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First year anniversary: ‘It is time to publish your assets’, SERAP tells Tinubu

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Bola Tinubu to “use the anniversary of your first year in office as an opportunity to demonstrate your oft-expressed commitment to democracy, accountability, and openness in government by immediately publishing your asset declaration form.”

 

SERAP urged him “to encourage your Vice-President Kashim Shettima, ministers, and state governors to also widely publish their asset declaration forms.”

 

SERAP also urged him “to urgently propose a constitutional amendment to include provisions on the creation of asset declaration databases to publish government officials’ asset declaration forms before, during, and after serving in public office.”

 

In the open letter dated 25 May 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Widely publishing your asset declaration form and encouraging your Vice-President, ministers, and state governors to also widely publish their assets would serve legitimate public interests.”

 

SERAP said: “publishing your asset declaration form and encouraging others to do so would also promote public trust and establish a system of transparency, accountability and public participation.”

 

According to SERAP, “Openness and transparency in the details of asset declaration forms of high-level public officials would strengthen the country’s democracy and promote accountability at all levels of government.

 

The letter, read in part: “You promised in your inaugural speech on May 29, 2023 ‘to take proactive steps to discourage corruption’, and to ensure that ‘Nigeria is impartially governed according to the constitution and the rule of law’.”

 

“We urge you to use your first anniversary in office as an important opportunity to underscore and reaffirm your oft-repeated commitment to democratic governance, openness and public accountability by immediately taking concrete steps to implement the proposed recommendations.”

 

“Transparency in the details of asset declaration forms would also enable Nigerians to scrutinise the forms and verify the financial situation of public officials and alert about possible conflicts of interest and corruption.”

 

“Asset declaration forms are a matter of public interest and your government ought to provide the leadership and encourage other high-ranking public officials to harness new technologies to publish the details of their asset declaration forms online and make the forms readily available to the public.”

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“Corruption is one the greatest challenges to improving the country’s democracy and rebuilding a transparent, accountable and participatory system of governance. One way that corrupt politicians in the country have perpetuated corrupt practices is through hiding assets.”

 

“Transparency and openness would also increase public confidence in the integrity of high-ranking public officials and government generally, and ensure that political authorities are honest when they provide services to people.”

 

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended]; and Nigeria’s international anticorruption and human rights obligations.”

 

“Information regarding the property and economic interests of public officials ought to be accessible to the public through a website created for this purpose.”

 

“Transparency in the details of asset declaration forms of high-level public officials would also promote citizens’ participation in the fight against corruption which in turn would increase the transparency of public administration and the citizens’ trust in the integrity of state institutions.”

 

“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 the people 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.”

 

“Publishing your asset declaration form and encouraging your Vice-President, ministers and state governors to also widely publish their asset declaration forms would enable Nigerians to scrutinize the assets and worth of public officials before taking office and at the end of their term of office.”

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“Publishing your asset declaration form and encouraging your Vice-President, ministers and state governors to also widely publish their asset declaration forms would also send a powerful message of your commitment to uphold the country’s constitutional guarantees and international obligations.”

 

“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.”

 

“Paragraph 11(1)(a)(b) of the Fifth Schedule provides that every public officer shall immediately after taking office and thereafter (a) at the end of every four years; and (b) at the end of his/her term of office, submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets, and liabilities and those of his unmarried children under the age of eighteen years.”

 

“Section 15(1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Tribunal Act also requires all public officers to declare their assets.”

 

“Article 7(1) of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Articles 7(4) and 8(5) of the UN Convention against Corruption also contain similar provisions and requirements for public officials to declare their assets before, during, and after serving in public office.”

 

“The Nigerian Constitution and the anticorruption 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.”

 

“Section 109 of the Evidence Act defines a public document to include documents forming the acts or records of the acts of public officers. Asset declaration forms kept with the Code of Conduct Bureau therefore qualify as public documents under section 109.”

 

“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your steps in taking steps to publish your asset declaration form and to encourage others to do so.”

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