President Muhammadu Buhari while on a one-day working visit to Ghana has reiterated the fact that governors, ministers and top civil servants must declare their assets.
The president, who had last week made public his assets, alongside those of his vice, said it was “imperative” for elected public officials and top civil servants in the category of permanent secretaries to declare their assets too, as it was a constitutional obligation. He said this in Accra, Ghana, yesterday where he had gone on a one-day working visit, while responding to a question from the Ghanaian press during a joint press conference with President John Dramani Mahama after bilateral talks at the Peduase Lodge in Aburi.
The Nigerian leader was quick to point out that declaration of assets was a constitutional procedure and called other African leaders to emulate him by making assets declaration a priority in governance, saying he had done such four times since 1975 that he had served the country in various capacities. In his words:
“I recall that in 1975 when late Murtala Mohammed became the Head of State, we were lined up in the corridor – Governors, ministers, members of the Supreme Military Council – and officials of the Ministry of Justice were brought and every individual was made to declare his assets.
“So right now, all heads of state and government, governors, ministers, permanent secretaries will have to declare their assets because it is a constitutional requirement.
“In Nigeria, it is a constitutional issue and that is why I am blaming you gentlemen of the press. If you really want to do investigative journalism, you don’t have to worry me at this stage; I have declared my assets four times.
“When I was governor in 1975, I declared. After being Minister of Petroleum and as a member of Supreme Military Council, I declared. When I was Head of State and now as a President, I also declared.
“I have declared my assets and all that I have four times, and you (the media) have the right to go and demand for my declaration. Instead, I am being harassed,” he said.
In the light of PMB’s insistence that all public office holder should declare their assets publicly, Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna central, APC) on Friday declared as his assets. According to him, he is worth four residential houses in Kaduna, two uncompleted office complexes, two inherited family houses in Kurfi, Katsina state and Minna, Niger state and one residential house in Abuja. He also declared that he has N22 million in his bank account. He is the only only legislator, out of the 469 federal legislators that has complied with the idea of asset declaration which has made him attract the ire of his colleagues.
In a phone interview, he said: “Some of my colleagues are not happy over it but I don’t care because I did it as President Buhari has set a moral standard for all elected office holders and secondly, there is need for every one of us to come clean as regards the suspicion and distrust between the government and the governed.
“The constitution makes it optional for elected office holders. If you so wish you can make it public or you do it secretly but the secret declaration has been abused over the years. Public declaration does not make one a saint but it affords the public to know the worth of their leaders. I urge all lawmakers in Nigeria to toe this line of honour. It’s better to be pelted for disclosing than to be cursed for not disclosing,” he said.
However, other legislators insist that the constitution does not make it mandatory for public office holders to go public with their assets after the statutory (secret) declaration with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
The spokesperson of the Senate, Dino Melaye said Nigerians should watch out for his own public declaration of his assets as he insists there is nothing to hide. He said:
“Making asset declaration public is personal and Senators can only make their public individually. I can speak for Senators on this. I cannot compel any Senator to declare his or asset but it is a great thing that people are making their asset public and I support it. Watch out for my own too because there is nothing to hide.”
Speaking to the governors, only governor Abubakar of Jigawa state agreed that he will follow the president and vice president’s steps in publicly declaring his assets. Other governors spoken to, both APC and PDP governors, refused to confirm if they will do likewise. Some of them which include, Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara).
According to the Vanguard, Mr. Gbade Ojo, the spokesperson to the Oyo state governor, Abiola Ajimobi said that the “declaration of assets is a constitutional matter that all civil servants must do. The Code of Conduct Act makes it mandatory for all civil servants to do so. But the Act does not make it compulsory that it is done publicly.
“In 2011, when Governor Abiola Ajimobi was sworn in as the governor of the state, he declared his assets and since he is a re-elected governor, he doesn’t have to do it again. The media can go through the Code of Conduct Bureau to access it.
“As for President Buhari and his Vice, Professor Osinbajo, they are newly elected. So, that is why they have done it as required by the constitution.
“As for me, I have also declared my assets but not publicly and since there is Freedom of Information Act, the media can go and access it to know whether what I have declared is correct or not,” he concluded.