The Code of Conduct Bureau has said President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, governors and other public officers whose tenure ends on May 29 must submit their end-of-tenure asset declaration forms on May 28, 2019.
However, other public officers, mainly members of the outgoing 8th National Assembly, who were inaugurated on June 9, 2015 have up till June 8, 2019, a few hours to the expiration of their tenure to declare their assets, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
Paragraphs 1 to 16 of the Part II of the Fifth Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution list the categories of public officers who must periodically declare their assets to the CCB.
But those affected with the wind-down of the 2015 – 2019 political dispensation by virtue of the constitutional provision are the President, Vice-President, President and Deputy President of the Senate, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and Speakers and Deputy Speakers of state Houses of Assembly and all members of legislative houses.
The rest are Governors and Deputy Governors, the Attorney General of the Federation and Attorney General of each state, ministers, commissioners and Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Paragraph 11 of the Part 1 to the Fifth Schedule to the constitution compels public officers to declare their assets to the CCB “immediately after taking office and thereafter:
“(a) at the end of every four years; and
“(b) at the end of his term of office, submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets, and liabilities and those of his unmarried children under the age of eighteen years.”
The “guidelines” for assets declaration accessed on the website of the bureau on Friday says a declarant must declare their assets within 30 days of being issued the assets declaration form.
Paragraph 2, of the guidelines reads, “Every declarant is required by law to declare his/her assets/liability including that of his spouse(s) who is not a public officer and children under 18 years, honestly, sincerely and submit same to the bureau within 30 days of the receipt of the forms.”
Paragraph 7 of the guidelines added, “Every public officer is to note that it is the requirement of the law to declare his/her assets/liabilities on:
“(a) assumption of office;
“(b) At the end of his term of office,
“(c) At interval of four years for public officers on continuous employment of government whether federal, state or local government:
“(d) and at such other intervals as the Bureau may determine from time to time.”
Speaking with one of our correspondents on Thursday, the Chief Press Officer of the CCB, Mrs Charity Utok, said the incoming political office holders were given up to three months to make their declarations to the CCB, while the outgoing ones must do so as soon as they “step out” of office.
She said the implications of not making the declaration or not making it at the appropriate time would be filing charges against such defaulters at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Utok said, “They can be sworn in, and within three months they have to declare their assets, otherwise the bureau will drag them to the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
“It is applicable to all public officers, both political appointees and elected officers – from the councillors to local government chairmen, commissioners, members of the state Houses of Assembly, governors, members of the National Assembly, ministers, Vice-President and President.
“For those who are finishing their tenure, they must declare as soon as they step out.”
She explained that the first tenure of President Buhari and that of Vice-President Osinbajo would end on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, hence the Tuesday deadline for the two of them to submit their asset forms for the end of their first tenure.
He added, “Anyone who fails to declare their assets will be taken before the tribunal.
“Those in the asset declaration section of the tribunal will compile their names and they will be charged before the tribunal for trial.”
CCB state directors insist no going back on deadline
Following the directive, state directors of the CCB in various states, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, stated that the Bureau had said there was no going back on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 deadline set for the submission of asset forms.
The Director of the CCB in Bauchi State, Ibraheem Mahmood, said, “The headquarters of the Bureau has set aside Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th May as the last date they want all forms of the elected officials to be submitted to them.”
He said, “The outgoing governor and the deputy also assured me that they will submit their own today (Friday) because they have collected the forms and sent their people for guidance on how to go about it. We have guided them and they said they will submit it today.”
Also reacting on Friday, the Director of CCB in Gombe State, Panyi Baira, said, “Although the deadline is yet to pass, they are complying with the bureau. They will comply before the May 28 deadline.
However, sources within the bureau in the state were complaining that the level of total compliance was minimal.
CCB demands bank statements, title documents
Meanwhile, findings by Saturday PUNCH revealed that governors, ministers and other political office holders were expected to submit their six-month bank statement alongside their asset declaration forms.
They will be required to appear later before CCB team in their states to present title documents of some of the assets they claim belong to them in the asset forms.
Governors rush to meet submission deadline
Outgoing and returning governors have intensified their efforts to meet Tuesday deadline for submission of their asset declaration forms.
While Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Mark Longyen, said he would meet the deadline in response to an inquiry by one of our correspondents in Jos on Friday, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, who spoke through his media aide, Anayo Chukwu, said he would do the needful before leaving office.
Ogbonnaya Ikokwu, the Chief Press Secretary to Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Mr Enyinnaya Appolos, said the governor would summit his form to the CCB before the expiration on Tuesday.
He said, “The governor is a law-abiding citizen, he has no problems with compiling with what the law says regarding the declaration of his assets. We will surely summit the form before his second term inauguration.”
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom said he had complied with the constitutional provision on asset declaration.
The Special Adviser to the governor on Media, Tahav Agerzua, disclosed this on Friday.
Senators, Reps, rush to meet deadline
Findings by Saturday Punch showed that elected senators and House of Representatives members had started making frantic efforts to fill and submit their assets declaration forms to the Code of Conduct Bureau before the June 11 inauguration day for the Ninth Assembly.
Investigations by our correspondents during the week revealed that many of the incoming and returning federal legislators were already complying with the mandatory constitutional requirement.
Some of the new lawmakers who spoke with Saturday PUNCH said they would do everything possible to submit the documents before the day of inauguration.
It was learnt that the management of the nation’s apex legislative institution even made it easier for the incoming federal parliamentarians by procuring the forms from the CCB and distributing to them during their orientation programme held in April.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, the Chairman, Forum of House of Representatives First-Time Members, Mr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, said newly-elected lawmakers had started complying with the constitutional guidelines.
He told our correspondents on Friday that his members were doing everything possible to ensure they meet up with the constitutional requirements before the day of inauguration.
Tunji-Ojo said, “We are all bound by the rules and regulations of this country as law-abiding citizens. Nobody is above the law. If anybody has nothing to hide, then he or she could come clean.
“We have to declare what we have as assets and let the government have the records. It is part of fighting corruption. We must fight corruption in a pro-active manner.”
Also reacting to the issue on behalf of the National Assembly management, the Director of Information, Rawlings Agada, said, “It is part of the decision that we took during the orientation by making the forms as part of the requirements for their registration.
“As a matter of fact, the management was proactive by going to the Code of Conduct Bureau to collect the forms and make them available to the elected lawmakers during the orientation in April.”
Anti-graft agency to invite those with established cases after May 29
Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit have intensified surveillance on financial transactions by outgoing government officials, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
Towards this end, operatives of the EFCC and their counterparts in the NFIU have been asked to be on the lookout for evidence of looting of public funds/any suspicious financial activity by outgoing government officials, especially state governors.
An operative in one of the agencies, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the anti-graft agencies had gathered evidence against a number of outgoing governors and were on the lookout for last minute transactions “which could serve as icing on the cake on some of these cases.”
A source in the NFIU, who explained the situation to Saturday PUNCH, in Abuja, on Friday, noted that the unit was not leaving anything to chance as it was working with sister agencies at “home and abroad” to halt money laundering and terrorism financing.
“All transactions which fall into certain categories are reported to us. On our part, we analyse the information and forward same to the appropriate security agency for further action.”
When asked if there was a special attention on governors, he said, “It doesn’t matter whether the person is a governor or an ordinary person on the street who is being used as a front within or outside this country, provided the transaction goes through the financial system, it will be flagged and we will get those involved.”
An EFCC operative who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue said, “We have outgoing governors who are unaware we have built cases around their illegal activities while they were in government.
“Making the names of such people public at this point is like asking them to go into hiding.”
Attempts to get a reaction from the spokesperson for the NFIU, Sani Tukur, were futile. Calls to his mobile telephone number indicated that it was switched off; a response to a text message sent to him was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report.
However, the acting Media Head of the EFCC, Tony Orilade, while responding to enquiries from Saturday PUNCH as to whether the commission was going to arrest any of the outgoing governors and how many of them were involved, said, “We don’t discuss ongoing investigations on the pages of the newspapers.
“If we have done our investigations and we have a prima facie case on anyone, of course, we will go after them at the expiration of their immunity on May 29th.
“Whoever has a case based on our discreet investigations, we will wait till when they no longer have immunity before inviting them for questioning.”
Speaking on the issue, the Executive Director, Civil Societies Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Auwual Musa, said, “We will expect a lot of activity from the EFCC as soon as the handover process is completed.
“Some of these outgoing governors don’t deserve to walk free with the amount of public funds they converted to private use.
“It will be an opportunity for this administration which has made the fight against corruption one of its campaign promises to prove to Nigerians that belonging to the ruling party is not equal to immunity from prosecution.”
CCB ignores request for Acting CJN Tanko Muhammad’s assets declaration form
Meanwhile, the CCB has shunned the request by Saturday PUNCH for the assets declaration form submitted by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad.
The bureau had, as of Friday, yet to respond to the newspaper’s letter which was received by the office of the Chairman of CCB, Prof. Muhammed Isah, on April 25.
The request by the newspaper was anchored on the provision of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, which makes it mandatory for the bureau to respond to a request made on the strenght of the Act within seven days.
A public institution such as the CCB, from which information is sought under the FoI Act, must either provide the requested information or give the reasons on why such request cannot be granted, within seven days.
But 30 days after the SATURDAY PUNCH’s letter was received by the CCB chairman, no response has been given to the request.
In its letter dated February 24, 2019 and received by the CCB chairman the next day, the newspaper, had said of the request for the Acting CJN’s assets declaration form, “We respectfully ask you to make this available as this would deepen transparency and accountability, which are what the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari preaches”.