Twenty-two days before the presidential inauguration, the Code of Conduct Bureau has said the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima and 28 incoming governors must declare their assets before May 29.
Other officials, including senators-elect and Reps-elect, are expected to declare their assets before June 5 when they would be sworn in, reports The PUNCH.
The CCB spokesperson, Mrs Veronica Kato, told this paper in Abuja that asset declaration was an integral part of the swearing-in ceremony, according to the law.
She disclosed that several elected officials had started picking their assets declaration forms at the CCB state offices nationwide and that they were expected to submit the filled copies to the bureau before the inauguration day.
The outgoing officials, including presidential aides, 28 state governors and their cabinet members, National Assembly and state assembly members and local government chairmen will equally obtain the assets declaration forms from the CCB and submit the same in line with the 1999 constitution.
It could not immediately confirm if President Muhammadu Buhari, his deputy, Prof Yemi Osinbajo and other public officials had declared their assets preparatory to leaving office in compliance with the requirements of the law.
The constitution stipulates that all public officers shall declare their assets and liabilities on the assumption of office and at the end of their tenure of office.
The affected officials are required to provide detailed information including but not limited to the number, types, address, and value of properties so declared and the date of acquisition as well as income derivable from the properties where appropriate.
The declarations are subject to verification by the CCB officers.
Failure to declare their assets as required under the provisions of paragraph 11 of the 5th Schedule of the Federal Constitution attracts on conviction removal from office, disqualification from holding any public office and forfeiture to the state of any property acquired in abuse of office or dishonesty.
Responding to inquiries on the number of elected officials who had obtained the assets forms, Kato said, “We have earlier revealed that the assets declaration is an ongoing process. Currently, they are already obtaining their forms as they are coming in.
“However, I can’t specifically state the total number of elected officials that have collected their assets declaration forms or their names because they are getting the forms from our various offices nationwide.
“The development is going on in the 36 other offices as we are doing it at the head office here in the Federal Capital Territory. Hence, until we are done receiving their filled forms, and have collated the figures, we cannot specifically tell the total number of persons that have picked up or submitted their forms.’’
CCB warns officials
The CCB spokesperson warned that any defaulting officials would not be sworn in, stressing that assets declaration was part of the inauguration process.
“But one thing is sure; no public official will be sworn into office without filling their assets declaration form. That is what is contained in our law. Before the oath of office would be conferred on any elected public officials, they must submit their assets declaration forms. It is part of the requirements for the swearing-in ceremony,’’ Kato stated.
She further revealed that outgoing public officials had also begun to pick the assets declaration forms as part of the requirements for exiting the office.
Kato added, “The outgoing public officials have also started picking up their assets declaration forms. Many of them have started picking up the forms this week because officials are required to fill the forms and declare their assets both at the beginning and at the end of their tenure.”
In Ogun State, no fewer than 40 incoming public officials have reportedly obtained the assets declaration forms ahead of the May 29 swearing-in ceremony.
The officials were said to have obtained the forms from the Abeokuta office of the CCB.
An official of the CCB in the state, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, because he was not permitted to comment on the matter, disclosed this to our correspondent.
It was gathered that apart from the incoming officials, those who lost elections had also obtained the forms.
The source said the state governor, deputy governor, nine members of the House of Representatives, three Senators and 26 members of the state House of Assembly had obtained the assets declaration forms.
He said, “All of them have come to obtain the forms. Even, those who were not returned (to office) have also come to obtain the forms.”
On the deadline for submission, the source said, “Some have submitted; they must submit before May 29.”
On how the CCB verifies the assets declared by the affected officials, the source said the Bank Verification Numbers would expose their bank account details.
The state Director of the bureau, Olusegun Rabiu, could not be reached for comment as he was unavailable.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Augustine Alegeh, said assets declaration was usually “part of the taking over processes.”
“Before swearing-in, there are protocols that are supposed to be sealed and signed. It is submitted and the high court signs before swearing in alongside other documents like the certificate of return,’’ he explained.
Adam Osikwe, SAN, said the elected officials must declare their assets before taking the oath of office as enshrined in the constitution.
He said, “The constitution says before they take their oath of office and oath of allegiance; before they assume the function of that office. The focus should be that an elected official is expected to declare his assets upon assumption and after four years.’’
Osikwe observed that there were some loopholes in the CCB framework, noting that the public officials could acquire properties, while in office and sell them without declaring them.
On his part, a prominent lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, noted that it was a stipulation of the law for public officials to declare their assets before they assumed office and when exiting.
“Before they are sworn into office, they are expected to declare their assets. And it is logical. Apart from the fact that it is the stipulation of the law, it goes both ways. When they are leaving office, they also declare their assets so that the assets they have acquired in the intervening period between the time they went into the office and the time they left can be compared.”
“But invariably, it is after they have taken office that the CCB is then supposed to go around to check the assets to ensure that what is declared is in tandem with what is owned,” the lawyer stated.
He, however, expressed doubts about CCB’s capacity to verify the assets in record time.
“But part of the problem has been whether the CCB has the requisite capacity to conduct such investigations in record time, particularly given the diversity of Nigeria, and how far-flung property and assets declared could be,” he concluded.
‘Make assets public’
Meanwhile, civil society groups and political parties have asked Tinubu and Shettima to declare their assets publicly in demonstration of the president-elect’s vow to tackle corruption and enshrine transparency in the public sector.
Recall that in 2015, President Buhari publicly declared his assets and urged other officials to do so too.
Following the example of his principal, Osinbajo declared $1.4m, a four-bedroom residence, a three-bedroom flat, a two-bedroom flat and a two-bedroom mortgaged property in Bedford, United Kingdom.
But Buhari did not declare his assets in 2019 when he won a second term as his media handlers insisted that public declaration of assets was voluntary.
Chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group, Auwal Rafsanjani, urged the President-elect to urgently declare his assets in the interest of accountability and transparency in governance.
He added that the public declaration of assets by Tinubu and his deputy would compel other public officials and appointees of the incoming administration to do the same.
Similarly, the Executive Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, urged the President-elect to make a public declaration of his assets “for probity reasons”, noting that a public declaration would help to build trust with Nigerians.
She added, “Though Buhari promised to make a public declaration of his assets, he never published it. He published a summary after so much back and forth. But it will be good and at the CDD, we will insist that for probity reasons, to build trust with Nigeria, the incoming President should ensure that he makes a public declaration of his assets, so that Nigerians can have an idea, can know what exactly he owns, and by the time he leaves, they can judge him based on that. It is part of the transparency and accountability process.’’
The Executive Director of YouthHub Africa, Rotimi Olawale, said although the declaration of assets was a norm for public officials, it was important for the incoming administration to do so publicly.
A leading member of the PDP legal team in the Presidential Election Petition Court, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, asked the ex-Lagos State governor to lead by example, saying “Tinubu should declare his assets publicly to assure Nigerians that he has no skeletons in his cupboard.”
On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of the Young Progressives Party, Egbeola Wale-Martins, said, “As a matter of morality, we admonish the President-elect to make his asset declaration public. When this is done, it will be one of several steps that will help to firm up the confidence of Nigerians in his administration’s seriousness to ensure transparency and probity in governance.
“However, if he decides not to make it public, it is within his rights and the YPP may or may not challenge him to do so as the only thing that is important to us as a party is how to hold his government accountable to ensure dividends of democracy and see how the country can be rescued from the current socio-economic quagmire.”
In his contribution, the National Publicity Secretary of the Social Democratic Party, Rufus Aiyenigba, also enjoined the President-elect to let Nigerians know his worth by making his assets declaration forms public.
“The law requires public officers to declare their assets but the incoming president can take a step further by doing so publicly. This will help deepen transparency in the public sector,’’ he argued.
The National Chairman of the African Action Alliance, Omoyele Sowore, told our correspondent that unless asset declaration was made public and part of the Electoral Act, nothing good would come from the current system.
“Declaration, as it is done today, is a hoax because the Code of Conduct Bureau is not a reliable organisation. The way to declare assets is to make those declarations public so that they can allow and survive public scrutiny. Assets declaration should have been part of the electoral contest,” he said.
APC backs CCB
The Director of Publicity for APC, Bala Ibrahim, didn’t see anything strange in whether the President-elect and his deputy declared their assets publicly.
According to him, the two former governors are not ‘newcomers’ to laws and issues related to governance.
He said, “The President-elect and the VP-elect were two-term governors. Of course, they know the statutory requirement for taking the oath of office. The two know they have to comply and declare their assets.
“They are not newcomers. They have to account for what they have since it is mandatory. They will do it at the Code of Conduct Bureau. I am assuring you they must have prepared for it. After all, they didn’t win the election by fluke.”
When asked if Tinubu would make his declared assets public as Buhari did, a former Director of Media and Publicity for the dissolved Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, simply asked, “Why not? It is a tradition. We will go by it. Asiwaju will declare his assets. There is nothing wrong with that. Don’t forget there is a Code of Conduct form where you have to fill in your assets and declare whatever you have before you assume office. So we will comply with the law.”
On his part, the Legal Director of the dissolved Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Babatunde Ogala, confirmed that the President-elect would do the needful in line with the law.
He said, “We will do everything in compliance with the provision of the law.”
When asked if the President-elect would equally be willing to declare his assets publicly, Ogala asked, “Does the law say so? We will comply with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I can assure you that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu will do everything in compliance with the extant provisions of the law as it stands today,” he stated.