Although the duo of President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, had promptly declared their assets, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) s well s some other pressure groups have urged the two leaders to “swiftly move to declare their assets publicly, in order to be consistent with their apparent anti-corruption credentials and their expressed commitments to do so and in the best interest of transparency and accountability.”
SERAP’s request followed the declaration of assets last Friday by the duo to the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by the constitution.
In a statement on Sunday by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said: “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 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,” the organisation said.
The organisation “trusts 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 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 constitution however does not expressly demand that the declaration of assets and liabilities be made public, although late President Umaru Yar’Adua made public his own assets declaration.
SERAP also said: “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.”
In the same vein, the Freedom of Information Coalition in Nigeria (FOICN) wants President Buhari to ensure that individuals to be appointed into his cabinet declare their assets before they are swornin.
National Coordinator of the Coalition, Walter Duru, made the call in Calabar while addressing journalists yesterday. Duru said proper assets declaration by public appointees shall set the stage for effective citizens’ monitoring of their activities.
Duru, who commended Buhari 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.”
Duru urged 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 Centre-NFIC bill, being delayed by the outgoing House of Representatives.
He said: “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 Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (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 trust? 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.”
Suggesting other measures that would help in fighting corruption in the country, the FOICN coordinator said: “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 (FoIA), the FOICN helmsman indicted public institutions under the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government for non-compliance with the FoIA, 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.
However, Duru urged Nigerians to take advantage of the 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 FoIA,” he said.
Similarly, another group, under the aegis of Coalition for Transparent governance demanded that President Buhari and Professor Osinbajo to “take the next step of letting Nigerians know what you declared”
In a statement signed by it’s Director of Communication, Mr Aderemi Fatilehin, it advised President Buhari to keep faith “with all the espoused attributes of transparency by ensuring that everything, including their assets, is truly transparent”.
The group noted that “the nation is watching and all political leaders are likely to take the cue from whatever pattern President Buhari shows”
Although many Nigerians applauded the prompt declaration of assets and liabilities of the president nd his deputy, the quest for making it all transparent and its details publicly declared has been swelling.