Anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to compel the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to make public the content of the asset declaration form he submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
The group is seeking similar prayer against Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the 36 state governors.
SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, said the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/65/2020, was filed last Friday and it sought to compel Buhari, Osinbajo and the governors to “make public details of their assets, specifically property and income, contained in their asset declaration forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau since assuming office”.
The suit, according to Oludare, also sought “an order to compel President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to disclose whether they have received any confirmation of the verification of their asset declarations by the CCB and to disclose whether they have taken any steps to encourage members of their cabinet to also submit their asset declarations to the CCB, and to make such declarations public”.
Oludare said SERAP resorted to filing the suit after Buhari, Osinbajo and the governors allegedly spurned its January 3, 2020 Freedom of Information request.
He said, “Only two states —Lagos and Niger — have responded to SERAP’s FoI requests. But both states declined the requests to make public the assets of their governors and deputies, on the grounds that ‘the FoI Act is inapplicable to state governments, their agencies and officials, and that only Houses of Assembly of states are constitutionally empowered to make laws on public records of states’.
“Also, while reacting to SERAP FoI request to President Buhari, Mr Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, had said: ‘SERAP asking the President to declare publicly, on the basis of what law? The President will do what the law requires of him and what the law requires is that he should declare his asset which he has done. Declaring publicly is not in our laws; it can only be a voluntary thing’.”
Oludare said SERAP had expressed the concern that “the non-public disclosure by public officials of their summary of assets undermines the effectiveness and integrity of the constitutional and statutory obligations to submit asset declarations, especially given that declarations are designed to curb grand corruption, and weakens the public trust in the asset declaration regimes.”