Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has denied two civil society organisations access to the written asset declarations of current and past elected and appointed public officers brought under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011.
This was contained in a joint statement issued by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) and the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC).
They said in their concerted effort at advocating for increased transparent and accountable governance in Nigeria’s public service, two organisations submitted Freedom of Information requests to the CCB, for written declaration of assets of elected and appointed political office holders including the declaration made by President Muhammadu Buhari and his Deputy, Yemi Osinbajo.
In an FOI request dated January 18, 2017, and signed by Godwin Onyeacholem, AFRICIMIL requested for copies of written asset declaration of:
The past and current Principal Officers of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) in Nigeria, since 2011 till date, upon their assumption of office and exiting office, as required by the 1999 Constitution.
PPDC in an FOI request dated February 2, 2017, signed by its Chief Operating Officer, Ilo Nkemdilim, requested for copies of written asset declaration of:
The past and current governors of the 36 states in Nigeria, since 2011 till date, upon their assumption of office and exiting office, as required by the constitution.
It also requested for the assets declarations of past and current ministers since 2011 till date upon their assumption and exiting office.
In another FOI request dated February 6, 2017, the PPDC requested for copies of the written asset declaration of: the former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, upon assumption of office on May 29, 2011, and after his exit from office; on May 29, 2015; the former Vice President of Nigeria, Namadi Sambo, upon assumption of office on May 29, 2011, and after his exit from office as vice president, on May 29, 2015.
It equally asked for the assets declaration made by President Buhari, upon assumption of office as president, on May 29, 2015 and his deputy, Osibanjo upon assumption of office as vice president on May 29, 2015.
The groups noted that it was the sole responsibility of the CCB to ensure that all public officers declare their assets at the beginning and the end of their tenure in office.
They said: “It is also their responsibility to ensure that the assets declared are verified to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law and also to establish possible cases of misconduct or corrupt enrichment, with a view to ensuring such culprits face the full wrath of the law.
“It is also the constitutional responsibility of the bureau to retain custody of such written asset declaration forms and make them available and accessible for inspection by any citizen of Nigeria on such terms and conditions as the National Assembly may prescribe.”
The groups further contended that by enacting the FOI Act, 2011, the sevent National Assembly gave effect to the constitutionally guaranteed right of the public to access public documents held by public institutions and relevant private entities in Nigeria and this includes asset declaration forms of public officials, which are public documents within the meaning of the FoI Act, 2011.