The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to use his leadership position and role as the African Union Anti-Corruption Champion to publish his asset declaration form as his tenure in office ends in May 2023.
SERAP also called on President Buhari to encourage the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of House of the Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and high-ranking officials of the next administration to also promptly publish their assets to date.
Noting that the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, contained in Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], all public officers are to declare their assets immediately after taking office; at the end of every four years; and at the end of his/her term of office.
SERAP, in an open letter dated April 15, 2023, by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “Publishing your asset declaration form and encouraging other public officials and officials of the next administration to do so would enable Nigerians to scrutinize the assets and worth of public officials before taking office and at the end of their term of office.
“Those who voluntarily seek or occupy public offices and are catered for by the public have certain fiduciary duties to be open, transparent, and accountable to Nigerians regarding the details of their asset declaration forms.
“Because asset declaration forms are public documents, public officials cannot claim that publishing their assets would violate their privacy rights. There is an overriding public interest in the disclosure of information on the assets of public officers who clearly are trustees of Nigeria’s wealth and resources.
“SERAP urges you to emulate the good example of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who consistently published his asset declaration forms as president and governor of Katsina State.”
“He also planned legislative reform to make it mandatory for all public officers to declare their assets publicly. He believed that publishing his assets would put pressure on other public officers to do so.
“Publishing your asset declaration form and encouraging other public officials and the officials of the next administration to do so would also send a powerful message of your commitment to uphold the country’s constitutional guarantees and international obligations.
“It would also show that you are ready to do what is needed to leave a legacy of transparency and accountability.
“Apart from encouraging other officials and the officials of the next administration to publish their asset declaration forms, publishing your asset declaration form widely would also address allegations that many officials tend to make false declarations in order to cover up assets illegally acquired in corruption or abuse of office.
“According to the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, contained in Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], all public officers are to declare their assets.
“The Nigerian Constitution and the anti-corruption and human rights treaties show the significant role that asset declaration by public officials plays in promoting transparency, accountability and preventing and combating corruption in the public service.
“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your actions in taking steps to publish your asset declaration form and to encourage others to do so.”