Thursday, May 30, 2019 12:46 pm
In compliance with the constitution, President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo submitted their assets declaration forms to the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, few hours before they were sworn –in for a second term of office on Wednesday.
By law, the submission of the asset declaration forms to the CCB must precede the oath-taking ceremony for elected and appointed public officials in Nigeria.
Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity said the President’s duly completed forms were submitted to the Chairman of the CCB, Prof. Mohammed Isa, on behalf of the president by Sarki Abba, Senior Special Assistant, Household and Domestic Affairs.
In the same vein, Laolu Akande, spokesperson for the Vice President said Osinbajo’ s assets declaration forms were submitted to the CCB by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Research, Legal and Compliance Matters, Office of the Vice President, Dr. Balkisu Saidu.
Nothing New To Declare
However, what is also common to the two statements was the claim that there were no significant changes in assets as declared by the President and his deputy compared to what they declared in 2015 when they were first sworn into office.
“There are no new houses, no new bank accounts at home and abroad and there are no new shares acquired,” Garba said of the content of the asset declaration forms submitted by the President last Tuesday.
“Compared with the assets Prof. Osinbajo declared in 2015, the forms show no significant changes in his assets; as there are no new real properties, shareholding or bank accounts,” Akande said, echoing the same sentiment.
So, what did Buhari and Osinbajo declare as their assets in 2015?
Assets declaration forms of public officers in Nigeria are closely guarded secrets, especially since the CCB law did not compel them to release such forms to the public.
Indeed, before the well commended step by the late President Musa Yar’Adua to make his assets declaration forms public, no Nigerian leader- civilian or military had taken such step.
During their campaign for election, Buhari and the then vice presidential candidate had promised to also make their assets declaration forms available to the public as a demonstration of their commitment to probity and fight against corruption if they are elected.
They fulfilled this promise in September, 2015, over three months after they were elected.
Shehu Garba in a statement on 3, September, 2015 quoting documents submitted to the CCB, said prior to being sworn in on May 29, President Buhari had less than N30 million in his only bank account in Union Bank.
He added that Buhari has shares in Berger Paints, Union Bank and Skye Bank.
Other assets of the President listed in the forms, according to Garba are two homes in Kaduna, one each in Kano, Daura and in Abuja.
He also added that the President has two mud houses in Daura which were inherited from his late older sister and his late father. The presidential spokesperson said Buhari borrowed money from the old Barclays Bank to build two of his homes.
“President Buhari also has two undeveloped plots of land, one in Kano and the other in Port Harcourt. He is still trying to trace the location of the Port Harcourt land.
“In addition to the homes in Daura, he has farms, an orchard and a ranch. The total number of his holdings in the farm includes 270 heads of cattle, 25 sheep, five horses, a variety of birds and a number of economic trees.
“The documents also showed that the retired General uses a number of cars, two of which he bought from his savings and the others supplied to him by the federal government in his capacity as former Head of State. The rest were donated to him by well-wishers after his jeep was damaged in a Boko Haram bomb attack on his convoy in July 2014,” the presidential spokesperson said of the other assets declared by Buhari.
On the other hand, Garba said the Vice President who was a successful lawyer before his foray into politics declared a bank balance of about N94 million and 900,000 United States Dollars in his bank accounts. The foreign currencies are kept in local domiciliary accounts, the presidential spokesperson said in the statement.
Other highlights of the Osinbajo’s asset declaration include his 4-bedroom residence at Victoria Garden City, Lagos and a 3-bedroom flat at 2 Mosley Road, Ikoyi, a 2-bedroom flat at the popular Redemption Camp along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and a 2-bedroom mortgaged property in Bedford, England.
“Apart from his law firm, known as Simmons Cooper, the Vice-President also declared shareholding in six private companies based in Lagos, including Octogenerium Ltd., Windsor Grant Ltd., Tarapolsa, Vistorion Ltd., Aviva Ltd. and MTN Nigeria.
The personal vehicle s owned by the Vice President as declared in the assets declaration forms are one Infinity 4-Wheel Drive SUV, one Mercedes Benz and a Prado Jeep.
“Documents submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), show that the retired General has indeed been living an austere and Spartan lifestyle, contrary to what many might expect of a former Head of State of Nigeria and one who has held a number of top government positions, such as governor, Minister of petroleum and the head of the Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PTDF),” Garba said in the statement.
Fell Short of Yar’Adua’s Example
But the release of the information in the assets declaration forms was greeted by criticisms by those who accused the President and his deputy of falling short of their promise to Nigerians.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP had argued Buhari and Osinbajo should have also made available lists of assets of their children above 18 years and their wives.
The party backed its claim with the Code of Conduct Bureau, Enabling Law; section 3, part of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended which demands that: “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.”
There was also the argument that the assets declaration forms were not released to the media against the example set by the late Yar’Adua, who, in 2007, made his assets public. The late President had also indicated assets owned by Hajiya Turai in the forms released to the media.
What’s more, critics also argued that the declaration made by the President and the Vice President were vague as they did not contain the particulars and full description of the asset for proper identification and verification.
There is also the argument that failure to attach monetary values to the assets declared made it impossible to really know the worth of Buhari and Osinbajo.
Yar’Adua assets declarations forms released to the public by Segun Adeniyi, his spokesperson had indicated that the late President was worth N856, 452,892, including a sum of N19 million belonging to his wife at the time of the declaration.
The cost of the value of Yar’Adua’s buildings, developed and undeveloped plots of land was put at N577, 000,000.
‘I Don’t Give a Damn’
But the President’s successor, former President Goodluck Jonathan failed to follow the example of his late boss.
Jonathan had during a media chat, said he did not “give a damn” as the law did not require him to openly declare his assets when he was confronted by journalists if he will follow the example of his late boss.
Critics had latched on to the ex-President’s statement evidence that the former President was not ready to fight corruption.
It was believed that this contributed to the inability of Jonathan to secure a second term of office.