Publish your assets, SERAP tells Buhari, Osinbajo, others

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to publish his asset declaration form as he concludes his term in May 2023 and thereby, bequeath a legacy of transparency.

It also asked him to encourage Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and high-ranking officials of the next administration to follow suit.

According to the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, contained in Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), all public officers are to declare their assets immediately after taking office; at the end of every four years; and at the end of their term in office.

In an open letter, dated April 15, 2023, and signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Publishing your asset declaration form and encouraging other public officials and officials of the next administration to do so would enable Nigerians to scrutinise the assets and worth of public officials before taking office and at the end of their term of office.

“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 Nigerians, regarding the details of their asset declaration forms.”

According to the body, asset declaration forms are public documents and public officials cannot claim that publishing their assets will 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.

SERAP further urged Buhari to emulate the good example of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who, consistently, published his asset declaration forms as president and governor of Katsina State.

It said: “He also planned legislative reform to make it mandatory for all public officers to declare their assets publicly. He believed that publishing his assets would put pressure on other public officers to do so.

“Publishing your asset declaration form and encouraging other public officials and the officials of the next administration to do so would also send a powerful message of your commitment to uphold the country’s constitutional guarantees and international obligations.

“It would also show that you are ready to do what is needed to leave a legacy of transparency and accountability.

“Apart from encouraging other officials and the officials of the next administration to publish their asset declaration forms, publishing your asset declaration form, widely, would also address allegations that many officials tend to make false declarations, to cover up assets illegally acquired in corruption or abuse of office.”

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