A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, has asked the President Muhammadu Buhari and the Vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to publicly declare their current assets.
This was contained a statement signed by Falana and circulated by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project.
It will be recalled that SERAP had demanded that Buhari, Osinbajo, and 36 state governors and their deputies publicly declare any updates on their asset declarations submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
Falana faulted the President’s claim for not declaring his assets, saying it contradicted the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
He said, “The Presidency has claimed that there is no law in Nigeria mandating President Buhari to declare his assets publicly. With due respect, this cannot be the correct position of our law.
“As far as the law is concerned, the word ‘declaration’ means ‘a formal statement, proclamation, or announcement, especially embodied in an instrument.’
“The combined effect of the Constitution, FoI Act and the African Charter is that all public officials ought to voluntarily announce publicly their asset declarations even without prompting from civil society groups like SERAP.
“In the alternative, the Code of Conduct Bureau is bound by law to make them available to members of the public, pursuant to section 1 of the FoI Act.
“In fact, the law contemplated by the Constitution to make asset declarations of public officials public is the FoI Act. With the FoI Act, there is no longer secrecy in government, including in the asset declarations made by all public officials.
“Even private citizens can no longer insist on secrecy as they are now required by official policies to register their biometric data for the purpose of acquiring international passports, telephone lines and opening of bank accounts.
“The Bank Verification Number commonly called BVN – a biometric identification system implemented by the Buhari administration–has ended secrecy of bank accounts, thereby curbing illegal banking transactions in Nigeria.
“I, therefore, urge President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo to show strong leadership by immediately acceding to the FoI requests by SERAP and publicly announce any updates on their asset declarations already made public in 2015.
“This will end the secrecy that continues to surround asset declarations in Nigeria. The secrecy has over the years been used to hide corruptly stolen assets, which has continued to cause untold misery for millions of Nigerians.”