Travel agent face trial over alleged N4.5m visa scam



An Ikeja Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday granted bail  to a travel agent, Ebuwa Agbonwaneten, who allegedly defrauded one Mr Lucky Omakaro of N4.5 million under the guise of procuring a Canadian visa for his family.

The Chief Magistrate, Mrs Yewande Aje-Afunwa, granted the defendant bail in the sum of N500, 000, and ordered him to produce two sureties in like sum.

Aje-Afunwa said that the sureties must be gainfully employed and show evidence of two years’ tax payment to the Lagos State Government.

She adjourned the case until Dec. 24 for mention.

Agbonwaneten, who resides in Ikeja had   pleaded not guilty to a three-count charge of conspiracy, stealing and obtaining under false pretences.

Earlier, the Prosecutor, ASP Peter Nwangwu, urged the court not to grant the defendant bail.

According to him, the defendant committed the offences sometime in May 2018 at Johnson Crescent, Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja.

The prosecutor told the court that the complainant gave the money to the defendant on different occasions.

“When he realised he had been duped, he demanded that the defendant should return his money,” he said.

He  said that the defendant refused to refund the money, adding that all efforts made to trace his whereabouts proved abortive.

The prosecutor told the court that  the police, however, later arrested the defendant somewhere in Lagos State.

He said that the offences contravened Sections 287, 314 (1), (a), and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

Edited by Shittu Obassa/Ijeoma Popoola



Minister advocates stricter VISA regime to address issue of illegal mining



Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, Minister of Mines and Steel Development says the ministry is working with the Ministry of Interior Affairs to make issuance of tourist VISA stricter for foreigners to curb illegal mining activities in the country.

The minister said this at the News Agency of Nigeria news forum while speaking on the ministry’s activities and what it was doing to contribute significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

According to him, a stricter VISA regime will help in tracking foreign nationals who come into the country with tourist VISA but end up staying on to engage in illegal mining of the country’s mineral deposits.

The minister while describing illegal mining as a menace in the country, said the act was being perpetrated by some foreign nationals who came into the country as tourists.

“This illegal miners are essentially foreigners who came into Nigeria, some of them illegally anyway, some of them came into Nigeria as tourist legally, then they stay on.

“You know when you get a tourist VISA it doesn’t extend six months but they have been here for three, four, five years and they are here in the remote areas doing all these illegal things.

“Some particular nationals are mostly fond of this, I don’t like naming them all the time, but most people know them, they are fond of this,”the minister said.

He added that the ministry was working in a multi approach and with the Ministry of Interior to ensure that the VISA and work permit regime were made stricter to make tracking of such foreigners easier.

Adegbite said it was unfortunate that when some foreigners were given work permits to work in construction companies for instance, they were often seen in mining sites mining illegally in remote parts of some states of the federation.

“We are working with the Minister of Interior to ensure that the VISA regime and work permit regime to be more strict; they need to be stricter with these permits so when you give somebody a VISA or a work permit, you track him.

“You don’t give somebody a work permit to work in a construction industry and you find him mining illegally in Osun or in Zamfara, so we are working on this,” Adegbite said.

He added that the government was working to ensure the prosecution of some foreign illegal miners that were recently arrested by the Mine Surveillance Police through intelligent reports in Osun, Zamfara, and Kaduna states.

“We will use them to serve as a deterrent to others, take them through the process of the law and of course they would face the penalty,” the minister said.

He added that foreign nationals were, however, encouraged to come and mine in Nigeria but must follow the proper process.

Edited By: Felix Ajide (NAN)

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Roundup: Sweden’s COVID-19 death toll exceeds 5,000, strategy sparks debates




The COVID-19 death toll in Sweden has exceeded 5,000, according to statistics from the Swedish Public Health Agency on Wednesday.

The country reported 102 new deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the national tally to 5,041. Meanwhile, infections increased by 1,239 cases, taking the country’s total to 54,562.

There are 2,322 people who were and are treated in intensive care nationwide.


The high infection rate and death toll have sparked debates on Sweden’s unusual approach to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bjorn Olsen, a professor of infectious disease and a vocal critic of the country’s approach formulated by the Public Health Agency, told Sweden’s Channel 4 earlier this month that he believed Sweden should have imposed a lockdown at the outset.

On June 3, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who is credited as the architect of Sweden’s coronavirus strategy, told Swedish Radio that there was “room for improvement” and that too many had died prematurely in the country during the pandemic.

Tegnell’s comments were widely interpreted as signifying a U-turn, but at a press conference on the same day, Tegnell maintained that he and the Public Health Agency still believed in Sweden’s decision not to impose a lockdown but that, with the benefit of hindsight, there were aspects of the strategy that could be improved.

Both Tegnell and the government have admitted that Sweden has failed to protect the elderly. Figures from the National Board of Health and Welfare published on May 28 showed that 90 percent of COVID-19 related deaths were among those aged 70 and up.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven defended, in an interview with Swedish Television on Sunday, the country’s approach, insisting that it is too early to draw any final conclusions.

“It is incorrect to say our entire strategy was a failure,” Lofven said, adding that it is precarious to compare death rates across countries. “In a period where we are increasing the testing rate, it looks like the number of cases is going up but at the same time the number of hospital patients is also decreasing, the number of the dead is decreasing,” he said.


While many European countries have now started to open up, several are banning Swedes from crossing their borders or are imposing quarantine requirements on Swedish travellers.

Neighboring Norway, for instance, announced last week that, with the exception of residents on the Baltic island of Gotland, no Swedes would be allowed to enter the country due to the high infection rate in Sweden.

“I hope other areas of Sweden will soon have an infection situation that will allow for travels,” Norwegian Health Minister Bent Hoie told Swedish Television. Norwegians who choose to travel to Sweden will need to self-quarantine for 10 days upon their return to Norway.

Out of all the Nordic countries, only Iceland is prepared to welcome Swedes this summer. The country opened up for all international travelers on Monday, with the requirement that arrivals test for COVID-19 at the airport.

Sweden, on its part, has announced that it would partially amend its international travel advisory at the end of June.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs had previously advised against all non-essential international trips up until July 15, but on Wednesday it announced new directives that mean the general travel advisory will be extended until Aug. 31, with the exception of ten European countries, where Swedes will be free to travel to starting June 30.

The ten countries are Belgium, Croatia, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.


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Travel resumes across Europe amid hopes of economic recovery



France, Germany and Switzerland on Monday allowed travel to resume three months after unprecedented restrictions were imposed in a bid to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

France reopened its borders with all EU countries except Spain, where restrictions would remain in place until June 21 in line with a similar decision on the Spanish side.

Passengers arriving from Britain would also be asked to self-isolate for 14 days, in line with British restrictions on individuals arriving from France.

Borders with non-EU countries remain closed to all but essential travel, except for incoming foreign students who can now head to France.

Traffic was reported on a motorway leading to the German-Danish border on Monday, just hours after Copenhagen lifted entry restrictions for German, Norwegian and Icelandic nationals.

Germany has however, lifted travel restrictions for most European countries.

A policeman said on Twitter that no traffic was reported at other border crossings in the area.

He added that a km long queue of cars was reported on the A7 leading up to the Kupfermuehle border crossing, where checks were still being conducted.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry removed a warning against travelling to 27 countries in Europe from its website at midnight, ending an unprecedented directive against all foreign travel that had been put in place to stem the virus.

Germany is also to stop carrying out border controls, although the checks have already been phased out at many crossings.

The travel relaunch is in line with a recommendation by the European Commission, which is urging EU members to reopen borders.

The Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) welcomed the lifting of restrictions, saying “the opening of EU borders could act as a second stimulus package for the German economy without costing the state a single cent.’’

Edited By: Hadiza Mohammed/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)

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Spotlight: Africa’s COVID-19 caseload nearing 160,000, while Italy partially reopens border




With the novel coronavirus still in pandemic mode, the African continent has seen a continued growth in the total tally, while Italy, an earlier epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, has begun to partially lift travel bans as its new infections are dropping.


As of Wednesday afternoon, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the African continent surpassed 158,318, and the death toll surged to 4,508, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The continental disease control and prevention agency also disclosed that some 67,630 people who have been infected with the disease have recovered across the continent so far.

On Tuesday, Africa CDC said the virus has spread to 54 African countries. Figures from the agency showed that the highly affected countries include South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Ghana and Morocco.

It also said that the Northern African region is the most affected area across the continent both in terms of positive COVID-19 cases and the number of deaths, followed by the Western Africa region.

South Africa, the worst-hit country on the continent, on Tuesday reported a total of 35,812 confirmed COVID-19 cases. According to the latest data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, the tally now stood at 37,525.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on Wednesday projected that the ongoing pandemic could push 29 million people into extreme poverty across the continent.

The UNECA further stressed that the containment measures established in African countries “have already cost the region some 69 billion U.S. dollars per month and are expected to have a negative impact on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the region.”


Italy, earlier an epicenter of COVID-19 in Europe, partially reopened its border on Wednesday after closing it to all but essential travel for nearly three months.

Starting from the day, people in Italy are allowed to move freely within the country. Cross-border travel restrictions were also eased on the same day, with travelers from the European Union and Schengen countries, as well as the United Kingdom, Andorra and Monaco being allowed to visit the country without subjecting to quarantine.

The step was part of a wider strategy to help restart the Italian tourism industry, which was shuttered along with the rest of the Italian economy at the start of the national lockdown on March 10.

“A month from May 4, when we reopened our manufacturing and construction sectors, we can say the numbers are encouraging,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a nationally televised press conference Wednesday.

“The trend of new cases is constantly decreasing in all our regions,” he said. “This shows the strategy we adopted is and has been the right one.”

He added that the government is hard at work to ensure Italy is once again “the safe and coveted destination of the tourists of Europe and the whole world.”

Health Minister Roberto Speranza, meanwhile, sounded a note of warning to Italian citizens.

“We must proceed with caution and continue to follow the rules we have learned … because they are the key in the battle against COVID-19,” Speranza said in reference to social distancing in a statement released on Wednesday. “The virus is still very dangerous.”

Fresh figures on Wednesday showed that 71 new COVID-19 deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, taking the country’s death toll to 33,601, out of a total of 233,836 infection cases.


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