Contrary to the general perception that Nigerians should know the assets of political office holders, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has stated that the assets of President Muhammadu Buhari and his vice Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and other office holder is confidential.
CCB said unless the two most senior political office holders consented that their assets be made public, it has no power to disclose it.
The bureau also stated that it is not in a position to disclose the assets of past officeholders.
It stated this in reaction to a letter forwarded to it by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) demanding the public disclosure of Buhari’s assets.
Recall that SERAP was granted leave by the court to file an application for an order to compel the bureau to release the asset declaration forms of current and past public office holders.
CCB in its response dated October 14 described the section of the FOI enabling the release of asset declaration forms as an “open confrontation with the constitution of Nigeria and therefore void” stating that SERAP failed to show that it has sufficient legal interest in the matter.
CCB said, “The asset declaration forms of the Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Senate President, Speakers of the House of Representatives, State Governors and Deputy Governors since the return of democracy in 1999 to 2019 are in the custody of the CCB.
“But the public officials have not consented to the disclosure of their asset declarations forms. The CCB is not obligated to submit assets declaration forms to any person.”
“Asset declaration forms contain personal information about President and Ministers contain personal information about them and their properties, assets and liabilities and those of their wives/husbands and their children who are under the age of 18 years.
“The power of the CCB to refer suspects to the Code of Conduct Tribunal is discretionary and the courts are circumspect in granting mandamus in respect of discretionary powers and in the circumstances of the case SERAP has an alternative and effective legal remedy. This renders SERAP’s case incompetent.
CCB asserted that SERAP erred by compelling it to make public assets of the office holders, saying it ought to have asked the CCB to investigate allegations of non-compliance with the Code of Conduct and where appropriate refer the matter to the Tribunal for prosecution.
“Asset declaration forms are special documents that have been exempted by section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act. CCB can only make the forms available on the terms and conditions to be prescribed by the National Assembly. Those terms and conditions are yet to be prescribed.”
More than four months after the 2019 general elections, only one PDP governor had publicly declared his asset.
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Southwest geopolitical zone at the time of this report was the only Nigerian politician that came out publicly to disclose his assets.
When he did, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), a party known for fighting corruption, queried Makinde how he acquired his wealth, telling him to explain to Nigerians how he came about his several billions of assets.