Assets Declaration As A Tool For Fighting Corruption (part 1)
By Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR
Assets Declaration by public officers is one of the ways of detecting theft of public funds, thereby, putting public officers under check and as such, it is a tool for fighting corruption.
Meaning Of “Asset Declaration”
Assets declaration refers to “a person’s balance sheet that covers assets, from all homes, valuables and financial portfolios, to liabilities, such as debts and mortgages, and all sources of income from directorships and investments to consulting contracts.”
Paragraph 19, Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999, provides: -“assets” include any property, movable and immovable and incomes owned by a person”. It defines “liabilities” to include responsibilities according to law to satisfy a debt, duty or obligation quantifiable in monetary value, instant and contingent.”
The world over, the disclosure of all assets provides a complete picture of a public officer’s financial situation. This information contributes to the detection of the theft of public assets, and, thus, furthers democratic development. In general, Asset Declaration systems, as part of an overall anti-corruption strategy, contribute to the protection of the public interest by ensuring that resources are used in the pursuit of social and economic development goals.
Aside combating corruption, Asset Declaration systems prompt accountability amongst public officers. In addition, Assets Declaration systems have the potential to boost public confidence in the integrity of the government, because it ensures that public officers are subject to public scrutiny, thus enthroning responsibility, accountability and transparency in governance.
The Constitution And Conduct Of Conduct Act On Assets Declaration
Nigerian legislations dealing with asset declaration are encased inSections 52, (for members of the National Assembly), 94 (for House of Assembly), 140 (for President),142(2) (for the Vice president), 149(for Ministers), 152 (for special adviser), 185 (for Governors), 194(for Commissioners), 290 (for Judicial Officers) of the Constitution.
Part II, Fifth Schedule, to the Constitution (which includes all public officers, like the All members and officers of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the IGP, Chairmen, LGAs, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Head of the Civil service, Permanent Secretaries, Directors-Generals and all other persons in the civil service of the Federation or of the State, Chairmen and members of Boards, Parastatals or other governing bodies and staff of statutory corporations, and of companies in which the Federal or State Governments or local governments councils, have shares etc); and Section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
Specifically, Constitutional provisions expressly mandate the declaration of assets by all public officers’ (cutting across the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary).
How Are Declarations Made And By Whom?
Section 15 of the CCBT Act provides as follows:
(1) Every public officer shall, within fifteen months after the coming into force of this Act or immediately after taking office and thereafter‐
(a) at the end of every four years;
(b) at the end of his term of office; and
(c) in the case of a serving officer, within thirty days of the receipt of the form from the Bureau or at such other intervals as the Bureau may specify, submit to the Bureau a written declaration in the Form prescribed in the First Schedule to this Act or, in such form as the Bureau may, from time to time, specify, of all his properties, assets and liabilities and those of his spouse or unmarried children under the age of twenty‐one years.
(2) Any statement in any declaration that is found to be false by any authority or person authorised in that behalf to verify it, shall be deemed to be a breach of this Act.
(3) Any property or assets acquired by a public officer after any declaration required by subsection (1) of this section and which is not fairly attributable to income, gifts or loan approved by this Act, shall be deemed to have been acquired in breach of this Act unless the contrary is proved.
From the foregoing, all assets must be declared on assumption of office, end of office and at intervals of four years for those in continuous employment in Federal, State or Local Government.
Section 2 of the CCBT Act provides, that the aims and objectives of the CCB is to establish and maintain a high standard of morality in the conduct of government business and to ensure that the actions and behaviour of public officers conform to the highest standard of public morality and accountability.
By virtue of subsection (2) of Section 15 of the CCBT Act, every public officer shall submit to the Bureau a written declaration in the Form prescribed in the First Schedule to this Act. Furthermore, properties of spouses and children below 18years, must be fully declared.
What Are Assets?
Assets include details of investments and properties in and outside Nigeria, Government Securities, Premium Bonds, Savings Certificates, both in Nigeria and abroad, Shares, Debentures and other Securities in and outside Nigeria, cash in Nigerian and foreign banks, farms, orchards, factories, ranches, fish ponds, vehicles, aircraft, boats, houses, household furniture and electrical appliances, money at hand, houses, financial portfolio, etc.
They also include properties of spouses and children under 18, liabilities such as debts, mortgages, loans, etc. Sources of income from investments, to contracts and consulting, must be declared. The essence of this, is to detect theft of public funds, and enthrone probity, transparency and high morality in governance.
Section 15 (3) of the CCBT ACT, also provides that, any assets, acquired after declaration, which is not fairly attributable to a person’s income, gifts, or loan approved by the Act, shall be deemed to have been acquired illegally.
Punishment For The Violation Of The Code Of Conduct
Paragraph 12 (2) (a), (b) and (c), Fifth schedule to the Constitutionstates the punishment which the CCT may impose to include any of the following: (a) vacation of office, (b) disqualification from holding public office for 10 years, (c) seizure and forfeiture of any property acquired in abuse or corruption of office, all these in addition to punishment imposed by any other law for the same offence, and such.
However, this does not preclude the prosecution of any such offender before a regular court under the Penal Code and the Criminal Code.
Buhari’s Ministerial Nominees
Going by the way President Muhammadu Buhari had delayed the submission of his ministerial list to the Senate, barely meeting his self appointed date of 30th September, 2015 (after the Senate had actually gone on recess), one would have thought he was going to bring people from the moon or Jupiter to be ministers. But, alas, it turned out to be the same names of his APC party that we have always known, except perhaps, an apolitical technocrat, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, the all-round oil czar, surely, the next Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. PMB holds on to the substantive petroleum portfolio, like OBJ before him. But, it’s better late than never. The nominees, though known APC Chieftains, are pretty good. Kudos to PMB for good choice. Let the change now begin.
Many of these nominees are either my personal bosom friends, or very well known to me at very close quarters, through various interactions over the years.
Abridged Characterization Of Ministerial Nominees
Dr Kachikwu (Havard trained, 1stclass round peg in round hole, brilliant, focused, achievement-driven; my soulmate; I was his best man during his 1984 wedding to beautiful Betty). Chris Ngige (fearless personal friend, thoughtful, effective, focused, humble), Kayode Fayemi (“Radio Kudirat” in the anti-military campaigns of the 90s which he fought with us in the trenches, and we won with bare hands; stood decent and tall when he conceded defeat and congratulated Governor Ayodele Fayose in last year’s Ekiti governorship elections).
Dr Ogbonaya Onu (calm, urbane, patriotic, respected; treats me like equal as a friend, inspite of the age disparity). Chibuike Amaechi (irascible, but bold and courageous; fights to the last when he believes in a cause, even if wrongly). Fashola, SAN, (seminal, creative, achieved much as Lagos State Governor, intellectually deep); Abubakar Malami, SAN (intelligent, vibrant, advocacy warrior, humble, dedicated to a cause); Gen Dambazzau (rtd) (dependable and reliable Ph.D holder in Law; pleasant, tested and trusted to deal with Boko Harram terrorists). Lai Mohammed (deep researcher, loquacious, but prolific and erudite; unyielding defender of the APC cause).
Dr Udo Udoma (silent achiever, brilliant Administrator, corporate law guru, with deep pedigree in Law (late renowned father Udo Udoma, JSC), Adebayo Shittu (leftist, strong radical, ideologically grounded); Mrs Amina Mohammed (was with me on the special panel set up by OBJ in 2001, to investigate and recall unfairly rusticated and dismissed students and lecturers during successive military juntas; toured round all tertiary institutions in Nigeria to achieve this; later Special Adviser, MDG; a very through bred, brilliant but beautiful woman).Aisha Al-Hassan (a one woman riot political Trojan, who gave night mares and a bloody nose to Darius Ishaku in the Taraba State governorship elections). Olagunsoye Oyinlola (sagacious and deft politician, Burkingham trained lawyer)
Are PMB, the judiciary, Executive, the Senate, Senate President, Chairman and Members of the CCB, CCT, APC, PDP, Nigerians et al, reading and digesting this Sunday sermon on the mount of the Nigerian Project, by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR?