The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Wednesday, defended his labelling of the returned $311 million looted by a former Nigeria military leader, Sani Abacha, as “Abacha assets.”
Malami had in a tweet on Monday announcing the repatriation of the $311 million from the United States of America and Bailiwick of Jersey, referred to the funds as “Abacha assets.”
His tweet angered some Twitter users who contended that the description of the recovered funds as ‘Abacha assets’ could suggest that the funds may be returned to the former dictator’s family.
This led to criticism on Twitter for what commentators, including the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, described as the minister’s improper labelling of the loot by the then maximum ruler.
But in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Umar Gwandu, on Wednesday, the AGF said he considered referring to the funds as ‘Abacha assets’ because it had been repatriated to Nigeria and qualified as Federal Government’s assets.
Malami urged Nigerians to focus more on how the recovered funds would be used for public good, while describing the criticism of his reference to the funds as ‘Abacha assets’ as a needless media hype.
He noted that, “The office (of the AGF) maintained that the choice of words was deliberate.
“It is to be noted that by way of antecedence that Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has been consistently describing the recovered funds as ‘Abacha loot’ at several fora during the process of recovery of the looted funds, particularly before the eventual repatriation of the funds.
“The point needs to be made that when the seal of legitimacy was appended to the funds by way of repatriation, it became an asset in favour of the Federal Government as a beneficial owner of same.”
The AGF further stated that, “Beyond the issues of verbal dexterity and vocal acrobatics, Nigerians should focus more on effective utilisation of the recovered looted funds in accordance with the content of the signed tripartite agreement in the interest of the Nigerian public.
“It may interest the general public to note that there is a unit called Assets Recovery and Management Unit at the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
“The use of the word ‘assets’ in relation to the post-recovery of looted assets is to qualify same as Federal Government assets.”
” It is palpable that news about successful return of the looted assets have brought nightmares to nay-sayers and pessimists who wanted to frustrate the repatriation process through campaign of calumny. Hence resorting to rhetoric instead of burying the heads in shame,” the statement added.
The AGF had pledged that the money would be expended on identified infrastructural projects as agreed in the tripartite contract between the governments of Nigeria, the US and Bailiwick of Jersey, before the repatriation of the funds.