Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the 36 states governors to publish their assets within seven days or face legal action.SERAP in Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated January 3, 2020 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “Clarify within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, if you have had any reason to review and update the asset declarations submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), and to provide the summary of any such review; failing which we will take all appropriate legal action to compel you to comply with our request.”
The organisation said the non-public disclosure of assets by the officials “seriously undermines the effectiveness and integrity of the constitutional and statutory obligations to submit asset declarations, especially given that declarations are designed to curb grand corruption.”
It further said that the summary of assets to be disclosed include, savings and other liquid assets, all immovable property and shares and actions in any private and public companies; property purchased by way of tender from any public-law entities and information about businesses owned.
In 2015 when he first came to office, President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo declared their assets in September, barely four months after assuming office. Some other state governor also followed suit to make public declaration of their assets.
SERAP urged the concerned officers to use their good offices to “provide information on summary of the assets, specifically property and income, contained in your asset declaration forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) since your assumption of office.”
It also recalled that President Buhari had promised to make specific details of his assets public, and urged him “to consider this FoI request as a unique opportunity to fulfil the promise made to the Nigerian people.”
The various FoI requests read in part: “Our FoI request does not clash with the rights to privacy and data protection. Both rights are not absolute and can be restricted provided there is a basis in law and a legitimate public interest justifies the restriction. Prevention of grand corruption and exposing unexplained wealth of officials are serious and legitimate public interests.
“We would also like you to clarify if you have encouraged members of your cabinet to also submit their asset declarations to the CCB and to make such declarations public. If so, we would like you to provide information on the details of those that have made submissions.
“We would also like you to clarify whether a declaration has been submitted as constitutionally and statutorily required, the date of any such submission, and if you have received any confirmation of the verification of your asset declaration by the CCB.
“The general public has a legitimate interest in ascertaining and scrutinising the veracity, exactitude and honesty of information contained in asset declarations submitted by public officials to the CCB. Without public disclosure of summary of assets, this would have no practical importance.
“Public disclosure of summary of assets submitted to the CCB would help uncover any irregularities and trigger formal verification of declarations by the CCB and other anti-corruption agencies.”
The declaration of assets made public in 2015 by Garba Shehu, the President’s senior Special Assistant indicated that Buhari owns five houses in Daura, Kano and Abuja, as well as two mud houses in his village. He also owns Apart from his houses, Buhari owns two undeveloped plots of land in Kano and Port Harcourt.
Others include an orchard and a ranch with 270 head of cattle, 25 sheep, five horses, a variety of birds and a number of economic trees in them. His other assets include stocks in three publicly listed companies – Berger Paints and commercial banks, including Union Bank and Skye Bank. In terms of cash, he holds the Naira equivalent of $150,000.
The Vice President said in the declared asset that he owns a 4-bedroom residence in Victoria Garden City, Lagos and a three-bedroom flat in Ikoyi. He also owns a 2-bedroom flat along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and a 2-bedroom mortgaged property in Bedford, England.