Declare Your Assets Publicly, Nigerians Tell Buhari | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Declare Your Assets Publicly, Nigerians Tell Buhari

Posted: Jun 1, 2015 at 12:05 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Tunde Opeseitan, Lagos

Twenty-four hours after being sworn-in as Nigeria’s fourth democratically elected President, Muhammadu Buhari declared his assets, as constitutionally required, before the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). His vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo too followed suit at the weekend, according to the Presidency.

Buhari and osinbajo

It is true that both Buhari and Osinbajo have complied with the letters of the Constitution with regard to assets declaration. But the serious question that is begging for answer is would they fulfill the moral aspect by publicly declaring their assets?

The question became inevitable, owing to the fact that both Buhari and Osinbajo clinched the nation’s top jobs on the back of their integrity and zero tolerance for graft and corrupt people.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan indeed declared his assets to the CCB after much pressure from the Nigerian people, but indeed, many could not know the content of the declaration even after the he left office last Friday, as it was very difficult to get same from the CCB, despite the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill into law.

For instance, a suit was filed at the Federal High Court in Lagos seeking, among others, an order mandating the bureau to release the details of assets declared by Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The suit has not been decided for over two years, and indeed, both Jonathan and Obasanjo are now former Presidents.

Many keen watchers of the polity have argued that the significance and importance of public declaration of assets by leaders will greatly help in the fight against graft.

For instance, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Sunday, urged Buhari and Osinbajo to “swiftly move to declare their assets publicly, consistent with their apparent anticorruption credentials and their expressed commitments to do so and in the best interest of transparency and accountability.”

In a statement, SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the organisation welcomes the official declaration of assets by the duo, in compliance with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution as contained in Chapter VI Section 140.

However, the group insisted that the declaration of assets only before the CCB was a clear departure from Buhari and Osinbajo’s commitment to publicly declare their assets.

“SERAP recalls that the President had said before the election that he would publicly declare his assets and liabilities, and encourage all his appointees to publicly declare their assets and liabilities as a pre-condition for appointment. We now expect the President to fulfill this promise to the Nigerian people.

“We trust that the President and Vice President will move swiftly to publicly declare their assets and to publish widely the information on a dedicated website.

“Public disclosure of assets will give the general public a true picture of the assets of the President and Vice President and will send a powerful message that it is not going to be business as usual with this government. This will also follow the best practice by former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, boost this government’s fight against corruption and impunity of perpetrators, and fully comply with the provisions of chapter two of the constitution dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, which among others, require the government to take steps to eradicate corrupt practices and the abuse of power,” the group added.

SERAP stressed that public disclosure of assets was crucial for ensuring that public officials’ personal interests including that of the President and Vice President as the leaders of the nation, do not conflict with their duties and responsibilities.

“Public disclosure also helps to provide a baseline and thus means for comparison to identify assets that may have been corruptly acquired and that a public official may legitimately be asked to account for.

“We also urge the President to urgently take measures to seek amendment of the law relating to declaration of assets to include the requirement of public disclosure so as to bring it in line with international standards and best practices such as the UN Convention against Corruption,” the organisation added.