With five days to the end of President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure, the President, Vice-President Namadi Sambo, 29 governors and 42 ministers have been asked by the Code of Conduct Bureau to declare their assets.
Also on the list of public officials who must declare their assets before leaving office are the country’s 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives.
The bureau, last week, issued the Completed Assets Declaration Forms to them with a 30-day deadline to return the completed forms. The deadline countdown starts from the day of the receipt of the forms.
Apart from the outgoing government officials, the forms have also been made available to incoming public officers, particularly members of the states and National Assembly.
The officers that will be assuming office in the incoming dispensation also have to return the completed forms within 30 days of receiving it.
The CCB, in an advertorial by its Acting Secretary, Kolade Omoyola, in some newspapers last Tuesday, had reminded “political office holders to declare their assets on assumption and vacation of office in accordance with Paragraph II of the 5th Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.”
According to the law quoted by the CCB, failure of a public officer to declare his or her assets in line with law “shall attract on conviction any or all of the following: (a) Removal from office (b) Disqualification from holding any public office, (c) Forfeiture to the state any property acquired in abuse of office or dishonesty.”
Jonathan had, last year, rejected calls on public office holders to declare their assets openly, before and after office. According to the President, public declaration of assets is “playing to the gallery.”
The President said this during his third presidential media chat in Aso Villa, Abuja. The President emphasised that no amount of pressure would make him declare what he owned. He argued that making his assets public knowledge would not change the economy or solve the challenges in the security, power and agriculture sectors.
He added that as Vice-President to the late President Musa Yar’Adua, he declared his assets then because Yar’Adua forced him to.
Yar’Adua is the only Nigerian President known to have declared his assets.
Jonathan had said, “The issue of public assets declaration is a matter of personal principle. That is the way I see it, and I don’t give a damn about it, even if you criticise me from heaven. When I was the vice-president, that matter came up, and I told the former President (late Musa Yar’Adua) that let’s not start something that would make us play into the hands of people and create an anomalous situation in the country.
“The law is clear. A public officer should declare his assets, and if there are issues, then the relevant agencies would have a basis to assess whether you have amassed wealth or not. When it is said that people should declare their assets in public, it is not only the president or the vice-president; it includes everybody, including ministers.
“When I was a governor in Bayelsa State for about a year before becoming vice-president, I was investigated thoroughly. I have nothing to hide. But because I was under somebody and it was becoming an issue, because of the media, and because my boss had declared, it was said that the vice-president must. I declared, not because I wanted to.”
“Initially, I said they can talk about it from morning to night, I will not. It is not proper. If one amends the law to say that only the president and the vice-president should declare assets publicly, fine. But, presently, everybody who is holding political office is expected to and I say it is not right.”
It was further gathered that so far, only seven senators and 40 House of Representatives members in the outgoing 7th National Assembly have submitted their forms to the bureau as required of them under the law.
It was also learnt that two of the 42 ministers have also completed and submitted their forms.
It could not be confirmed on Friday whether President Jonathan, Sambo and the governors had submitted their completed forms.
Identities of those who had complied with the provisions of the law under Paragraph II of the 5th Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria could not be ascertained as of press time.
The Governors of Rivers and Kogi states, however, confirmed receipt of the declaration forms.
The Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Mr. Tony Okocha, revealed that Governor Rotimi Amaechi would soon submit his assets declaration form to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
Okocha said he was aware that his boss received the form.
“The Governor Rotimi Amaechi that I know will submit his form to the bureau very soon. He has no skeleton in his cupboard and has nothing to hide anywhere in Nigeria and anywhere in the world,” Okocha stressed.
The Special Adviser to the Kogi State Governor, Capt. Idris Wada, on Media and Strategy, Mr. Jacob Edi, also said the governor, his deputy, commissioners and all political appointees in the state had submitted the forms they collected to the bureau.
In a telephone interview with newsmen in Ilorin on Saturday, he said, “Regarding the submission of the assets declaration form, the governor is not at fault; the commissioners and all other relevant political office holders are not at fault.”
In the same vein, Special Adviser to Governor Abiola Ajimobi on Media, Dr. Festus Adedayo, told our correspondent that Ajimobi had no intention of hiding his assets from the CCB. He said the governor had demonstrated uprightness and honesty as a public servant and that having declared his asset before he became a governor, he would not shy away from doing it again.
He said, “He certainly will. Don’t forget that Ajimobi was one of the few public office holders who declared his assets publicly in 2011.”
The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Peter Okhiria, said the form had been submitted by the governor prior to his swearing in, as stipulated by law.
“In fact, before the governor was sworn in, he submitted the form,” Okhiria stated.
In Akwa Ibom, Governor Godswill Akpabio’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Anietie Ukpe, refused to disclose if the governor had collected the form.
He said, “If my boss filled the assets declaration form, is it supposed to be made public?”