CCB Refuses to Disclose Details of Buhari’s Assets to SERAP

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President Muhammadu Buhari

•Text Box: Agency’s reasons illogical, says Falana

Davidson Iriekpen

The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has stated that it cannot disclose the details of President Muhammadu Buhari’s assets.

This is coming as a human rights lawyer, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana has condemned the CCB for its refusal to grant a FoI request by SERAP on the grounds that asset declaration form is private information.

CCB made its position known in its response to a freedom of information (FoI) request by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), seeking a disclosure of assets declaration submitted by successive presidents and governors from 1999 till date.

In its FoI request, SERAP had asked the CCB to provide “details of declarations made immediately after taking offices and thereafter, and for those who have left public offices, at the end of their term of office.”

SERAP also wanted the CCB to make public, “information on the number of asset declarations so far verified by the CCB and the number of those declarations found to be false and deemed to be in breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, by the bureau.”

But in a letter signed by Musa Usman, on behalf of CCB chairman, the bureau said the request “falls short of the requirement of the law” saying the information requested cannot be provided on the grounds of “invasion of privacy”.

“Section 12(1)(a)(4)(a)(b) exempt production of information relating to investigation for the purposes of law enforcement and such investigation must have been carried out pursuant to an Act or regulation. Verification is investigation carried out pursuant to Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act for the purposes of law enforcement.

“Referring breaches of the Code of Conduct for public officers to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for prosecution is a matter of discretion of the bureau and not a matter of FOI.

“Consequently, I am further directed to convey to you that the request in SERAP’s application for information on details of asset declarations by presidents and state governors since the return of democracy in 1999 is hereby denied on the grounds that it falls short of the requirement of the law,” CCB explained.

Reacting, SERAP’s Deputy Director,

Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, said the civil society organisation will challenge the decision of the CCB at the court, insisting that “declaration forms are public information, and not private information.”

Meanwhile, human rights lawyer, Falana, has condemned the CCB for its refusal to grant a FoI request by SERAP.

Speaking in Kano in a keynote address titled ‘Involvement of Nigerian people in the fight against corruption, delivered at Stakeholders Dialogue on Corruption in Nigeria organised by ActionAid Nigeria, Falana described the grounds as “illogical.”

He argued that by not disclosing the assets of the president, the federal government has failed to show commitment to the fight against corruption by encouraging secrecy with respect to asset declaration by public officers.

He said, “With respect, it is illogical to claim that the asset declaration forms submitted by the erstwhile public officers are private documents. Accordingly, the rejection of the request by SERAP is a contravention of section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

“It is hoped that the CCB will review its position and allow citizens to access the information in the declaration forms submitted to it by all public officers in view of the new policy of the Buhari administration to enforce effective asset declaration by public office holders.”

Falana’s paper read in part: “It is an undeniable fact that the progressive withdrawal of subsidies from social services by the State which is a key component of the IMF/World Bank sponsored Structural Adjustment Programme has led to mass poverty in the land.”