The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) says it cannot disclose the assets of President Muhammadu Buhari and those of past public office holders because it has not got their consent to do so.
The bureau said this in a written address filed in response to a motion by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
Recently, SERAP was granted leave by the court to file an application for an order to compel the bureau to release the asset declaration forms of current and past public office holders.
But in its response dated October 14, the bureau described the section of the FOI enabling the release of asset declaration forms as an “open confrontation with the constitution of Nigeria and therefore void.”
It said SERAP has failed to show that it has sufficient legal interest in the matter.
“The asset declaration forms of the Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Senate President, Speakers of the House of Representatives, State Governors and Deputy Governors since the return of democracy in 1999 to 2019 are in the custody of the CCB. But the public officials have not consented to the disclosure of their asset declarations forms. The CCB is not obligated to submit assets declaration forms to any person,” the bureau said.
“The forms are not publicly available. SERAP has not shown that it is in the public interest to disclose the information nor that such public interest overweighs the protection of the privacy of the Presidents, Vice Presidents, Senate Presidents, Speakers of the House of Representatives, State Governors and Deputy Governors since 1999 to 2019.
“Asset declaration forms contain personal information about President and Ministers contain personal information about them and their properties, assets and liabilities and those of their wives/husbands and their children who are under the age of 18 years.
“The power of the CCB to refer suspects to the Code of Conduct Tribunal is discretionary and the courts are circumspect in granting mandamus in respect of discretionary powers and in the circumstances of the case SERAP has an alternative and effective legal remedy. This renders SERAP’s case incompetent.
“SERAP ought to have asked the CCB to investigate allegations of non-compliance with the Code of Conduct and where appropriate refer the matter to the Tribunal for prosecution.
“Asset declaration forms are special documents that have been exempted by section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act. CCB can only make the forms available on the terms and conditions to be prescribed by the National Assembly. Those terms and conditions are yet to be prescribed.”
Buhari has failed to declare his assets publicly despite pressure from his critics.