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Seven Africans To Watch As The EPL Kicks Off6 minutes read

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One of the worlds most watched leagues, the English Premier League kicks off its 2020/21 season on September 12.

With the big kickoff comes massive expectation from a teaming audience across the world and most especially the African continent. Once again, the continents legion of stars will be on show.

Here are seven players we have picked to make a real impact this term.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/Egypt)

Salah is one of two Liverpool players on this list and has been a big hit since joining the Anfield club in 2017.

He finished with 19 Premier League Goals last season, his lowest total since joining the club after netting a massive 32 goals in his first season and 22 the following year.

The Egyptian superstar heads into the new season with renewed vigor and with fellow African Sadio Mane by his side, you cannot bet against the mercurial Pharaoh reenacting his form from his first season at Anfield.

Sadio Mane (Liverpool/Senegal)

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Good vibes👊

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Mane is the other half of the Liverpool pair on this list and enjoyed a super season last term as Liverpool were crowned EPL champions.

The Senegalese star made the PFA Team of the Year and was voted PFA Fans’ Player of the Year last season crowning a brilliant individual effort from one of the continent’s most consistent performers.

Mane bagged 18 goals in the Premier League last season and will certainly be one to watch as he looks to continue to live up to his tag as one of the most difficult forwards to play against in world football.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal/Gabon)

The Gabon striker has earned a reputation as one of the best finishers in the game and has proved a valuable asset to Arsenal. He is expected to sign a new contract that will keep him at the Emirates past the end of this season.

Aubameyang finished second behind Jamie Vardy by one goal as his 22 league goals weren’t enough to win the golden boot. He was however named in the PFA Team of the Year and also claimed the Arsenal Player of the Season Award.

He lifted the FA Cup with the Gunners as captain in August and will be looking to lead a rejuvenated Arsenal team under new manager Mikel Arteta to an unlikely title challenge and most of all a top four finish.

Wilfried Ndidi (Leicester City/Nigeria)

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The hard-tackling Nigerian midfielder has built a big reputation for himself since arriving in the Premier League in 2017 with then reigning champions Leicester City.

Ndidi finished last season as the joint top tackler with 129 successful tackles alongside Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka, cementing his place as a standout player in England.

His Leicester side just missed out on Champions League football on the final day of the season but will fancy their chances of making a big push for the top four places with the impressive Ndidi at the heart of the team.

Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace/Ghana)

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Jordan Ayew enjoyed his most prolific season in England last term with a nine-goal return for Crystal Palace who finished well clear of the relegation places.

The Ghanain star was voted Crystal Palace Player of the Year last season and has become an integral part of Roy Hodgson’s team.

The imminent arrival of Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi will mean that Ayew cannot afford to have a dip in form. The signs from last season look good and Ayew looks set to show his class once again in a Palace shirt.

Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal/Ivory Coast)

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Pas fait exprès 🤭

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Arsenal’s club-record £72 million signing struggled early on at the Emirates last season but looked to be close to his best form following the departure of Unai Emery and the arrival of new boss Mikel Arteta.

Pepe played a key role as Arsenal lifted the FA Cup and also showed some glimpses of his quality with some super goals.

Much is expected from the 25-year-old Ivorian International who seems to be coming into his own and could be one to set the EPL alight this season.

Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City/Algeria)

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Perfect ending for the season 🔥✨

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Mahrez began last season by leading his Algerian national side to their first AFCON title in 19 years and the stage looked set for a big year for the 29-year-old.

Fast forward 12 months and it hasn’t quite gone according to plan, Mahrez has shown glimpses of his quality but was never quite able to consistently lift the City team.

The Algerian tested positive for the coronavirus and is a doubt for the opening weeks of the season. If Mancity are to wrestle their Premier League crown back from Liverpool, they will need the magical Mahrez to step up to the plate.

EPL Opening Weekend Fixtures

Saturday 12 September

Crystal Palace vs Southampton
Fulham vs Arsenal
Liverpool vs Leeds Utd
West Ham vs Newcastle Utd

Sunday 13 September

Tottenham vs Everton
West Brom vs Leicester City

Monday 14 September

Brighton vs Chelsea
Sheffield Utd vs Wolves

Business News

COVID-19: Nigeria’s ICPC Discovers School Feeding Funds In Private Accounts

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An anticorruption agency in Nigeria has discovered over N5 billion in private hands. The head of Nigeria’s Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed that the agency found N2.67bn meant for the school feeding programme in private accounts. An additional N2.5billion was found in the accounts of a deceased staff of the ministry of Agriculture.

Other things were discovered from the ministry such as 25 plots of land, 18 buildings and 12 business premises. All illegally diverted to private hands.

The professor of law made the announcement in Abuja. He was speaking second National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector, which was organised in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation.

The summit had the theme, ‘Together against corruption’, also included the launch of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy.

He explained further that between January and August 2020, investigations revealed that Open Treasury Portal showed that of 268 ministries, departments and agencies (MDA) 72 had infraction totaling N90milillion.

Also, 33 MDAs gave full explanation for N4.1billion transferred to sub-Treasury Single Account while N4.2 billion that had been paid to individuals could not be satisfactorily explained.

The professor added, “We observed that transfers to sub-TSA were to prevent disbursement from being monitored. Nevertheless, we discovered payments to some federal colleges for school feeding in the sum of N2.67bn during lockdown when the children are not in school, and some of the money ended up in personal accounts.”

In continuation of the agencies investigation called Constituency Tracking Initiative from last year, the ICPC also reviewed constituency and executive project. In all, 722 projects with a threshold of N100m (490 ZIP and 232 executive) were tracked across 16 states. He said the commission had special attention to track projects in agriculture, water resources, power, education and health.

The Constituency Tracking Initiative is meant to investigate fraudulent procedure and practices in the award of contracts for constituency and executive projects. And to make recoveries on projects or contracts confirmed to have been inflated or in which contractors under-performed or did not perform at all. The professor explained that projects tracked at phase one were selected by the steering committee comprising Budget Office, Office of Accountant-General of the Federation, Bureau of Public Procurement, Media, CSOs and the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors.

The ICPC helmsman said the 2020 exercise showed some improvement in project delivery, but the commission was faced with many challenges.

In details, Owasanoye said, “We discovered that a number of projects described in the budget as ongoing were new projects.”

“We discovered that projects are recommended for communities that do not need them. Such projects are abandoned, in spite of the huge sums appropriated for them.”

“We discovered that projects were sited in private houses on private land thus appropriating common assets to personal use and totally denying communities expected to benefit,” he adds.

The chairman said that the commission’s effort had forced 59 contractors handling projects worth N2.25 billion, back to sites, while it recovered and returned to beneficiaries assets worth about N700 million and cash of almost N200 million.

Owasanoye, said that the commission would, in future, prosecute false description of projects as ongoing, in accordance with extant rules. All affected projects have been listed in the ICPC’s Interim Report for 2020.

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North Africa

US Defense Secretary to Visit Morocco, Discuss Counter-terrorism

It has become a regular practice for American and Moroccan security officials to exchange visits to discuss cooperation and means to boost collaboration.

Bernard Akede

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US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is expected to arrive Morocco

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is expected in Morocco on Friday to discuss cooperations between both countries in counter-terrorism.

Esper’s visit to Morocco comes after trips to Tunisia and Algeria, a tour marking his first visit to Africa since he assumed office.

The defense secretary will open his tour on Wednesday with a visit to Tunisia to hold “bilateral talks with President Kais Ssaied and Tunisia’s Minister of Defense Ibrahim Bartagi.”

Esper is then expected to deliver a speech at the American military cemetery in Carthage, where American soldiers who died in North Africa during World War II are buried.

There are reports that the primary purpose of the visit is to further strengthen ties with Tunisia, a major ally in the region, and to discuss the threats posed by extremist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda, in the North African country. This was according to a senior US military official.

On Thursday, the Pentagon chief will then leave for Algeria to hold talks with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

According to US military sources, the visit to Algiers seeks to “deepen cooperation with Algeria on key regional security issues, such as the threat posed by extremist groups.”

Esper’s Maghreb tour will end in Rabat to “strengthen the already close relations” in the aspect of security with Morocco, recalling that the African Lion military exercise which seeks to further strengthen cooperation between international partners to combat terrorism and insurgency, is hosted by Morocco.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event had to be canceled.

While speaking to AFP, the senior official who chose to remain anonymous did not reveal whether the US defense secretary would be personally received by King Mohammed VI.

Esper’s visit to Morocco comes a week after the US ambassador to Morocco David Fischer, was received by the country’s General Director of National Security and Territorial Surveillance – DGST-DGSN – Abdellatif Hammouchi. While on that visit, bilateral cooperation between the two countries in several fields, including security was discussed.

It has become a regular practice for American and Moroccan security officials to exchange visits to discuss cooperation and means to boost collaboration.

The U.S long ago described the Moroccan anti-terror approach as “comprehensive.”

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Central Africa News

Congo Lifts COVID-19 Curfew

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The Republic of Congo has lifted an imposed nationwide curfew in 10 regions and relaxed it in two main cities.

The curfew will now be enforced from 11pm to 5am local time in Pointe Noire and the capital, Brazzaville.

Since 14 March, the country has reported nearly 5,000 cases of Covid-19.

Several rights groups recently called for the full lifting of the curfew, saying relaxation of the measure has been counterproductive and has led to unemployment.

Meanwhile, 363 Angolans recently returned back to their country months after been stranded in the Republic of Congo and DR Congo since the outbreak of the coronavirus in March.

The returnees were welcomed back to the northern Cabinda Province of the country by the Angolan deputy consul in Muanda, Congo Central Province (DRC), Felisberto Zua, and the municipal administrator of Cabinda, Berta Marciano.

Speaking at the event, Zua said the repatriation process happened in a normal manner, further stressing that there are still many compatriots who are willing to return to Angola.

In DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa, taking temperatures and washing hands are still the norm in the residential district of Gombe, which is also the city’s diplomatic and economic centre.

But in working-class communities, masks are being pushed down to the chin and people are shaking hands again just like it is in Nigeria and major countries across the continent..

For many the latest buzz phrase is “corona eza te”, which translates to “there is no corona” in the local Lingala.

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