Peterclaver Egbochue writes on the seeming reneging of President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo from their promises to publicly declare their assets upon assumption of office
Although, President Muhammadu Buhari, has just taken oath of office, Nigerians expect that he would match his campaign promises with action as soon as possible.
In the build-up to the just concluded general elections, Buhari had said that he would publicly declare his assets and liabilities on assumption of office if voted into power.
In fact, he declared this in a document, which highlighted what he would do in his first 100 days in office if he assumed power on May 29.
He also said he would encourage political appointees in his administration to also declare their assets publicly.
The Nigerian Constitution states in Chapter VI Section 140 that a person elected to the Office of the President shall not begin to perform the functions of that office until he has declared his assets and liabilities as prescribed in the Constitution.
Perhaps, in keeping with this constitutional provision, Buhari and his Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo, declared their assets secretly whereas the former promised to encourage all political appointees to make public their assets declaration.
According to the head of Buhari’s media team, Garba Shehu, in a statement on Saturday, the President and the Vice President submitted their assets declaration forms separately on Thursday.
Shehu added that the CCB, through its Chairman, Sam Saba, on Friday acknowledged the receipt of the forms.
He gave Buhari’s declaration identity number as “President: 000001/2015.”
“By declaring their assets, President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo may have not only fulfilled the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, but also fulfilled the first of their many campaign promises. While seeking election into the highest office in the land, the President had promised Nigerians that he would publicly declare his assets as soon as he took over government,” he wrote.
Though the president’s aide believes the declaration was in fulfillment of Buhari’s campaign promises, political watchers argue that the President had not done anything spectacular because the contents were not made public as a president who wants to run a transparent government would have done.
It would be recalled that late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, made public “photocopies of his duly completed assets declaration form thus becoming the first by any of Nigeria’s former presidents since independence in 1960.
As expected, the development has elicited reactions from groups and individuals urging them to make their declarations public to show transparency in leadership.
On his part, human rights activist, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, urged Buhari to declare his assets publicly in conformity with his campaign promises of breaking away from the old order. He reminded Buhari that Nigerians now have a long memory and would watch him closely.
“I think President Buhari should realize that all the promises he made with his party, the APC constitute a check list that Nigerians are keeping closely with a biro at hand ready to tick either performed or not performed. I wouldn’t want to believe that some of the promises he made were empty words customized to get votes from Nigerians and then refrains from them later,” he stated.
Similarly, a human rights group, “The Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ), has joined other Nigerians to charge President Buhari and his Vice, Osinbajo that their “Open-Secret Assets” declaration were not acceptable to the people of Nigeria.
The group, in a statement signed by its Executive Chairman, Comrade Adeniyi Sulaiman, stressed that the method of their recent asset declaration were far from their early promise made during the electioneering campaign that they would declare their assets openly after assuming office.
The rights group also urged the President Buhari to set an example through an open asset declaration and ensure that every appointee in his government declares their assets immediately in such a way that could be verifiable by the Nigeria populace. He observed that asset declaration by the President and Vice-President was beyond filing of forms alone.
The group insisted that Buhari and Osinbajo should make the content of their assets declaration known to the public, adding that Nigeria should be carried along in the governance of this country from the beginning to the end.
Comrade Sulaiman maintained that secret declaration of their assets would not speak well for the new administration’s anti-corruption mantra.
Sulaiman called on the President and his Vice to direct the Code of Conduct Bureau to make the contents of the forms of assets declaration submitted to the Bureau open without further delay.
His words, ”President Muhammadu Buhari, and Prof. Yemi Oshinbajo, should know that failure to make their assets declaration open to the public did not keep faith with their electioneering campaign promises and this will give the people the reason to begin to suspect them subsequently.
“It is better for this administration to watch all its previous campaign promises made during the electioneering campaign and be sure of enormous tasks before the administration. The tasks before the administration are beyond being rhetoric.”
For Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Lagos based lawyer, the declaration was contrary to their solemn promises that they made openly and willingly to Nigerians, in the course of their campaigns.
The lawyer, in a statement issued on Sunday said, “it is indeed unfortunate and too early for Buhari, to be turning against the solemn promises he made to Nigerians.
He argued that it’s not enough for the president to declare his asset with the Code of Conduct Bureau, but to further make the content of the assets public.
He argued that the only thing that would make Buhari not to declare his assets publicly now, was that he wants to shield others who are to work with him, who probably have so many skeletons in their cupboards, that they can’t afford to share with Nigerians.
His words, “It is thus gratifying to note that the General has declared his assets, with the code of conduct bureau, but he has to go a step further than that, by making the contents of such declarations public. He will not be the first President to do that; Yar’ Adua did it, Jonathan once did it, when he was still in tune with Nigerians, at the early stage of his public life.
“Government is run on trust and integrity; and this was one of the selling points for Buhari during his campaign, when he made a solemn covenant with Nigerians. There is no reason to turn away from that path of honor, which he has promised Nigerians.
“The only thing that will make Buhari not to declare his assets publicly now, is that he wants to shield others who are to work with him, who probably have so many skeletons in their cupboards, that they can’t afford to share with Nigerians. The President should be a man of his words and not go about taking Nigerians for granted so early in his regime. The assets must be declared publicly, so that all ot In a statement issued by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and signed by its executive director, Tokunbo Mumuni, it stated that this would indicate their desire and commitment to end corruption in the country.
Already, the President and Vice President have declared their assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by the Constitution but not doing so publicly in line with their promises.
Mumuni said, “We welcome the official declaration of assets by the President and Vice President. This clearly complies with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution as contained in Chapter VI Section 140. However, the declaration before the Code of Conduct alone falls far short of the commitment to publicly declare their assets.
“SERAP recalls that the President had said before the election that he would publicly declare his assets and liabilities, and encourage all his appointees to publicly declare their assets and liabilities as a pre-condition for appointment. We now expect the President to fulfill this promise to the Nigerian people. “SERAP trusts that the President and Vice President will move swiftly to publicly declare their assets and to publish widely the information on a dedicated website. Public disclosure of assets will give the general public a true picture of the assets of the President and Vice President and will send a powerful message that it is not going to be business as usual with this government .
“This will also follow the best practice by former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, boost this government’s fight against corruption and impunity of perpetrators, and fully comply with the provisions of chapter two of the dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, which among others require the government to take steps to eradicate corrupt practices and the abuse of power.”
It also called on the President to urgently take measures to seek amendment of the law relating to declaration of assets to include the requirement of public disclosure so as to bring it in line with international standards and best practices such as the UN Convention against Corruption. hers working with him will take a cue from him.”
Political watchers argue that to win the confidence of Nigerians, that Buhari should stand by his electoral promises.