The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, has come under criticism on Twitter for describing the just-repatriated $311m looted by the late Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha, as “Abacha assets”.
The minister’s tweet announcing the repatriation of the money from the United States and Bailiwick of Jersey on his timeline at 6.32pm on Monday garnered about 1,000 comments as of 3.26pm on Tuesday.
Most of the commentators, including the publisher of Sahara Reporters and convener of #RevolutionNow protests, Omoyele Sowore, were furious about what they considered as improper labelling of the recovered loot.
Malami’s tweet through his Twitter handle, @MalamiSan, read, “I am happy to confirm that the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 4th May, 2020 received $311,797,866.11 of the Abacha assets repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey.”
The tweet came a few hours after his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Gwandu, issued a statement in which the repatriated fund was also referred to as “Abacha assets”.
In a six-paragraph statement released by Gwandu on February 2 announcing Malami’s trip to the US to represent Nigeria in the signing of the tripartite agreement between the governments of Nigeria, the US and Bailiwick of Jersey for the repatriation of the fund, there was no mention of Abacha’s name in the statement as the fund was repeatedly referred to as “looted assets”.
And many have taken to Twitter to express their displeasure at the minister’s tweet, see it as tallying with the view held by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who has often justified his working as the head of the Petroleum Trust Fund under the Abacha regime.
Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, in 2018 urged Buhari, who rode to power in 2015 on the promise to fight corruption headlong, to desist from praising Abacha.
Tweeting through his handle, @YeleSowore, Sowore said, “Attorney General Abubakar Malami, woke up one day, labelled Nigerian wealth looted by the late Gen. Sani Abacha “Abacha assets” and people think he is stupid. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Just telling you all that we are just warehousing these assets for Abachas. #RevolutionNow.”
Another Twitter user tweeting via @ayemojubar, stated, “This statement has been written in the sands of time and engraved on the granite of eternity, and each time people mention Abacha now or in future, you’ll always be remembered for tagging stolen money “Abacha assets”.
Another tweet via @adegokegalaxy, stated, “I commend your efforts at repatriating the money. It will be very useful in the present economic challenge. Kudos Sir.
“However, Abacha assets, Sir, may not be the best choice of words. You may want to discuss with experts in finance and control.”
Another statement by a presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, late Tuesday described the loot as “return of the Abacha stolen millions from the United States and Jersey”.
And Sowore, who noted that the “appropriate” labelling by Shehu followed the pressure mounted by Nigerians on social media, acknowledged the presidential spokesman’s statement in a later tweet, He said, “Why we must not relent, now they’ve appropriately labelled it ‘Abacha Stolen Millions’ but ensure the new thieves don’t steal the loot! #RevolutionNow.”