Publish Your Assets Declaration Form, Buhari Told
Ahead of May 29 hand over date, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to publish his asset declaration form as he concludes his term of office, so as to leave a legacy of transparency.
As the African Union Anti-Corruption Champion, SERAP also asked Buhari to encourage Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and high-ranking officials of the incoming administration of the President -elect, Bola Tinubu, to also publish their assets to date.
According to the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, contained in Part I of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution [as amended], all public officers are to declare their assets immediately after taking office; at the end of every four years; and at the end of his/her term of office.
In an open letter dated April 15, 2023 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization told the president that publishing his asset declaration form and encouraging other public officials and officials of the next administration to do so would enable Nigerians to scrutinize the assets and worth of public officials before taking office and at the end of their term of office.
SERAP aveered that those who voluntarily seek or occupy public offices and are catered for by the public have certain fiduciary duties to be open, transparent, and accountable to Nigerians regarding the details of their asset declaration forms.
According to SERAP, because asset declaration forms are public documents, public officials cannot claim that publishing their assets would violate their privacy rights, adding that there is an overriding public interest in the disclosure of information on the assets of public officers who clearly are trustees of Nigeria’s wealth and resources.
The letter, read in part: “SERAP urges you to emulate the good example of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who consistently published his asset declaration forms as president and governor of Katsina State.”
“He also planned legislative reform to make it mandatory for all public officers to declare their assets publicly. He believed that publishing his assets would put pressure on other public officers to do so.”
“Publishing your asset declaration form and encouraging other public officials and the officials of the next administration to do so would also send a powerful message of your commitment to uphold the country’s constitutional guarantees and international obligations.”
“It would also show that you are ready to do what is needed to leave a legacy of transparency and accountability.”
“Apart from encouraging other officials and the officials of the next administration to publish their asset declaration forms, publishing your asset declaration form widely would also address allegations that many officials tend to make false declarations in order to cover up assets illegally acquired in corruption or abuse of office.”
“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended]; the Freedom of Information Act; the UN Convention against Corruption; African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to Nigeria is a state party.”