park Arena. Black Pearls were coming off a historic 10-13 win against the defending champions Thunderbirds, while Avengers were playing their first match in the 3 team league. Avengers were first off the blocks using their powerful forwards to gain metres in the Pearls 22 before their captain Peace Lekuru made a break to score in the corner in the 7th minute. The tricky conversion was missed and Avengers held a slim 5 point lead for 15 minutes before a series of slick passes and offloads by the Pearls backline released Lydia Namabiro to dotdown in the corner. The conversion was also missed to tie the game but 5 minutes later.

Avengers winger, Isabella Abbo, capitalised on a sleeping Pearls defence to pick the ball off the back of a ruck in the Pearls 22 and sneak down the blindside to score in the corner. The subsequent conversion missed and Avengers took a 5 point lead again. Peace Lekuru was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle but despite losing their hard hitting captain Avengers struck just before half time after Beatrice Atim crashed over from close range to go into the break leading by 10 points.

Black Pearls came back from the break with more intent and their backline consistently troubled the Avengers defence until the Pearls winger, Linda Atoo, showed a clean pair of heels to get around the Avengers defence to score in the corner in the 48th minute. The conversion was missed but 10 minutes later, Mary Gloria Ayot made a brilliant line break to score between the posts. Tina Akello made the easy conversion and for the first time in the game, Black Pearls led but only by 2 points. Peace Lekuru was again on hand to score a captain’s try in the 30th minute after she scratched a penalty from the 5 to barrel her way over the line to recapture the lead.Juliet Nandawula was on hand to make the extras for Avengers to lead by 5 points once again.

Despite some determined onslaughts from Black Pearls, Avengers held firm to win 17-22. Black Pearls top the table standings with 5 points from 2 games while Avengers have 4 points from one game and Thunderbirds have 1 point from one game. Avengers host Thunderbirds this Saturday in a must win encounter for the defending champions.

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APO

Mad dash to secure Kenya Cup playoff slots

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There are three matches left in the Kenya Cup’s regular season and while four teams, namely Kabras Sugar, KCB, Homeboyz and Resolution Impala Saracens are all but assured of a place in the playoffs, there remains a frantic battle to fill the final two playoff slots.

Leaders Kabras Sugar have done enough to secure home semifinal qualification for a second successive season.  Their last three fixtures pit them away to Resolution Impala Saracens before winding up with fixtures against Nondescripts (home) and Blak Blad (away).

Second placed defending champions KCB have potentially tricky encounters that could yet put paid to their home semifinal ambitions. They play away to Top Fry Nakuru before taking on Menengai Oilers (home) and Homeboyz (away). Victory in all three fixtures will guarantee them a top two finish, but more importantly home semifinal qualification.

Homeboyz are third, just five points adrift of home semifinal qualification. Their last three fixtures see them face Menengai Oilers (away), Western Bulls (away) and KCB (home). They can secure the semifinal berth by winning all three matches including their encounter against KCB while hoping that the same opponents lose at least two of their three remaining matches. This would see the deejays accumulate anything between 66 and 69 points with KCB securing anything between 63 and 66 points.

Resolution Impala Saracens are currently on 41 points. Their last three matches see them face Kabras (home), Stanbic Mwamba (away) and Kisumu (home). A simple victory in one of their three remaining fixtures is enough

Three teams, namely Menengai Oilers (36 points), Top Fry Nakuru (33 points) and Stanbic Mwamba (29 points.

Victory for Oilers in their final three fixtures against Homeboyz (home), KCB (away) and Kenya Harlequin (away) could see them accumulate between 48 and 51 points. One win from these three fixtures could take the Oilers to 40 or 41 points, depending on if it was a bonus point victory.

Top Fry Nakuru’s last three fixtures are against KCB (home), Kenya Harlequin (away) and Western Bulls (home). Victory in these three matches could take them to between 45 and 48 points, depending on if it was a bonus point victory. Victory in two of these three outings could take them to between 41 and 43 points. Should they post one victory, they could be anywhere between 37 and 38 points…which may not be good enough should seventh placed Stanbic Mwamba win all their remaining fixtures.

Up next for Kulabu are fixtures against Kisumu (away), Resolution Impala Saracens (home) and Nondescripts (away). Should they win all these fixtures, they could be anywhere between 41 and 44 points. Two wins will see them anywhere between 37 and 39 points while a solitary win will do them no favors.

The next three match days are certainly worth watching.

Get all the fixtures here https://www.kenyacup.co.ke/upcoming

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Sport

Halep survives injury scare in tough first round win

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Simona Halep overcame a wrist injury scare and a fiery opponent to prevail 7-6(5) 6-1 over big-hitting American Jennifer Brady in a tense first-round encounter at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

The Romanian fourth seed required a medical time-out after taking a nasty fall on her wrist late in the first set.

But she told reporters later that there was nothing to worry about.

“A little bit sore, but nothing dangerous at this moment,” Halep said.

The fall was reminiscent of Halep’s opening match at the 2018 Open.

She had rolled her ankle ahead of a sensational run to that year’s final before losing to eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki.

“I don’t know why in the first round I always fall down. Maybe it’s a good sign. Let’s hope for that,” Halep joked.

Brady, who beat world number one Ashleigh Barty in Brisbane earlier this month, proved to be a tricky opponent.

Her punishing forehands saw Halep’s serve broken in the very first game of the match at Margaret Court Arena.

The opening set saw a series of brutal rallies between the pair.

Halep had to fight from a break down twice and saved three set points before finally edging out Brady in a tense tie-breaker.

The second set proved much easier as Halep found rhythm on her serve and began playing more aggressively.

She broke the American three times in the set en route to victory and will face British qualifier Harriet Dart in the second round.

Halep, a two-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one, said the match was a good test of her physical fitness.

“Yeah, I felt great down there. I didn’t feel that I’m getting tired, which is a good sign,” she said.  

(

Edited by: Olawale Alabi)

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Economy

Stocks bask in U.S.-China trade-deal afterglow

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World stocks remained near record highs on Thursday, after the United States and China signed the first phase of an agreement to end their 18-month trade war.

MSCI’s broadest index of world stocks was up 0.1 Per cent. London, Frankfurt, Paris helped Europe start stronger, after China’s biggest stocks dipped overnight.

The deal signed by U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will roll back only some of tariffs that the two sides have been imposing on each other.

The rest remain in place for what looks to be another tricky phase of talks.

“We believe the agreement underpins a positive outlook for risk assets, especially emerging-market stocks,” said Mark Haefele, Chief Investment Officer, UBS Global Wealth Management.

“But it is also important for investors to understand the limitations of the deal. So we see the deal as representing a partial calming rather than an end to trade tensions.”

Investors were also sizing up emerging-market central bank meetings in Turkey, South Africa and Egypt. Turkey was expected to cut interest rates further.

The European Central Bank was due to publish its December meeting, shortly before a speech by its president, Christine Lagarde.

Also due to speak was Andy Haldane, one of the Bank of England’s last holdouts against a rate cut.

Weak UK inflation data had proved treacherous for the pound on Wednesday, so his view will be closely listened to.

The pound was still weak at 1.30 dollar and 85.4 pence to the euro.

Japan’s Nikkei ended 0.07 per cent higher and China’s Shanghai composite index fell 0.5 per cent in its third day of losses. Hong Kong, Australia, India and Vietnam all gained.

Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 29,000 for the first time.

“While the trade deal has provided a relief, there wasn’t any positive surprises for markets. For shares to rise further, we need more evidences of improvement in the real economy and earnings,” said Hirokazu Kabeya, chief global strategist at Daiwa Securities.

U.S. shares are now trading above 18 times expected earnings, near post-2008 financial crisis peak in 2018.

 

Bond yields dropped as a boost from the trade deal failed to offset low U.S. producer price data, which highlighted persistently low inflationary pressure.

The price index rose less than expected in December to cap 2019 with rise of 1.3 per cent, the lowest since 2015.

Ten-year U.S. Treasury yields slipped to one-week low of 1.780 per cent compared with a high of 1.900 per cent last Thursday and last stood at 1.80 per cent.

Most euro zone bond yields were little changed, with German Bund yields just below two-week highs.

The UK’s 10-year gilt was yield near a two-and-a-half-month low at 0.65 per cent on the talk of rate cuts..

The Swiss franc held firm. It had reached its highest against the dollar in over a year and its highest against the euro in almost three years after the United States added Switzerland to its watchlist of currency manipulators.

Washington’s decision led traders to think it will become harder for the Swiss National Bank to intervene to weaken the franc in the future.

The Swiss currency last stood at 0.9626 franc per dollar, near Wednesday’s high of 0.9631.

The Chinese yuan was just below the five-and-a-half-month high it touched earlier this week after Washington dropped its currency manipulator label for China.

Among the main commodities, oil rose from Wednesday’s six-week low, amid data showing big increases in U.S. refined products and hopes for more Chinese purchases of U.S. oil and gas.

Brent crude futures rose 0.7 per cent to 64.45 dollars a barrel.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained 0.73 per cent to 58.23 dollars per barrel.

Gold was little changed at 1,555 dollars an ounce. 

Edited by: Abdullahi Mohammed/Ali Baba-Inuwa

 

 

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Sport

ATP Cup: Djokovic, Nadal march on with convincing wins

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Novak Djokovic braved extreme humidity to overcome tricky opponent Gael Monfils 6-3 6-2 at the inaugural ATP Cup team event in Brisbane on Monday.

World number one Rafael Nadal was also in a punishing mood and kept his preparations for this month’s Australian Open on track by dismantling Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas.

He won 6-2 6-1 in Perth to seal the tie for Spain.

Roberto Bautista Agut had given Spain the lead after an equally one-sided 6-1 6-2 win against Franco Roncadelli in the 15 million dollars ATP Cup.

The competition features 24 nations competing in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney over 10 days.

The world’s top players have assembled for the ATP Cup and are using the event to prepare for the year’s first Grand Slam, which starts in Melbourne from Jan. 20.

Djokovic had a 15-0 head-to-head record against Monfils before Monday’s meeting and, after surviving an initial onslaught from his opponent, he made sure the record remained blemish-free.

The Serb saved nine breakpoints on his own serve while converting all three he had against Monfils, who finished 2019 in the top 10.

It helped to square the tie after temperamental Benoit Paire had given France the lead by overcoming Dusan Lajovic 6-2 6-7(6) 6-4.

“It was definitely one of the most humid conditions I have ever had in my career,” Djokovic said in a courtside interview. “I mean, tonight was brutal.

“Obviously, playing Gael is never easy. You are coming into the court knowing that you are going to have a lot of exchanges, a lot of rallies. He is a great fighter and a great friend of mine. So,

I wish him all the best. Tough luck today.”

Fit-again South African Anderson earlier won his first match since returning to competitive tennis with a 6-0 6-3 victory over Chile’s Cristian Garin.

Anderson, runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Open and Wimbledon a year later, played only five tournaments last year due to injury before undergoing knee surgery in September.

The 33-year-old lost 6(5)-7 6(6)-7 to Djokovic in his return to action on Saturday, his first match since the third round of Wimbledon in July, but proved too good for Garin.

The former world number five did not face a single break point against Garin, sealing the tie for South Africa.

World number four Dominic Thiem also bounced back from his season-opening loss against Borna Coric by defeating Diego Schwartzman 6-3 7-6(3).

It helped set up a 3-0 win for Austria over against Argentina.

Marin Cilic, the U.S. Open champion in 2014, followed up Saturday’s win against Austrian Dennis Novak with a 7-6(8) 6-4 win over 20-year-old Kacper Zuk of Poland.

Cilic converted only one of 13 breakpoint opportunities, but his win in Sydney was enough to set up Croatia’s second victory at the event after they blanked Austria 3-0.

Japan also completed their second win as Yoshihito Nishioka and Go Soeda emerged victorious in their singles matches to seal the tie against Georgia in Perth.

OLAL

(Edited by: Olawale Alabi)

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Entertainment

NAN Box Office Review: ‘Sugar Rush’ serves just laughter

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‘Sugar Rush’ makes the audience laugh but does absolutely nothing else. For a movie with an entourage of producers and cast members, it is amazing how it does little in such a very busy way. Laughter is a tricky emotional reaction.

It blindsides one to the real issue at hand and in between bouts of euphoria, it is hard to see the truth. Jade Osiberu served laughter in healthy Instagram doses and for the duration of the film, it was hard to see the loop holes.

This did not last as immediately after the film was over, the only thing audiences remembered was that they laughed so hard. In fact, on social media where the producers have shared fan reactions, the most have been centred on laughter.

It is true that ‘Sugar Rush’ is a comedy but it is also sad that the comedic dialogues and the plot were not written as well as they should have.

Seeing as Osiberu’s previous film ‘Isoken’ was and still is a fan favourite, it was logical to expect ‘Sugar Rush’ to be better written.

The film follows the Sugar sisters (Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Bimbo Ademoye and Bisola Aiyeola) who accidently discover 800, 000 dollars in the house of a dead, corrupt man.

In the next couple of days, they spend the money in part only to meet their waterloo when some mafias come forward to claim ownership of the money.

The plot is simple and harmless but largely unintelligent in execution. First, the sisters were spending money that the anti-corruption agency were curious about, in the most lavish way without any prelude to the motivation behind their actions.

The one action that would had made sense to be done first was done last. Second, the actors were not acting.

Adesua was Adesua, Bimbo was Bimbo and Bisola was exactly the same as we had known her since her reality television days. Tobi Bakre tried so hard but still fell flat.

Third, ‘Sugar Rush’ sacrificed crucial social engineering moments at the altar of laughter. It was unwise to have federal anti-corruption agents abduct the Sugar sisters for illegal interrogation given the present situation in the country.

The producers had the chance to present the agency as heroic but they chose to make it idiotic.

On the flip side, some elements worked, especially some special effects and some acting from supporting characters. The star of ‘Sugar Rush’ is media personality and now actress, Toke Makinwa.

It was easy to see how much work she put into the role and the potential she would have if she works with a great director.

While the box office numbers have shown that ‘Sugar Rush’ worked for the market, it does not soften the damage already done.

Thanks to the holiday season and a Christmas Day premiere date, it has made well over a hundred million naira. Still, the movie would have done loads better if the editing was great enough to save what was left of the writing.

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