The Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Mohammed Isah, has explained why the outfit will not release the asset details of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, despite public requests.
He said this is because “the National Assembly has not set the guidelines for the Bureau to do so.”
Speaking at a News Agency of Nigeria forum in Abuja, Mr Isah cited the stipulations of the constitution as well as the FOI Act as the Bureau’s guiding principle.
Paragraph 3 of the third schedule of the constitution empowers the Bureau to retain in its custody details of assets declared by a public office holder and make them available for inspection upon request by any citizen of Nigeria, on the terms and conditions prescribed by the National Assembly.
“So, if anybody as a private person or private organisation wants to access asset declaration or information contained in asset declaration of any public officer, those conditions laid down by FOI Act must be fulfilled,” Mr Isah said.
The official did not say why the CCB has not asked the National Assembly to prescribe the conditions. He also did not state if the CCB plans to ask the National Assembly to do so.
The FOI Act establishes the right of anyone to request information in the custody of any public official, agency or institution, with the exception of security files which are not of public concern.
In 2015, a coalition of groups requested the Bureau to make public the asset declaration forms filed by Messrs Buhari and Osinbajo.
However, the CCB declined their requests, citing “personal privacy” as its reason.
Many questioned the lack of consistency by the Bureau, especially when the details of assets filed by the former chief justice of the federation, Walter Onnoghen, was accessed by Dennis Aghanya, a former aide to the president.
On the heel of the suspension of Mr Onnoghen, after he was accused of withholding the full declaration of his assets, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) again requested “details of asset declarations by successive presidents and state governors between 1999 and 2019, including details of declarations made immediately after taking offices and thereafter”.
The Bureau again turned down the request.
It said it “would offend the right to privacy of presidents and state governors”.
The group has since sued the CCB.