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Djokovic confirms error on Australian entry form, visa still in doubt

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Novak Djokovic beat Juan Martin Del Potro to win the USOpen and his 14th Grand Slam title
Novak Djokovic says entry form mistake was “human error”

Novak Djokovic said “human error” was behind a mistake made on his Australian entry documents that breached the country’s strict laws on reporting recent travel, as the government weighed whether to deport the player.

Djokovic was held in immigration detention in Melbourne for several days after his visa was cancelled by border force officials, who questioned his medical exemption for a requirement to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

He was released on Monday when a judge quashed that decision, saying the cancellation of the visa was “unreasonable” because the player was not been given time to consult with lawyers and tennis officials when he arrived in the country.

On Wednesday, Djokovic said his travel declaration was filled in by his support team, who made an “administrative mistake” when they ticked the “no” box in response to whether he had travelled elsewhere in the 14 days before arriving in Australia.

“This was human error and certainly not deliberate,” Djokovic said in a post on Instagram. “We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur.”

The statement came as Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke considered whether to cancel the world number one tennis player’s visa ahead of the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17.

Giving false or misleading information in the form is an offence, carrying a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison, and a fine of up to A$6,600 ($4,730) and can lead to cancellation of the offender’s visa.

Djokovic, who is seeking to win a record 21st tennis major at the Open, said his lawyers had provided additional information to the Australian government on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Hawke, who has the discretionary power to again cancel Djokovic’s visa, said the consideration process would be extended to assess the new information.

STRICT RULES

Djokovic’s case sparked global interest, provoking a row between Canberra and Belgrade and fuelled heated debate over mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies.

Australia has a policy barring non-citizens or non-residents from entry unless they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but offers a medical exemption. Djokovic’s visa was cancelled on the grounds he has not been vaccinated and his medical exemption was not satisfactory.

Monday’s court ruling did not address whether that exemption – based on Djokovic contracting COVID-19 last month – was valid.

The Women’s Tennis Association raised concerns on Wednesday about doubles speciallist Renata Voracova, who left Australia on Friday after her visa was cancelled, saying the Czech player followed the rules and had done nothing wrong.

Voracova, who also had a COVID-19 exemption and was detained after Djokovic’s arrival, had already been in the country for several days and taken part in a warm-up event.

“We will continue to work with authorities on addressing this unfortunate situation in an appropriate manner,” the WTA said in a statement.

Voracova told Luxembourg TV channel RTL Today she would consider legal action if Tennis Australia did not compensate her for travel expenses and potential lost prize money.

Questions arose about Djokovic’s movements before coming to Australia when social media posts appeared to show him in Belgrade less than two weeks before he headed to Spain and then on to Australia.

Accounts from two eyewitnesses and another individual, obtained by Reuters corroborated those social media posts.

Djokovic, who held another practice session at Melbourne Park on Wednesday, did not detail his travel in his statement on Wednesday acknowledging the mistake.

The government said the information helps determine any necessary quarantine arrangements and allows health officials to contact people if a fellow traveller tests positive.

INTERVIEW APOLOGY

The player also apologised in his statement for attending a L’Equipe interview and photoshoot on Dec. 18, the day after he said he learned he had tested positive for COVID-19 – for the second time.

“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,” he said.

Djokovic denied media reports he also knew he had contracted the virus when he attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children a day earlier.

“I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR result until after that event,” he said, adding that a rapid antigen test taken before the event came back negative.

Social media posts showed Djokovic posing with the children, without wearing a mask.

While supporters of the Serbian star allege he is being made a scapegoat by the Australian authorities, Djokovic is expected to face a tough crowd at the Open.

Public opinion in Australia, which is battling an Omicron wave of infections and where more than 90% of the adult population is double vaccinated, has been largely against the player.

A leaked video showing two news anchors on a top-rating television network attacking Djokovic off-air went viral on social media on Wednesday.

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EFCC Arraigns Businesswoman For Alleged N57.6m Dud Cheque In Lagos

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The Lagos Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday, arraigned one Oluremi Philips before Justice S.O. Solebo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.

Philips, alongside her company, Omritas Energy Limited, is facing a five-count charge bordering on stealing and issuance of dud cheques to the tune of N57, 690,000.00

One of the counts reads: “Oluremi Ebun Philips and Omritas Energy Limited, sometime in 2016 at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, fraudulently converted and stole the sum of N57,690,000.00, property of AYM Shafa Limited meant for the supply of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), which you failed to supply.”

Another count reads: “Oluremi Ebun Philips and Omritas Energy Limited, on or about the 10th of April 2017 at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, knowingly issued a Diamond Bank cheque for the sum of N14, 298,075.00 payable to AYM Shafa Limited, which when presented for payment was dishonoured because no sufficient funds were standing to the credit of the account.”

She pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

In view of her plea, the prosecuting counsel, T.J. Banjo, prayed to the Court for a trial date and the remand of the defendant.

Defence counsel, Akin Olatunji, however, informed the Court of the bail application of the defendant, which he said had also been filed and served on the prosecution.

Responding, Banjo confirmed receipt, noting that, “we intend to react to same and to file a counter-affidavit”.

Thereafter, Justice Solebo adjourned till February 14 and 15, 2022 for “trial and ruling on the bail application”.

The defendant was also ordered to be remanded at the Correctional Centre till the next adjourned date.

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Three jailed for internet fraud in Lagos

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The Lagos Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday secured the conviction and sentencing of the trio of Raheem Sodiq Morenikeji, Adetunji Stephen Ademola and Okpala Samuel for internet fraud before Justice S.O. Solebo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.

The convicts were arrested sometime in May 2021 at the Sangotedo, Alagbado and Meiran areas of Lagos State, respectively.

Raheem was charged with an amended count in which he was accused of defrauding his victim through deception to the tune of $2,000 and another N54, 000 as a picker.

Under interrogation, he admitted to have purchased a Toyota Camry 2013 model in the name of his mother, which was recovered from him. An iPhone 7x was also recovered from him.

On his part, Ademola who was also charged with an amended one-count charge, following a plea bargain agreement with the prosecution, was accused of posing online as “Tina Moore” and “Jessica”, to defraud his victims to the tune of $2,000.

Upon arrest, an iPhone 11 Pro Max was recovered from him.

Okpala, who also approached the EFCC for a plea bargain, was charged with a one-count amended charge in which he was accused of posing on Facebook as Jane Michelle Gregor living in Texas, through which he professed love to one Roberto, who was actually living in Minnesota, United States.

He lured Roberto into a romantic relationship and was able to receive $600 from him purportedly for feeding and payment for school fees. An iPhone 11 and bontel phone were recovered from him upon arrest.

They all “pleaded guilty” to the charges, and also pleaded with the Court to temper justice with mercy.

Subsequently, Justice Solebo found the defendants guilty as charged and sentenced them to one year in prison.

While Raheem was given an option of N500,000 fine, Ademola got N1million option of fine, and Okpala was given an option of N400,000 fine.

In addition, they are all to sign a bond with the EFCC upon their release to be of good behaviour and not to engage in any form of economic and financial crime.

Raheem and Ademola were also ordered to serve 500 hours of community service, while Okpala got 400 hours.

They were also ordered to forfeit to the Federal Government all the items recovered from them.

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Quality, affordable healthcare key to Nigeria’s development – Osinbajo

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo giving an address at the Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation memorial lecture in Kano State
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday said the quality and affordable healthcare is central to Nigeria’s development.

Speaking at the inauguration of the health sector reform committee, Prof. Osinbajo, noted that any society is probably only as prosperous, developed and happy as its healthcare system, and central to any meaningful development planning, there must be a plan to improve access to quality, reliable, functional and affordable healthcare for citizens.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has in several public statements, made it clear that a modern virile and people-centric healthcare system was fundamental to his vision for the socio-economic growth of our nation.

“However, the current reality is that the Nigerian health sector, (and we have heard quite a bit of that from the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire), still carries some critical challenges, which have resulted in sub-optimal outcomes, when compared especially with healthcare systems in more developed jurisdictions of the world.

“This is due to a variety of factors, including fragmentation of health service delivery; insufficient healthcare financing; inadequate motivation and poor distribution of health workers; inadequate infrastructure and equipment; and relatively low private sector participation.

President Muhammadu Buhari is keen to revamp Nigeria's healthcare sector
President Muhammadu Buhari is keen to revamp Nigeria’s healthcare sector

“These factors have precipitated significant revenue loss due to growing medical tourism, and even the loss of our trained personnel which is a frightening phenomenon even now.

“Government has the primary responsibility to address these issues and to put in place the structures and arrangements necessary to boost the efficiency of the healthcare ecosystem; improve healthcare delivery, stem the brain-drain of our health personnel and reduce the pressure we currently have on our foreign reserves on account of medical tourism

He explained that in furtherance of that objective, President Buhari approved the establishment of this Health Reform Committee to commence the development and implementation of a wide-ranging Health Sector Reform Programme for the country. We already have the terms of reference.

“There have, of course, been a good number of attempts to reform the healthcare system in Nigeria, and many of us who are members-designate of this committee are familiar with some of these reform efforts. This particular journey of reforming the Nigerian health sector, began with the commissioning of a Diagnostic Needs Assessment (DNA) of the sector.

“Subsequently, the National Council on Privatization at its meeting of April 12, 2019, approved the appointment of consultants to carry out the assignment, which involved a review of previous reform efforts in the sector, as well as field visits to 55 tertiary health institutions across the country and some selected sub-regional health institutions.

He added that, “It is also important to mention that a series of stakeholder consultations were carried out with relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), health unions and key stakeholders in the sector. The report of that comprehensive effort has brought us to where we are today.

“As mandated by Mr. President, the Health Sector Reform Committee is tasked with the crucial role of reviewing these reports and steering the direction of the needed reforms.

“On account of the multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary participation required to execute a health reform mandate on the scale and the complexity that we have today, I am keen to ensure that the coordinating office for the reform effort which is domiciled in the Office of the Vice President will not just have the Ministry of Health (which is the important partner), but also some of the important technical resource persons provided by our partners and solid representation from the Committee.

“The Coordinating Office will provide technical and administrative oversight of all activities of the reform and I intend to have further consultations with the Minister of Health as we bring this to fruition.

“The next steps are that the committee will be divided into thematic working groups to take on various aspects of the assignment. We have received the commitment of funding support to engage experts who will be assigned by the secretariat to the various teams. In addition to members, we would also have sector experts for the thematic groups, professionals who would be engaged to support the thematic groups themselves.

“I hope that at the next meeting of the Committee which will be convened shortly, the proposals for the thematic groupings and terms of reference will be presented for consideration.

“Ahead of that, we would send these thematic groupings, the names, terms of reference, so if there are comments or questions, those can be raised and forwarded to the coordinating office, and if there are any additional ideas, those could also be forwarded. At the next meeting, there will be a quick run-through of the thematic groupings and what their tasks would be, and satisfy ourselves that we are on the right track.

“Following that, each team will commence work and periodic reports will be presented as time goes on for our full Committee’s consideration.

“Let me thank in advance, all members of the Committee for offering their time, resources for this very important national assignment. I hope that just as you committed yourselves to this, as time goes on, we would demand more and more of your time and your expertise and I hope that you’d be willing to provide more of that expertise. We thank you very much for your contributions so far and we hope to see more dedication and commitment as we go along.

“In furtherance of this great effort, it is, therefore, my singular honour to inaugurate this Health Sector Reform Committee to the benefit of the people of Nigeria and to the glory of God,” he said.

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