JUST IN: Makinde Abandons Promise to publicly declare multibillion-naira assets In Oyo

Nearly two years after assuming office as governor in Oyo, Seyi Makinde has reneged on his promise to publicly declare his multibillion-naira possessions.

Although Mr Makinde, through his media aide Taiwo Adisa, released purported details of his asset declaration that showed he had cash at hand and in the bank worth N234,742,296.01 as of May 28, 2019, the governor, nonetheless, failed to live to previous standards of public asset declaration set by former President Umar Yar’Adua and rights advocate Chidi Odinkalu, both of whom published actual copies of their assets and not a press statement filtered by a media and public relations consultant.

Mr Makinde, in the July 15, 2019, press statement, declared his assets along the discredited style employed by President Muhammadu Buhari, who in 2015 made a mockery of public asset declaration when he asked Garba Shehu to issue a press release that contained largely illogical and unverifiable asset details. Anti-corruption groups promptly dismissed the president’s action as insufficient for public asset declaration.

The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) makes it mandatory for “public office holders whether elected, appointed, recruited, contracted, etc., by whatever name called to collect and sign for the form from its Office” and requires them to “swear to the declaration before a High Court Judge nearest to his work station before submitting it to the Bureau.”

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Asset declaration provides a window for public office holders to be monitored and held to account when they acquire additional material and financial possessions on the back of their election or appointment to a public office of trust.

Although the CCB was established to impose transparency, probity and accountability, the office has relentlessly failed to live up to its core mandate because its susceptible to undue political interference as an agency domiciled under the presidency, which is a partisan political institution.

The CCB’s partisanship and opacity have made it difficult for most Nigerians to trust its activities. The agency does not return freedom of information request seeking asset files of politicians but regularly releases such files to target political opposition. In 2015, the CCB disclosed asset documents of Bukola Saraki, triggering a long-drawn legal battle that the former Senate President eventually won at the Supreme Court.

In the run-up to the 2019 presidential elections, the bureau again disclosed the asset declaration form of former CJN Walter Onnoghen to Dennis Aghanya, an obscured lawyer and a political strategist for the ruling APC in Enugu. Mr Onnoghen was subsequently removed from office by Mr Buhari in a controversial political move that lawyers said undermined the principles of separation of powers and set a dangerous precedent.

Most Nigerians saw both trials as politically-motivated and dismissed the CCB as just one of several tools a sitting president can conveniently deploy against perceived political opponents.

Most politicians have also taken refuge in CCB’s opaque tactics, declaring fraudulent asset positions with the confidence that they won’t be charged or exposed. When assets are filed with the CCB, the agency is not obliged to make them public, and it has maintained a policy of not responding to freedom of information request from the public.

However, a few elected and appointed public office holders have chosen to disclose their assets publicly to convince the public of their integrity. In 2007, former President Umar Yar’Adua promptly declared his assets publicly upon assumption of office. Mr Yar’Adua circulated copies of his CCB filings to the public.

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In 2012, human rights expert Chidi Odinkalu publicly declared his asset shortly after President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him as the head of National Human Rights Commission. Mr Odinkalu, who now leads Open Society Justice Initiative in Africa, sent copies of his asset filings under seal to The Right to Know (R2K), an organisation that works on access to information and headed at the time by Ene Enonche.

Source: naija360.ng

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