The mandatory requirement for all persons taking public office to declare their assets with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), was designed as an effective tool for checking corruption. But, the reality on the ground is that assets declaration notwithstanding, corruption continues to thrive among public office holders.
At the forefront of the struggle for transparency in the assets declaration regime for Nigerian public office holders, is anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
SERAP believes that Nigerians ought to know the specific assets declared by public office holders to the CCB, so that members of the public can do their independent verification of these assets, and hold the public officers to account.
SERAP has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, to lead by example by publishing the content of the assets declaration forms they submitted to the CCB.
In a January 3, 2020 FoI request, the advocacy group urged Buhari, Osinbajo, the 36 State Governors and Deputy Governors to “make public details of their assets, specifically property and income, contained in their asset declaration forms submitted to the CCB since assuming office”.
In the FoI request made by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, SERAP said it strongly believed that “public disclosure of summary of assets submitted to the CCB would help to uncover any irregularities, and trigger formal verification of declarations by the CCB and other anti-corruption agencies”.
But, Buhari, Osinbajo, the 36 State Governors and Deputy Governors, spurned the request.
Niger and Lagos States, which managed to acknowledge the receipt of SERAP’s FoI request, declined releasing the requested information, but, rather contended that “the FoI Act is inapplicable to State Governments, their agencies and officials”.
Then the struggle shifted to the Federal High Court where SERAP filed a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/65/2020, seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 State Governors and their deputies, to make public their summary of assets”.