The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) says it cannot disclose the details of President Muhammadu Buhari’s assets.
The bureau responded to a freedom of information (FoI) request by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), seeking a disclosure of assets declaration submitted by successive presidents and governors from 1999 till date.
It said the information requested cannot be provided on the grounds of “invasion of privacy’.
In its FoI request, the civil society organisation had asked the CCB to provide “details of declarations made immediately after taking offices and thereafter, and for those who have left public offices, at the end of their term of office.”
SERAP also wanted the CCB to make public, “information on the number of asset declarations so far verified by the CCB and the number of those declarations found to be false and deemed to be in breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, by the Bureau.”
In a letter signed by Musa Usman, on behalf of CCB chairman, the bureau said the request “falls short of the requirement of the law”.
The letter with reference number CCB/HQ/LU/047/59 said only the national assembly can prescribe conditions for the release of the forms, but such conditions are yet to be prescribed.
“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,” the letter read.
“Assuming the freedom of information Act is the term and condition, Sections 12(1)(v) and 14(1)(b) of the Act makes information in the asset declaration form private and producing such information would be an invasion of privacy of presidents and governors. Section 14(2)(3) of the same Act stipulate conditions for granting requests for private information but these have not been met by SERAP’s application.
“Section 12(1)(a)(4)(a)(b) exempt 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. Verification is investigation carried out pursuant to Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act for the purposes of law enforcement.
“Referring breaches of the Code of Conduct for public officers to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for prosecution is a matter of discretion of the bureau and not a matter of FOI.
“Consequently, I am further directed to convey to you that the request in SERAP’s application for information on details of asset declarations by presidents and state governors since the return of democracy in 1999 is hereby denied on the grounds that it falls short of the requirement of the law. Please accept the assurances of the highest esteem of the Chairman CCB.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP’s deputy director, said the civil society organisation will challenge the decision of the CCB at the court, adding that “declaration forms are public information, and not private information”.