ABUJA – The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has explained why it cannot make public the asset declarations of the Nigerian President and other public office holders, explaining that it lacks the power to do so.
CCB’s excuse is contained in the notice of appearance and written address opposing the suit by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) filed on its behalf by Musa Ibrahim Usman and Fatima Danjuma Ali.
CCB says in documents sighted by News Express: “The asset declaration forms of the Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Senate Presidents, Speakers of the House of Representatives, State Governors and Deputy Governors since the return of democracy in 1999 to 2019 are in the custody of the CCB. But the public officials have not consented to the disclosure of their asset declarations forms.”
The CCB’s response dated 14 October, 2019, reads in part: “The CCB is not obligated to submit assets declaration forms to any person. The forms are not publicly available. SERAP has not shown that it is in the public interest to disclose the information nor that such public interest outweighs the protection of the privacy of the Presidents, Vice Presidents, Senate Presidents, Speakers of the House of Representatives, State Governors and Deputy Governors since 1999 to 2019.
“Asset declaration forms contain personal information about President and Ministers about them and their properties, assets and liabilities and those of their wives/husbands and their children who are under the age of 18 years.
“CCB is not obligated to make available information relating to verification, which is an investigation activity to any citizen or institution.
“The provisions of Freedom of Information Act relating to release of asset declaration forms is in open confrontation with the constitution of Nigeria and therefore void. The constitution is the supreme law of the land and any law that is inconsistent with it shall to that extent be null and void.
“The power of the CCB to refer suspects to the Code of Conduct Tribunal is discretionary and the courts are circumspect in granting mandamus in respect of discretionary powers and in the circumstances of the case SERAP has an alternative and effective legal remedy. This renders SERAP’s case incompetent.
“SERAP ought to have asked the CCB to investigate allegations of non-compliance with the Code of Conduct and where appropriate refer the matter to the Tribunal for prosecution. SERAP has failed to show that it has sufficient legal interest in the matter.
“Asset declaration forms are special documents that have been exempted by section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act.
“CCB can only make the forms available on the terms and conditions to be prescribed by the National Assembly. Those terms and conditions are yet to be prescribed.” (News Express)