Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau Sam Saba is beginning to sound like a broken record. Saba would not speak without telling us the bureau lacks the constitutional backing to make assets declaration forms of public office holders. He said so again last Tuesday during the 2012 ministerial press briefing of the bureau. Saba is always eager to talk about the bureau’s incapacitation. I’m sick and tired of this. It was the same response he gave us when THISDAY wrote early this year to demand access to President Jonathan’s asset declaration form.
But don’t mind me, Saba is right. Section 3 Sub-section C of Part 1Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended says the bureau could only make the asset declaration form of any public office holder available to any Nigerian based on such terms and conditions as prescribed by the National Assembly.
However, what I find nauseating about Saba’s bureau is this: why continue brooding over the matter without taking any step to change the situation. Can’t the bureau take advantage of the ongoing constitution amendment process and approach the National Assembly to demand that the lawmakers list out the conditions for accessing the assets declaration forms or amending the law to make assets declaration an open affair.
By the way, (I have made this point on this page before) I expect civil society groups, the so-called pro-democracy activists and even the media to pile pressure on the National Assembly to prescribe the conditions to access the forms or even sponsor a bill before the parliament to root for open declaration of assets.
The failure to prescribe the terms and conditions for accessing the asset declaration forms conflicts against the spirit of the Freedom of Access to Information Act. Putting in place the conditions for accessing the forms or making assets declaration a public affair is one way of combating corruption by public office holders and reining on people like President Jonathan who is averse to open declaration of assets on the pretext that the constitution does not call for it.