The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has explained the reasons it will not disclose the assets declared by past and present Nigeria presidents since the return of democratic rule in 1999.
CCB chairman Muhammed Isah, who declined a Freedom of Information (FOI) request demanding specific details of asset declarations, said the assets declared by the leaders can only be provided at the request of the National Assembly.
"Producing such information would amount to an invasion of privacy of presidents and state governors. The asset declaration form is private information," Isah said.
The CCB chairman's statement was in response to an FOI request by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare in April. The request was for the CCB to provide details of asset declaration by successive presidents and state governors between 1999 and 2019.
SERAP also demanded details of asset declarations made immediately after taking offices and thereafter, when they are leaving the office.
But the CCB chairman explained that "Paragraph 3(c) of the 3rd Schedule to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) empowers the Bureau to retain custody of asset declaration and make them available for inspection by any citizen on such terms and conditions to be prescribed by the National Assembly. These terms and conditions are yet to be prescribed".
Isah opined that the FOI act was not the term and condition to assess the asset forms of the leaders because Sections 12(1)(v) and 14(1)(b) of the act describes the asset declaration forms as private information.
The CCB chairman, who noted that granting requests to their asset forms would be an invasion of privacy, said, "Section 12(1)(a)(4)(a)(b) exempts production of information relating to investigation for the purposes of law enforcement and such investigation must have been carried out pursuant to an Act or regulation".
In response, SERAP's Oluwadare argued that the request for contents of asset declarations by successive presidents and state governors do not amount to private information, as presidents and governors are public officers under Part II, Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution.
"SERAP is concerned that many politicians hide behind the fact that members of the public do not have access to their asset declarations to make false declarations and to cover up assets illegally acquired in corruption or abuse of office," Oluwadare said.
Oluwadare said while SERAP welcomes the judgment by the (CCT) on Justice Walter Onnoghen, he urged the CCB to extend its mandates to enforce constitutional provisions on asset declarations by public officers to cover elected officers against using positions to enrich themselves.
The FOI law guarantees the right to information within the control of public institutions to all Nigerians, regardless of age, class, or occupation. It effectively gives the 'right to know' to every Nigerian.
Section 1 of the FOI Act empowers a person to request information from a government institution provided such information is not one excluded under the Act in national interest.
Former president Goodluck Jonathan signed the FOI act into law in May 2011.