Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has called on the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and other high-ranking officials to publicly disclose their assets as they prepare to leave their positions.
They also requested that the next administration’s officials, including Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, immediately declare their assets to date.
SERAP cites the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, which mandates public officials to disclose their assets upon assuming office, every four years, and at the end of their tenure, according to Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended).
The organisation called these leaders in an open letter dated Sunday, April 15, 2023, and signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, and accessed by The Punch.
It reads, “Publishing your asset declaration form and encouraging other public officials and officials of the next administration to do so would enable Nigerians to scrutinise the assets and worth of public officials before taking office and at the end of their term of office.”
It further stated, “Those who voluntarily seek or occupy public offices and are catered for by the public have certain fiduciary duties to be open, transparent, and accountable to Nigerians regarding the details of their asset declaration forms.”
“Because asset declaration forms are public documents, public officials cannot claim that publishing their assets would violate their privacy rights. There is an overriding public interest in the disclosure of information on the assets of public officers who clearly are trustees of Nigeria’s wealth and resources.
“SERAP urges you to emulate a good example of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who consistently published his asset declaration forms as president and governor of Katsina State.
“He also planned legislative reform to make it mandatory for all public officers to declare their assets publicly. He believed that publishing his assets would put pressure on other public officers to do so,” SERAP said.
According to the organization, “Publishing your asset declaration form and encouraging other public officials and the officials of the next administration to do so would also send a powerful message of your commitment to uphold the country’s constitutional guarantees and international obligations.
“It would also show that you are ready to do what is needed to leave a legacy of transparency and accountability.
“Apart from encouraging other officials and the officials of the next administration to publish their asset declaration forms, publishing your asset declaration form widely would also address allegations that many officials tend to make false declarations in order to cover up assets illegally acquired in corruption or abuse of office.”
Speaking about the call, SERAP said, “Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended]; the Freedom of Information Act; the UN Convention against Corruption; African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to Nigeria is a state party.
“According to the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, contained in Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], all public officers are to declare their assets.
“Paragraph 11(1)(a)(b) of the Fifth Schedule provides that every public officer shall immediately after taking office and thereafter (a) at the end of every four years; and (b) at the end of his/her term of office, submit to the CCB a written declaration of all his/her properties, assets, and liabilities and those of his/her unmarried children under the age of eighteen years.
“Article 7(1) of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Articles 7(4) and 8(5) of the UN Convention against Corruption also contain similar provisions and requirements for public officials to declare their assets before, during, and after serving in public office.
“The Nigerian Constitution and the anti corruption and human rights treaties show the significant role that asset declaration by public officials plays in promoting transparency, accountability and preventing and combating corruption in the public service.
“Section 109 of the Evidence Act defines a public document to include documents forming the acts or records of the acts of public officers. Asset declaration forms kept with the Code of Conduct Bureau, therefore, qualify as public documents under section 109.
“Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution makes provision for the fundamental right to information. Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also guarantee access to information.
The statement added that they anticipate that the information provided will assist in directing efforts of the president, vice president and others to disclose your asset declaration form and encourage others to follow suit.