Published on Sunday, 14 June 2015 05:00
Written by John Chuks Azu
Activities at the headquarters of the asset declarations office of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) have heightened as elected officials file their assets declarations. Enquiries at the Assets Declaration Department of CCB in Asokoro, Abuja indicated that senators, representatives and other public officials have been thronging the various departments in the Bureau to file their assets and liabilities ahead of their inauguration.
The 8th National Assembly was on Tuesday June 9 inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari. A staff of the CCB, who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday on the condition of anonymity, said it had been hectic attending to many high profile declarants and working for longer hours in the office. “We have regularly received visitors from the federal public service, but with a lot of members of the National Assembly coming in the last three weeks, it has been very rowdy,” he said.
President Buhari and his deputy Yemi Osinbajo had, during their campaigns, stated their anti-corruption stance. They followed up by filing their assets declarations forms few days to their inauguration on May 29. Operations at the Assets Declaration Department, apart from the 36 states offices of the Bureau, is further broken into departments for states and local governments, federal public servants and political office holders.
Daily Trust on Sunday, however, could not ascertain the details of declarations made by the elected officials due to legal constraints on such disclosures - though they are public documents.
But in sections of an ‘Assets Declaration Form For Public Officers’ under the Oaths Act of 1990, which was marked as “Secret”, the declarant is interrogated on personal particulars, cash deposits in Nigerian and foreign banks, details of properties within and outside Nigeria, lists of undeveloped or vacant plots, location of farms/orchard/ranch; factories and other enterprises.
The form also enquires about the public officer’s number of vehicles, boats and other means of transport; household furniture, generation sets, electronics; spouse’ properties if not a public officer; properties of children under 18 years of age; value of government securities, bonds, and savings; also shares, debentures and other securities in and outside Nigeria.
Section 140 (1) of the 1999 Constitution provides that “a person elected to the office of the President shall not begin to perform the functions of that office until he has declared his assets and liabilities...” Similarly, Section15 (1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act stipulates that “every public officer shall, within fifteen months after coming into force of this Act or immediately after taking office and thereafter (a) at the end of every four years; (b) at the end of his term of office; and(c) in the case of a serving officer, within thirty days of the receipt of the form from the Bureau or at such intervals as the Bureau may specify.”
Meanwhile, the CCB has assured that the assets declaration forms by President Buhari and his vice, Osinbajo would be made public as soon as verifications are concluded. There have been concerns over the non-disclosure of the assets of President Buhari and Osinbajo, which were declared in line with Section 140 (1) of the Constitution, before the May 29 inauguration of the new government.
Speaking with Daily Trust on Sunday at the weekend, the chairman of the CCB, Mr Sam Baba, said the forms were still being verified before they could be made public.
The chairman, who spoke through his Special Assistant Sebastian Gwimi, said the president wanted due process to be followed before they are made public, adding that if the disclosures were made, all appointees under the new government would comply. “A team of verifiers are very busy going round to verify the assets of the President, Vice President, elected members and appointees. After verifications perhaps that would be when Mr President wants to declare it publicly. You don’t need to rush him, he just filed the declarations. “Of course, there are a lot of things for him to do. He has not even presented the national strategic document on fighting corruption. May be in doing such declarations, he would say to the press here is a copy of my assets declarations,” he said.
Gwimi also disclosed that the CCB was working on a draft bill to address the constitutional constraint which prohibits public disclosure of assets.
He said the bill, when it becomes law, would define the requirements for disclosure of details of assets declaration to interested Nigerians.
He said the forms are national security documents, which disclosure even under the Freedom of Information Act, without due process, could jeopardize the security of the declarant.
Former president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on June 28, 2007 became the first leader under the present democratic dispensation to publicly reveal his assets and how they were acquired.