By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, yesterday, adduced reasons why it refused to expose the assets declaration form that was filed and submitted before it by President Goodluck Jonathan, insisting that its action was anchored on the provisions of the 1999 constitution.
CCB Chairman, Mr. Sam Saba, while espousing the position of the Bureau during a Ministerial Press briefing it conducted inAbujayesterday, disclosed that though several Civil Society Organisations and individuals, previously attempted to invoke the Freedom of Information, FOI, Act with a view to accessing President Jonathan’s form, “we cannot do that.”
Saba, who maintained that the FOI Act was in conflict with the 1999 constitution so far as disclosure of submitted assets declaration forms of politically exposed persons are concerned, stressed that, “rather than contemplating on the removal of the Bureau from the Constitution, the National Assembly should enact an Act prescribing the terms and conditions under which the Bureau could make assets declared by public officers available for inspection by any citizen of Nigeria as provided for in paragraph 3(c) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”
Specifically, the aforementioned section, gave CCB the power to, “retain custody of such declarations and make them available for inspection by any citizen ofNigeriaon such terms and conditions as the National Assembly may prescribe.”
Meanwhile, the CCB, while reeling out the number of cases it said were successfully prosecuted within the year under review and those pending before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, said none of the top political office holders in the country defaulted.
“Neither the President, the Vice President, Governors or any of the Ministers defaulted. In fact, they had all declared their assets before they even assumed office and we have their assets declaration forms.
“In the year under review, assets declared by Ministers, State Governors, Deputy Governors, Secretaries to State Governments, Commissioners and other top government functionaries of state governments were verified by the Federal Commissioners in charge of the six geopolitical zones of the country. Also, verification of assets declared by Local Government Chairmen, Councilors and Supervisors of the 774 local governments in the country are on-ongoing. This is carried out through conference and field verifications.”
It said those earmarked for prosecution were mostly civil servants, adding that, “the Bureau prosecuted 172 public officers from Kwara and Kogi States for defaulting in declaring their assets as required in paragraph 11 of Part 1, Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
“The Bureau has further filed charges on breach of the Code of Conduct against nine officers from various organizations before the CCT. It is also drafting charges against Public officers who have defaulted in declaring their assets from the following states and organizations; Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Borno, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Kano, Katsina, Kwara, Nasarawa, Rivers, Nigeria Customs Service, Vehicle Inspection Office and Independent National Electoral Commission.”
Meantime, the Bureau yesterday, said one of the greatest challenges it was facing, includes unwillingness of the public to provide it with critical information by way of petitions, whistle-blowing, as well as the problems of inadequate funding and manpower.