Many Public Officials Not Complying with Asset Declaration Law, CCB Alleges

The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has alleged that the level of compliance with the declaration of assets by public office holders in the country is not encouraging.

The Chairman of the bureau, Mohammed Isah, disclosed this when he featured on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.

According to him, even though there is an improvement from what it used to be in time past, there is a need for all public officers to know that they are duty-bound to declare their assets.

“What we met that used to be the level of compliance has now risen to a certain level, the nature of the subject that we are expected to cover is too wide.

“Under part two of the fifth schedule of the 1999 constitution provides that from the President, Vice President, Governors, Deputy Governors, members of the National Assembly, members of House of Assembly, ministers, commissioners and all chairmen of all parastatals and agencies of federal and state governments, military, police, immigration, customs, prisons, political office holders and all federal, states and local government civil servants all of them are public officers.

“And, our main predicament is the issue of enlightenment. People have little or no knowledge about their obligations or relations to compliance with the Code of Conduct for public officers.

“So, the level of compliance is not encouraging at all,’’ he said.

On the issue of accessing information as declared by public officers, the chairman noted that the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act provides that an individual, such as a private person, would be given access to such document.

“If anybody wishes to access information as declared by a public officer in the custody of the bureau, the law has laid down conditions precedent for that particular individual as a private person to access that information.

“The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) is very clear and is very explicit in relation to this.

“And, paragraph three of the third schedule of the constitution as well as the CCB and CCT Act provides that it is the national assembly that will give out the guidelines for accessing the information that is in custody of the bureau of declarant and those guidelines are still much in place.

“So, if anybody as a private person or private organisation wants to access asset declaration or information contained in asset declaration of any public officer, those conditions laid down by FOI Act must be fulfilled,” Isah said.

He also called on employees to be diligent in the discharge of their duties to enable the bureau to excel in its fight against corruption.

He noted that the bureau had been neglected in recent past due to its non-performance. He, however, charged the employees to be performance-driven.

The chairman said reforms, especially in the investigation department, as well as retreats, have been introduced as part of efforts to repositioning the organisation.

According to him, a thorough investigation about any alleged corrupt public officer is needed for the bureau to win any case brought before the court.

“The success or failure of every trial is as a result of the investigation conducted.

“As we came in, we introduced some reforms in our investigation department and I believe every case we take to court, we are taking it with assurance that we are going to win.

“Because, we are not going to leave any stone unturned and we have had a retreat in May with all our state directors, board members and directors as well as some of our staff members.

“We reiterated our position as the board to everybody that it is no longer business as usual.

“The bureau was neglected because of its non-performance and we are not here to fail.

“We are here to achieve and make the bureau better than we met it.

“So, in the next few days, the turnout in terms of the success of our cases in court will be very impressive,’’ Isah said.

Isah said the bureau remains independent and not under government’s interference in its anti-corruption crusade.

He noted that for any anti-corruption agency to curb the menace of corruption in the country, such an organisation must be neutral with no interference from the government and its agencies.

“CCB is very much independent as Section 158 subsection one of the constitution is very clear on this.

“That CCB is not subject to any power or authority in discharging its mandate.

“This is the decision reached by the supreme court in 2018 in the case of Bukola Saraki versus FRN. Therefore, we are independent, we are neutral.

“We are neutral, but the type of independence of CCB is away from the government even though we receive subvention from the government.

“Our staff are paid salaries by the government, so we don’t have any independence of our own money.

However, I am not trying to tell you that he who pays the piper dictates the tune.

“The independence is for us to discharge our duty; no pressure at all from anybody,” Isah said.

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