Buhari, Osinbajo urged to make public details of assets
• ‘Why asset declaration law should be amended’
• Sanitise anti-graft agencies, President told
CIVIL society groups are mounting pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to make public the details of their personal assets. Reports had indicated at the weekend that Buhari and Osinbajo had returned their assets declaration forms to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) which had also acknowledged receipt of the forms.
But the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), yesterday, said it is not enough for Buhari and his deputy to declare their assets to the CCB without making public, the details as it was in 2007 when the then President, Umaru Yar’Adua made public details of his assets.
In the same vein, the Freedom of Information Coalition in Nigeria (FOICN) has called on Buhari to ensure that individuals appointed into his cabinet declare their assets before being sworn-in.
FOICN also has called for a total overhaul of the anti-graft agencies, describing them in their present form as mere “business centres” even as it urged Buhari to take urgent steps to sanitise them.
It also made a case for the immediate adoption of the Conference Committee Report on the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Centre (NFIC) bill, being delayed by the outgoing House of Representatives.
In separate statements, SERAP and FOICN said doing so would give needed bite to the anti-corruption stance of the new administration and truly give Nigerians hope of a ‘ not-business-as-usual’ situation. Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said yesterday: “We welcome the official declaration of assets by the President and Vice President.
This clearly complies with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution as contained in Chapter VI Section 140. However, the declaration before the Code of Conduct alone falls far short of the commitment to publicly declare their assets.”
SERAP asked 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.”
Mumuni noted: “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.”
He urged them to publish the information on a dedicated website. SERAP noted: “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 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.
“We believe that public disclosure of assets is 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.”
National Coordinator of the FOICN, Walter Duru, who addressed newsmen at the weekend, argued that proper assets declaration by public appointees shall set the stage for effective monitoring of their activities by citizens. Duru, who commended the President for his insistence on running a transparent administration, urged him to start with an internal cleansing of his cabinet in order to set a good example.
He took a swipe on the country’s anti-corruption agencies, describing them as mere ‘business centres’, urging the President to take urgent steps to sanitise them; even as he made a case for the immediate adoption of the Conference Committee Report on the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Center-NFIC Bill, being delayed by the outgoing House of Representatives.
“The President must ensure that all those to work with him declare their assets openly to enable Nigerians monitor them. It is unfortunate that our anti-graft agencies are not living up to expectations.
The EFCC has not impressed Nigerians. The Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal are not working.
The Code of Conduct Tribunal has not sat for about three years now. Is it that no public office holder in Nigeria has breached public confidence and thrust? The ICPC can perform better. The surest way forward is a total overhaul of the anti-graft agencies.
All the corrupt elements must be shown the way out and of course, prosecuted. The Police must return to the Barracks and allow the EFCC space to function.
Having over 700 Policemen in the employ of EFCC is unacceptable. A mechanism should also be put in place to monitor the activities of the anti-graft agencies.
“To strengthen the country’s anti-corruption war, President Buhari must throw his weight behind the passage of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Centre, Proceeds of Crime and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bills, which are relevant legislations that will close the gaps in the country’s anti-corruption war” On compliance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, the FOICN helmsman indicted public institutions under the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government for non-compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, describing it as an Act of impunity.
He revealed the determination of the Coalition under his administration to ensure enforcement of the Act, while increasing citizens’ demand for accountability in governance. Duru, who spoke in Calabar, however, urged Nigerians to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act to check the activities of public institutions in Nigeria.
“The coalition, in partnership with other stakeholders, is working on a holistic strategy aimed at increasing awareness, capacity building and enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act. We shall also ensure that public institutions comply with the proactive disclosure obligations under the FOI Act.”