22 July 2011

Nigeria: Jonathan Should Publicly Declare Assets


Barely 48 hours after taking his oath of office, the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua publicly declared his assets. His then deputy, Goodluck Jonathan followed suit. The acts underscored the credibility and openness with which that administration took off. It was also saluted for its uncommon patriotism and courage.

President Jonathan has stridently aligned his government with Yar'Adua's. It is therefore confounding that the new government has shirked this attribute by not publicly declaring assets as was done four years ago, almost two months after inauguration.

Many however contend that it took public outcry and pressure lasting over three weeks for Jonathan to declare his assets valued at N295, 304,420. The issue becomes curious as the President (Jonathan) had said then while he was publicly declaring his assets because there was "nothing to hide."

He added that, "In the affairs of men, there comes a time when even the law must take a second place, and the public mood must define our actions." It remains to be seen why such effortless act of patriotism has been jettisoned unlike when he forwarded a copy of his declaration of assets for publication on August 8, 2007.

According to the 11th Code of Conduct Bureau's handbook for Public Officers, (1): "Every public officer shall within three months after taking office and thereafter: (a) at the end of every four years; and (b) at the end of the term of office: submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a declaration of all his properties, assets and liabilities and those of his spouse, or unmarried children under the age of 21 years."

The law also adds that: (2): "Any statement in such declaration that is found to be false by any authority or person authorised in that behalf to verify it shall be deemed to be a breach of this code; (3): Any property or assets acquired by a public officer after any declaration under this constitution and which is not fairly attributable by sub-paragraph (1) (a) of a gift or loan approved by the code, shall be deemed to have been acquired in breach of this code unless the contrary is proved."

Although the constitution is silent on whether the assets declared be made public or not, many problems have trailed the silence of the presidency on assets declared to the Bureau. Could it have been exaggerated or are there corrupt officers who would want to profit from the hoarding of information that should be within the public domain within his retinue of aides.

For a President that has promised transformation, attitude, perception and value re-orientation this should matter. The only excuse for not declaring publicly assets now would perhaps be that unlike in 2007, there is now something to hide. He needs to disabuse the mind of the people and account for his last four years in office for other public office holders to take their cue from.

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