Barely three weeks after it requested President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, thirty six governors and their deputies to present a summary of assets as contained in their asset declaration forms with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has followed up its demands with a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja for enforcement.
SERAP wanted these government officials to “make public details of their assets, specifically property and income since they assumed office.”
Mr. Femi Adesina, the special adviser on media and publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari fought back, saying that Buhari was not under compulsion by any law to declare his assets. Also, “declaring publicly is not in our laws; it can only be a voluntary thing”.
The agency’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, signed a statement seeking: “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.”
The agency believes 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”.
SERAP further stated that only two states— Lagos and Niger state, have responded to its Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.
However, it says both states declined the request to make public the assets of their governors and deputies, on the ground 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.”
SERAP, therefore, stated that it is seeking “a declaration that the failure of President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to provide the requested information on their assets constitutes a breach of SERAP’s right under the FoI Act, 2011.