Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged 35 state governors in Nigeria to “emulate the shining example of Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, who recently openly declared his assets, by publishing without further delay the full details of their asset declarations submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
SERAP said: “Nigerians ought to know the worth of their state governors. The publication of asset declarations by state governors will improve transparency, accountability and good governance and assure the public that neither fraud nor illicit enrichment is concealed. Knowing the worth of state governors before and after taking offices would also prevent rumours, half-truths or innuendo regarding asset declarations.”
According to the assets declaration form marked OYSE/2019/001, and submitted to the CCB and made public this month, Mr Makinde’s worth is put at about N50 billion – his firms are worth up to N48.1 billion; shares, cash and portfolios make up the rest.
In a statement today by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Public officials cannot lay claim to absolute privacy in matters of asset declarations. There is an overriding public interest in the disclosure of information on the assets of public officials, including state governors, who are trustees of Nigeria’s wealth and resources. There is nothing inherently private in the affairs of governors, and we will consider appropriate legal action if state governors continue to fail or refuse to publish their asset declarations.”
SERAP said: “Continuing failure or reluctance by many state governors to publish their asset declarations submitted to the CCB may lead to public perception that the governors are attempting to hide something from the citizens regarding those declarations, especially given the fact that many of the public officials being tried for or convicted of corruption are found to have made a false declaration of their assets.”
The organization also urged the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to “use his leadership position and good offices to encourage all the members of NGF who have not yet done so to declare their assets and to publish their declarations submitted to the CCB without delay. The NGF can play a positive role in encouraging greater transparency in asset declarations by governors.”
The statement read in part: “As fiduciaries and trustees of the public weal, state governors are under an inescapable obligation to serve the public with highest fidelity and openness. In discharging the duties of their office, they are required to display good faith, honesty and integrity. They must be impervious to corrupting influences and they must transact their business frankly and openly in the light of public scrutiny so that the public may know and be able to judge them and their work fairly.
“Transparency in asset declarations is needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed. Publishing the asset declarations by governors would help address the high level of public distrust and dissatisfaction with spending of security votes by state governors, enable closer relations between state governors and the public, and secure the confidence of the citizens in their governments.
“The prevailing distrust of bureaucracy and government officials has given Nigerians the desire to keep a tight rein on public officials. Openness is a necessary condition of popular democratic power, a predicate for effective representative government, and an indispensable part of the everyday life of the free individual.
“Under Article 10 of the UN Convention Against Corruption, to which Nigeria is a state party, governments should take necessary measures to increase transparency in public administrations and to publish information periodically.
“SERAP notes that a fundamental objective of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) is to prevent corruption and abuse of office particularly through its provisions on the declaration of assets by public officials. Provisions on the declaration of assets by all public officials including state governors are entrenched in the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, contained in Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution.
“Every public official is required to declare his/her assets immediately after taking office and thereafter, at the end of his/her term of office, by submitting to the CCB a written declaration of his/her properties, assets and liabilities and those of his/her unmarried children under the age of 18 years.
“The asset declaration form also requires a public official to declare the assets and liabilities of his/her spouse. Any statement in such declaration that is found to be false by any authority or person authorised in that behalf to verify it is deemed to be a breach of the Code of Conduct.
“Similarly, any property or asset acquired by a public official after the declaration which is not fairly attributable to income, gift or loan approved by the Code of Conduct is deemed to have been acquired in breach of the Code unless the contrary is proved.
“The late President Umaru Yar’Adua publicly declared his assets in 2007. Kayode Fayemi also publicly declared his assets in his first tenure as Ekiti governor. Both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo tersely made public their asset declarations.”