USA & CANADA (175)
Besides skewering Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s China strategy, Beijing’s gruff recent refusal to factor labour, gender or environmental rights into free-trade talks was significant in other ways.
It likely marks Canada’s last gasp in a futile, decades-long effort to engage China in global institutions on Western terms.
In the early 1980s, after “Red China” abandoned its Maoist revolutionary agenda to pursue strength and prosperity through international trade, Canada began transferring hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to China’s post-Mao regime through the Canadian International Development Agency, the World Bank and other UN agencies.
Basically, China named a request and Canada signed a cheque.
We paid the cost of feasibility studies for the Three Gorges Dam, we sold China CANDU nuclear reactors on highly favourable terms, we funded projects to improve the quality of Chinese wheat and pork production.
Most importantly, we paid for Chinese scientists, engineers and technicians to come to Canada to acquire Canadian advanced technologies.
These programs were always characterized as “exchange,” but the money was all Canadian, with nothing given back beyond duck dinners and Great Wall tourism.
Prime ministers from Jean Chrétien on claimed this goodwill would eventually lead to China’s democratization and implementation of rule of law. And when that happened, they reasoned, Canada would engage in highly productive fair trade in a huge new market, building our prosperity on China’s rise.
To this end, Chrétien led his memorable Team Canada missions to China.
Few benefits, lost Canadian jobs
In hindsight, we now know that any economic benefits were mostly limited to a few large Canadian companies with the sophistication to navigate complex relationships with Chinese Communist business networks. Over time, untold thousands of Canadian workers lost good union jobs to China’s “reform.”
After the failed 1989 Tiananmen democracy movement led to massive death and political repression, pressure grew for Ottawa to emphasize human rights, democratization and good governance in its China policy.
CIDA’s counterpart in China, the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade, reluctantly accepted this as a cost of keeping Canada’s “hard” technology transfer funds flowing. So China agreed to loosely structured programs designed to turn its National People’s Congress into a democratic parliament, to train judges to serve in some future independent judiciary, to encourage citizen activism on social issues, to raise awareness of gender rights, and so on.
We began a “confidential,” government-to-government human rights dialogue. China even signed the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, promising to set the stage for a free press, democratic elections and protection of Indigenous and minority rights.
None of this led anywhere beyond lip service on the part of our Chinese counterparts. Politicians involved from both countries knew that these were public relations exercisesintended to soothe Canadian human rights concerns.
Ottawa’s cynical hypocrisy with regard to appeasing Canadians on Chinese rights and freedoms played out again during Trudeau’s visit to China. One would have to be naive to believe that genuine labour, gender or environmental reforms could be incorporated into a trade deal with a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship.
This is a nation where Stalin is still revered as a significant forefather of Chinese Communism under current President Xi Jinping — with whom our prime minister dined just a couple of weeks ago.
‘Western bourgeois false ideologies’
It seems the Prime Minister’s Office assumed the Chinese premier would sign a joint statement making reference to labour, gender and environmental rights while Trudeau flew home to celebrate his squaring the circle on the conundrum of trade versus protecting Canadian values in Canada-China relations.
And by the time negotiations were completed in the years to come, any labour, gender and environment clauses would have been relegated to irrelevant statements of principles with no binding effect.
But, evidently unknown to Trudeau and his advisers, Xi Jinping made it crystal clear at the October Communist Party Congress that it was his predecessors’ pandering to “Western bourgeois false ideologies” that had led to their “lack of drive, incompetence,disengagement from the people, inaction, and corruption.” The days of Chinese lip service to Canadian political wishes have definitely come to an end.
But as one era ends, a new one begins.
Canada’s “progressive trade agenda” might have died in the Great Hall of the People earlier this month. But there’s now an opportunity for a serious, non-partisan reconsideration of how Canada should manage our role in China’s comprehensive rise to power in the years and decades ahead.
Author;Charles Burton: Associate Professor of Political Science, Brock University
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Three person have been reported dead while others were trapped as a train derailed near a highway overpass in Pierce County, Washington.
The accident happened at 07:30 local time (15:30 GMT), some 45 minutes into the journey between Portland and Seattle, BBC reported.
It was gathered that the train, on a new section of track, fell on to the I-5 highway near DuPont in Washington state.
Police says there are multiple casualties, while motorists are trapped.
There were approximately 78 passengers and five crew members on board the train at the time of the crash.
An Amtrak train travelling from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, derailed, on Monday morning, causing multiple deaths and injuries, officials say.
Sheriff department spokesman Ed Troyer confirming the incident told reporters that there were fatalities and people still trapped on the train.
“Several cars on the highway were struck by the derailed carriages.
“Among motorists caught up in the incident there were a number of people injured but no one killed,” he said.
The police has further warned travellers to reschedule plans to go south to/past Thurston County today or look at alternate routes.
The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the accident.
The recent outrage over Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore allegedly targeting teenage girls for sex has elicited reports that some evangelical churches actually encourage teenage girls to date older men.
It seems unlikely that Moore was ever interested in marrying any of the women who have thus far accused him of unwanted sexual attention and assault. However, Moore is married to a woman 14 years his junior whom he first met when she was 15 and he was 29. These conversations about older men dating and marrying young girls have left many Americans surprised. The reality is that these practices are still around, as I learned in researching my recent book, “American Child Bride: A History of Minors and Marriage in the United States.”
Minors and marriage
Child marriage has a long and vibrant history in the United States. While activists have long urged legislators to raise the age of consent to marriage – and continue to do so – with parental consent it remains possible for minors to marry in every single state.
Though some boys do marry, the vast majority of marrying minors are girls. This has been the pattern throughout U.S. history.
The minimum marriageable age in Alabama today is 16, though for most of the state’s history girls could marry at 14 and boys at 17. Different minimum marriageable ages for girls and boys were common nationwide until the 1970s. While marriage as a minor is significantly less common today than it was in the early or mid-20th century – two periods with particularly high rates – it is certainly not a thing of the past. In the last 15 years, more than 207,000 minors have become legally wed in the United States, many marrying below the age of consent to sex in their states.
Data from the U.S. Census show that the marriage of legal minors has always been more common in the South. This may be one reason – aside from liking his conservative politics – that voters in Alabama seem less disturbed by Roy Moore’s targeting of teenage girls. Leigh Corfman claims Moore initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14 in 1979. Nothing in the law would have prevented the two from marrying if they’d had her parents’ permission.
Today southern states like Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia have among the highest rates of minor marriage in the nation. They are also joined by Idaho and other rural states in the West. These states share high rates of poverty and are home to religious conservatives who often see marriage as the solution to teenage sex and premarital pregnancy. Some even condone marriage when it results from statutory rape. In many cases, district attorneys have been willing to waive prosecution if a girl’s statutory rapist agrees to marry her and her parents are also supportive.
Who are child brides?
Child marriage has long been portrayed as an issue in the developing world – especially in India and various nations in Africa and the Middle East. Americans are often surprised by its persistence right here at home. Many assume that it was a practice brought to the United States by immigrant populations, or one used in isolationist religious sects. Neither belief is borne out by the numbers.
Even at the height of immigration to the United States in the 1910s and 1920s, U.S.-born white children of U.S.-born parents were more likely to be married as minors than were immigrant girls of the first or second generation. U.S.-born black girls were about one-and-a-half times more likely to be married than were white girls. In both cases, poor girls in rural states accounted for the numbers.
Opposition to child marriage in the United States also has a long history, dating back to the middle of the 19th century. Women’s rights advocates like Elizabeth Oakes Smith and Elizabeth Cady Stanton called marrying as a minor “the great life-long mistake.” They argued it deprived girls of the opportunity to develop into womanhood and some semblance of independence before they yoked their lives to a husband and began to bear children.
While the legal minimum marriageable age has gone up in almost all states since the 19th century, almost all states have exceptions built in that allow parents and/or judges to consent to the marriage of minors below the stated minimums, in some cases if they are pregnant, in others if they are already emancipated minors. This means that with judicial or parental consent, children as young as 10, 11 and 12 have been married in the U.S. in the last couple of decades. When exceptions are taken into consideration, 25 states actually do not have an absolute minimum marriageable age.
When activists have sought to eliminate those exceptions and ban marriage prior to age 18 outright, as they are attempting to do in about 10 states nationwide today, they have met with substantial pushback. Some religious conservatives worry that without access to marriage, pregnant girls might turn to abortion. Others simply place faith in the institution of marriage to establish a happy and financially secure household. This is despite the fact that studies have shown that marriage as a minor is much more likely to lead to divorce, to dropping out of high school, to spousal abuse and to mental and physical health problems.
Only when Americans are able to have more honest conversations about what marriage really looks like – as opposed to some idealized image of marital perfection – are we likely to see the abolition of child marriage in the United States.
Author:Nicholas Syrett: Professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Kansas
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Officials of the United States and the United Kingdom have continued to insist that the risk of attacks by Boko Haram insurgents in the Federal Capital Territory and other states remains high throughout the festive season.
The two missions in their security advice cautioned their citizens against all but essential travels to Bauchi, Zamfara, Kano; Kaduna; Jigawa; Katsina, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, and Yobe states during the Yuletide.
The two countries stated that the risk of terrorist attacks was still high in the run-up to and throughout the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
“Terrorist groups have threatened to conduct bombings and attacks in the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) area during this period. You should avoid places where crowds gather, including religious gatherings and places of worship, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, transport hubs and camps for displaced people,” the UK mission said in the updated travel advisory on its website.
The same security warning was also echoed by the US mission, which asked Americans to review their personal security plans and avoid the states listed in the travel advisory.
The two countries had issued the security advice ahead of the December 1 Id el Maulud holiday, which passed without any eventualities. This had made some members of the public assume that the threat was over.
He referred one of our correspondents to the warning which says, “The US Mission remains concerned about potential attacks in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, and Yobe; travellers are urged to avoid those states through the end of the year.”
“If you construed the warning as referring to last Friday’s holiday (December 1), you are mistaken,” Brooks stated.
The British mission spokesman, Joe Abuku, also referred one of our correspondents to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s warning dated December 1, 2017, which was being updated daily to reflect the latest situation.
The police had also on Friday said the plot by Boko Haram to bomb Abuja and other states was real. The FCT Commissioner of Police, Sadiq Bello, however, said the police would work with other security agencies to make sure that the threat was not actualised.
It was gathered that the police had deployed undercover operatives in strategic locations in the FCT to foil any terrorist plot.
Security sources stated that agencies were also stepping up intelligence gathering and surveillance of dark spots which suspected Boko Haram members might infiltrate to carry out their dastardly act.
It was gathered that personnel were raiding vulnerable areas and carrying out arrests of miscreants and other hoodlums who could be used by the insurgents to carry out attacks to demonstrate that they are still a terror group to reckon with.
Source: ( Punch Newspaper )
A Nigerian identified as Yusuf Ademola was on Thursday 7 December, jailed for 12 years after police found a shotgun with two rounds of ammunition at a residential address.
Ademola, of Claremont Road, E7, was found guilty of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life after a four day trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court which concluded on 19, October 2017.
Ademola and Jessica Soares, 25, of Manor Road, E15, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm at an earlier hearing.
Ademola was sentenced at the same court for 12 years imprisonment. This will commence when his current licence expires in July 2018.
Soares was sentenced on 27 July at the same court to eight months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.
On 27 March, officers from the Met’s Trident East Proactive team, with armed officers, carried out a pre-planned operation at Soares’ address.
Upon entry, Soares told the officers that a firearm was being stored in her bedroom behind the cupboard.
She was arrested, and officers found a shortened shotgun with two round of ammunition. She was subsequently charged.
When officers analysed Soares’ phone, they discovered messages exchanged between Soares and Ademola which revealed that she had agreed to hold the firearm on his behalf.
There is no question there is a worldwide refugee crisis, with global border crossings at an all-time high. According to the UN, we currently have more displaced people than during and after the Second World World War. With recent natural disasters in the Caribbean, this number will only increase: More and more people are entering Canada.
As a midwife working in Toronto for almost 18 years, I have dedicated most of my career to the care of newcomers, refugees and the medically uninsured. As a health-care provider on the ground, I can see the changes on a micro level before they are seen at a macro level. I can see the groundswell of newer immigrants — and I think I can fairly accurately say a storm is coming.
Many believe everyone in Canada has health insurance. But since the advent of medicare, Canada has always had populations that lack health insurance. Historically, this has included a few religious sects, such as Amish and Mennonite, as well as marginalized people dealing with issues like homelessness, drug addiction or mental health challenges.
However, in the past two decades, the categories of people without health insurance has dramatically increased to include more newcomers, immigrants and refugees. The reasons for this are complex and related both to changes in Canada’s immigration policies as well as increasing global migration.
Care for pregnant people involves particular challenges. Without health insurance, people need to pay for physician care, hospital fees and diagnostic tests. In a low-risk pregnancy, this can mean costs close to $10,000; with a higher risk pregnancy these costs can double, triple or more. For most pregnant people, these costs are untenable.
As a result, care is minimal, delayed or even refused. Many women choose to give birth alone, show up late in pregnancy or only seek care at the time of labour. This potentially results in higher risk situations — putting a demand on a health-care system that’s already strained for resources.
Even during war, famine and fear, people have sex and get pregnant. In fact, some people argue that refugee populations have more complex needs in pregnancy than the standard population. This is for a variety of reasons. Rape is used as a tool of war and women are particularly targeted during war and genocide. Access to contraception is difficult during war and disaster. And generally, increased life stresses make people less attentive to reproductive health-care needs.
About 20 per cent of all people seeking health care in refugee camps and disaster zones do so for pregnancy-related concerns. As well, clinics in Toronto serving refugees and the uninsured indicate that 20 per cent of all visits are for pregnancy-related issues.
Now add the unanticipated Trump effect
Canada already welcomes a high number of immigrants. But with every anti-immigrant declaration by U.S. President Donald Trump, Canada receives new waves of unanticipated, vulnerable migrants. In the past year, Canada has seen waves of Haitian refugees, Nigerians and others crossing a small-town borders, mostly in Québec.
Anecdotal evidence from my clinic visits tells me that people of colour in the U.S. are terrified of deportation and increased race-related violence. For those fleeing war, economic and political instability, there are few options. Instead of risking being sent back home, many are choosing to enter Canada.
While those entering the country are claiming refugee status, the number of accepted refugees in Canada is minimal compared to the number of claimants. Those whose refugee claim is refused face being sent home or living in Canada illegally. For many, there is no choice — going home would mean facing poverty, incarceration, torture or worse.
Recently, I was sitting in my midwifery clinic and doing a first midwifery visit with a newly arrived Nigerian couple from the United States who had entered Canada through Québec. I asked: “I’m seeing a lot more Nigerians in your situation recently, what’s going on in your community?”
They told me everyone was afraid of their immigration status because of Trump. Also, as racialized people, they are increasingly afraid. They had lived in the American Midwest for more than six years and, up until recently, had never experienced the kind of daily, racially motivated violent threats they have since Trump came into office.
The couple had heard of a Nigerian man in a neighbouring state who had been brutally beaten for no apparent reason. They started thinking about fleeing. Getting pregnant was actually the precipitating factor for them to leave.
Two months earlier, I had a Pakistani couple in my clinic who were previously in the U.S. on legal student visas, both attending a southern state university in a small town. They fled because the woman, who wore a hijab, was literally being stoned by people on her way to campus and they were worried about the safety of their two small children. Pregnant with their third child, their fears increased.
After hiding for two weeks in their apartment and running out of food, they fled out of fear for their lives. They travelled along a now well-established line of acquaintances, contacts and safe houses from the southern U.S. to Canada — a makeshift refugee underground railroad for the modern era.
The U.S. has traditionally been seen as a designated “safe country” by Canada — meaning people cannot apply for refugee status while living in the U.S. — but if you are being stoned on the way to school and your president openly supports white supremacist demonstrators, how can we still consider the U.S. a safe country?
Babies still come
A lot of the people crossing the border will be pregnant, and those who choose to stay may get pregnant. Many will be denied a valid refugee claim; many will chose to stay here illegally, without valid immigration status and as a result, without health-care insurance.
Keeping people out of the health care system creates more problems than it solves. Pregnancy is a perfect example. Unlike many other health-care issues, most pregnancy outcomes can only be put off for so long — for the most part the babies eventually come.
Unfortunately, research shows that women without health insurance in Ontario don’t get adequate prenatal care. Adequate prenatal care dramatically decreases low birth weight and premature infants.
This lack of care for refugees and the uninsured will cost us all. One of the top five expenditures in all of health care is for the care of babies born too early and too small. We are likely to have more pregnant people without insurance, having little or no access to care and as a result, babies who are less healthy.
The majority of people fleeing poverty, war and violence don’t have the kind of money that health care requires. Some may argue that this is a global problem and not Canada’s problem.
However, whether we like it or not, people are still going to enter our country and stay because of a lack of options. And whether we like it or not, we are paying for it. Regardless, like it or not, resist it or not, people are coming and our health-care system is not ready.
In Ontario, midwives have always been funded to care for any resident of the province, regardless of health care or insurance status. This is similar to Ontario’s Community Health Centres. In 2015, the province increased funding so that any physician who needed to get involved in higher risk pregnancies would also be paid.
As a result, midwives in Ontario are able to provide relatively seamless care to pregnant people without health-care insurance. Research has shown that women under midwifery care have improved outcomes and as a result cost the system less money. However, this isn’t the case in the rest of the country.
Given the wave of refugees coming, and previous experience showing that many of the newcomers will end up lacking health insurance, it only makes sense for other provinces to follow Ontario’s lead and provide the funding for midwives to care for this population.
This will take a substantial burden off the health care system, improve outcomes and ultimately cost less.
Author: Associate Professor, Midwifery Education Program, Ryerson University
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The President of Olumo Progressive Association, Chief Femi Shodunke, who expressed the feelings of his colleagues, said that fellow citizens were ready to come back to Nigeria, but on the ground that necessary infrastructures, among others, must be put in place to make the country worth living for them.
Shodunke gave the charge over the weekend in Toronto, Canada at the handing over ceremony of the newly elected executive officers of the association, which comprises of indigenes of Egba and Yewa, an ethnic group from Ogun State.
According to him, living abroad for many years, where there are constant electricity, adequate security and abundant social amenities it’s not easy to return to an environment where these facilities are lacking and would not allow for socio-economic and industrial growth.
Shodunke, while giving account of his stewardship after two terms of four years said: “At this juncture, permit me to digress a little bit. I’m sure by God’s grace we are fortunate to be legal residents of Canada, with many of us as citizens. But let me remind you that Nigeria is where the journey started.”
“That is our homestead,” Shodunke, who is the Publisher of Canada based GatewayMail newspaper said, adding: “And I’m sure majority of us still cherish and relish Nigeria as our home.”
“It is in this respect that I want to use the exit of my term of office today to urge the leader of our country, President Muhammadu Buhari, to make Nigeria conducive for us not only to come and live, but be encouraging enough to establish varied businesses and industries to particularly expand the economy and provide jobs for our teeming unemployed youths,” the immedidate past president said.
He stressed: “Having lived, and still living, in Canada where social amenities, particularly adequate security and abundant electricity, are available, going to live in Nigeria where these facilities are almost not in existence, truly speaking, is not easy for many of us to adjust to.
“In this regard, I’ll urge President Muhammadu Buhari to restore sanity to Nigeria, by providing constant electricity, ensure abundance of social infrastructures to make life easy, to stamp out the menace of kidnapping, which many Nigerians living abroad now perceive with trepidation a lot as hindrance to returning home, to halt wanton killings of fellow hapless citizens particularly by Fulani herdsmen, to deal decisively with corruption which stifles economic growth and disrupt ease of doing business, and to ensure proper clime where democracy, and democratic norms, thrives on a daily basis,” he further told Buhari.
Shodunke, who is also the National Public Relations Officer of Egba National Association USA and Canada, submitted that Buhari has been tackling corruption in the country, but he, however, counselled that the approach “should be holistic, particularly by purging his All Progressive Congress (APC) government of corrupt elements loitering around him.”
He declcared: “Failure to do this is clearly an indication of his partial approach in waging war against corruption in the country, especially in the face of cries by some Nigerians that this administration has been sympathetic to corrupt APC members, who the President has been accused of shielding from prosecution over their noticeable series of financial crimes against our nation.
“The most recent cases in point are those of ex-SGF, Babachir Lawal and former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke.”
He declared: “The germane point I’m making here is that with the rare opportunity, after several attempts, that God gave President Muhammadu Buhari to lead this country, he should utilise it to write his name in gold in the annals of Nigeria. “History will not forget him and his administration in a hurry due to the great hopes Nigerians have in him, and his administration, if he fails to do so, mostly by failing to embark on programmes that will make many Nigerians in diaspora eager to come home and contribute their quota to the development of their fatherland, and those in the country to feel the ginormous impact of the government they voted for in 2015.
“Similarly, I must also charge the Governor of our home state, Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, to do all within his political power to improve the economic and industrial base of our state.”
“While I want the Governor to improve on the noticeable shortcomings of his administration, like the yet to be completed bridges and roads, I must commend his improvement in revenue generation and attraction of industries to the state.
“I will plead with Governor Ibikunle Amosun to bequeath a lasting legacy, full of socio-economic posperities, to the incoming administration, which will take over from him in 2019.”
He further said: “Finally, let me borrow from my homily to President Buhari and Governor Amosun to task the new leadership of Olumo Progressive Association Canada Inc, to lead with progressively pragmatic programmes of action.
“It is your duty to lift this association higher more than the level you met it and with God on your side, and all of us too, this is attainable under the leadership of our new President, who, no doubt, permit me to say, has passed through the required tutelage under my Presidency.
“At this auspicious moment, I wish the new Executive Council best of luck and great tenure, and to use the word of the late great educationist and social critic, Dr. Tai Solarin, by saying that ‘may your road be rough’ in the task of paddling the canoe of this association forward in the next two years.”
“From the bottom of my joyous heart, I thank you all for listening to me this afternoon as I bow before you, and leave the stage of leadership as the Fourth President of this noble association, and remain a loyal ‘ordinary’ member in the utmost service to Egbaland, Ogun State, Nigeria and Canada,” Shodunke, a former Deputy Editor with the defunct Nigerian Compass, stressed.
While commending the Patrons of the association – Dr. Leke Badmos, Chief Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, and Mr. Ganiyu Ayo Biobaku – the former President praised the newly elected members for voluntarily deciding to serve the association.
He said: “Therefore, I commend you, the newly elected officers, too particularly those who voluntarily decided to offer themselves for service again, and those for the first time, in the overall interest of their fatherland, that is, Egbaland and Yewa.
“Similarly, I must not fail to appreciate our Patron in Canada, Dr. Leke Badmos, for his moral and financial support. May God bless you sir, just as kudos also goes to our Patrons in Nigeria, Chief Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, who is the Onibode of Egbaland, and Mr. Ganiyu Ayo Biobaku. You, too, are highly appreciated.”
Officers elected for the next two years are Ms. Aina Muritala (President), Mr. Afolabi Bakare (Vice President), Mrs. Olukemi Olumide-Ige (General Secretary), Mr. Teju Oyewole (Assistant General Secretary), and Mrs. Ayodele Faderin (Treasurer).
Others are Mrs. Esther Ismail (Financial Secretary), Mrs. Adesola Ayoola (Public Relations Officer), Ms. Folake Sanyaolu (Assistant P.R.O), Mrs. Olabisi Yusuph (Social Secretary) and Mr. Wasiu Ajirotutu (Chief Whip).
The United States (US) has laid claim to $300 million stashed abroad by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.
America allegedly told a court in an unnamed foreign country that it had an interest in the loot because it was saved in its currency, the US dollar.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) and rights activist Mr Femi Falana (SAN) made the claims in Lagos, The Nation reports.
Falana also accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of failing to remit over $21.7 billion since 1999.
He urged the Federal Government to extend efforts to recover looted funds to “the few Nigerians who have been indicted in the Panama and Paradise papers. The EFCC and the Federal Inland Revenue Service should recover appropriate taxes from the offshore companies set up by such individuals,” Falana said.
Malami, guest speaker Falana, Chairman, Special Investigative Panel on Assets Recovery Okoi Obono-Obla, among others, were participants at the seminar organised by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The seminar, with the theme: “Promoting Transparency and Accountability in the Recovery of Stolen Assets in Nigeria: Proposals for Reform”, was organised in collaboration with the Ford Foundation, USA.
The AGF, who was represented by his Senior Special Assistant on White Collar Crimes, Mr Abiodun Aikomo, hinted of the US’ involvement in the case while condemning public officials who ferry their loot abroad.
He said: “We have seen instances where the Federal Government of Nigeria engaged counsel to recover our stolen assets and the matter went on for many years.
“On the eve of a judgment, the government of a country filed an application for joinder. This was a matter that was on for seven years and judgment was going to be delivered the next day.
“The government of the country filed, saying ‘Even though the money is not kept in our bank, even though you would think we do not have any connection with the funds, the money is in our currency and we are talking about hundreds of millions in our currency. So, if you’re moving those funds from our state, then we are interested.’
“That was how the judgment was more or less arrested. So, the people stealing money and taking it out of Nigeria are doing us a lot of evil, because the moment the money leaves Nigeria it assumes another dimension.”
But Falana, who accused the United States, Switzerland, the UK and other western nations of hypocritical behaviour in Nigeria’s quest to recover loot stashed in their banks, identified the US as the country concerned.
He said: “Nigeria traced part of the Abacha loot (over $300m) to Jersey, an island in the United Kingdom. The Attorney-General filed a process to – by the way I was in that country when the person was convicted. The money left Nigeria through Kenya and landed in Jersey. It was from the late Abacha.
“Nigeria wanted to collect the remaining loot. But the United States filed an objection, saying the money could not be released to Nigeria.
“The court asked why; the US said if the money must be released, it should be released to the US government, so that ‘we can manage it for Nigeria.’
“The other one, $321 million, Switzerland, a notorious conduit for corruption, had the temerity to say that ‘unless the World Bank is going to manage this money, we are not going to release this money.’”
Falana urged the Federal Government not to depend on the West in its loot recovery drive.
“The United Nations Convention Against Corruption has made adequate provisions against corruption, mandating countries to assist each other but western countries have not been helping us. Our government should stop relying on the west.”
He said he had advised, and the government was considering, suing foreign banks illegally holding onto funds stolen from Nigeria.
He added: “From five cycles of independent audit reports covering 1999-2012 the National Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative revealed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, some oil companies and certain agencies of the Federal Government have withheld $20.2 billion from the Federation Account.
“In 2006, the Central Bank of Nigeria removed $7 billion from the nation’s external reserves and placed same as deposit in 14 Nigerian banks. In 2008, the Bank gave a bailout of N600 billion ($4 billion) to the same banks. Up till now the CBN has failed to recover the said sum of $11 billion from the banks.”
“On September 6, 2016 the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced that arrangements had been concluded to recover the sum of $9.6 billion in over-deducted tax benefits from joint venture partners on major capital projects and oil swap contracts. The NNPC is said to have recovered the said sum of $9.6 billion but has not remitted same into the Federation Account.”
Falana spoke also of plans to seek redress for the 21 coal miners allegedly murdered by the British police under the colonial rule in Nigeria.
Falana said: “The British government, the British police killed 21 miners in Enugu on November 18, 1949. We are talking to the victims and their children to do what the Kenyans have done by suing the British government so that we can also begin to ask for reparation for our people.”
Obono-Obla, who refrained from political comments because he had been “gagged”, said there would be no sacred cow in the quest to recover fraudulently acquired assets.
Obono-Obla said: “Without mentioning names, we are currently investigating a director in a Federal Government ministry…We saw so much and we went to the Code of Conduct Bureau, got his asset form and discovered that a lot of companies that he has been using to make money were not mentioned in his assets declaration form. The man is in soup.”
The Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions urged Nigerians to assist it with information on assets procured with stolen funds.
“If you don’t give us information, we may not know. The panel has powers to investigate public officers in the three tiers of government: federal, state and local. No sacred cows, as far as I am concerned. We must investigate everybody. Any complaint that requires an investigation will be investigated,” Obono-Obla said.
SERAP director Adetunbo Mumuni praised the government for mustering the will to tackle corruption.
“Before President Muhammadu Buhari came, we knew there was massive corruption, but this administration has made attempts to bring corrupt people to justice,” he said.
Other guests at the event included Amnesty International Country Director Mrs Osai Ojigho; Department for International Development (DFID)’s Sonia Warner and Ford Foundation’s Ms Eva Kouka and Ms Linda Ochiel, among others.