The Kano State government has threatened to prosecute the spokesperson to the Nigerian president, Reuben Abati, for advanced fee fraud, 419, and the Presidency, the agency he represents, over the use of the state’s project photographs to promote President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid.
Mr. Abati, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, had, in a 10-part series of tweets on Sunday, used photographs of the 10-storey Northwestern University and students of the Kano State Institute of Informatics to illustrate key projects he claimed the President Jonathan administration executed in the six North-West states of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara.
The 10-storey building in Mr. Abati’s illustration was a long-standing project of the Kano State government, which was only completed and made a campus by the state’s current governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso. The Kano Informatics Institute was also established in 2011, by the current governor.
Using the hashtags #DidYouKnow? #TransformationintheNorthWest #ForwardNigeria#UpJonathan #UpNigeria, Mr. Abati deployed images and graphics to illustrate what he called the president’s transformation of the North-West zone.
Mr. Abati’s tweets angered the Kano state government. It accused Mr. Abati of lying, deception and plagiarism and demanded the deletion of the tweet and a public apology. The current Kano state governor, who is claiming credits for the brandished projects, is also a presidential aspirant and member of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC.
The deceptive tweets also drew heavy public criticism against Mr. Abati and the presidency.
The presidential spokesperson has since deleted the tweet and replaced it with an infographic where the president’s achievements were illustrated with words scribbled in colourful speech bubbles.
Ahead of the February 15 general elections, Nigerian politicians with ambitions are desperate to brandish concrete achievements to convince the voting public they performed well in their current position, a prerequisite for public support.
More than 24 hours after the tweet was deleted, the Kano government said Mr. Abati is yet to apologise to it.
“We are giving him seven days to tender a public apology or we will sue him,” Jaafar Jaafar, the Special Assistant on Media to Governor Kwankwaso, told PREMIUM TIMES.
He said the state government was approaching its lawyers to kickstart plagiarism and advance fee fraud, aka 419, charges if Mr. Abati failed to apologise.
He argued that in addition to using the images without permission, the presidential spokesperson intended to deceive the public with those images and make pecuniary gains. He said Mr. Abati’s action was planned to “hoodwink” Nigerians into believing President Jonathan’s administration was effective in the region.
Mr. Jaafar argued that such assumptions could have misled voters to re-elect the president in the forthcoming election and in turn make Mr. Abati richer.
“That is obtaining money under false pretence,” Mr. Jaafar said.
If Mr. Abati is charged, it would be the first time an aide of the President is tried for deception.