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Nigerians demand public asset declaration from Buhari’s ministers

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Our correspondents

Nigerians on Friday agreed on the need by President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministers-designate to publicly declare their assets before they take the oath of office.

Ministerial list
Ministerial list

They asked the ministers-designate to follow Buhari’s example by stating their worth in terms of money and properties, if they really believed in the President’s anti-graft war.

According to them, the declaration of assets by those appointed into public offices by Buhari was a moral necessity that should be encouraged.

The President had before his election, promised to publicly declare his asset and encourage his appointees to also do so.

He had insinuated that public declaration of assets would encourage accountability and reduce corruption in the polity.

Speaking with our correspondents on Friday, however, the Ijaw National Congress asked the President to stand by his words on the need to make the ministers declare their assets publicly.

“The ministers-designate must declare their assets publicly before they are assigned portfolios,” INC spokesperson, Mr. Victor Borubo, said.

He explained that though the constitution made the declaration of assets optional (secretly or publicly), it was morally necessary for the ministers to declare their worth publicly.

Borubo said that the ministers could be tempted to corruptly enrich themselves, adding that the change mantra of the ruling All Progressives Congress might suffer a setback if the appointees were not made to declare their assets publicly.

He said, “It is necessary that the ministers-designate declare their assets publicly. The intention is to ensure that they are not tempted to enrich themselves in a corrupt manner.

“The ministers should not be told before they declare their assets. In fact, much will not be achieved in the fight against corruption if the appointees are not ready to follow Buhari’s example.”

Also, the President, Afonja Descendants Union, Alhaji Olola Kasumu, told one of our correspondents in Ilorin that it would not be proper if the ministers were not made to declare their assets before they took the oath of office.

“It is part of the campaign promises of the APC that its appointees and elected officials will publicly declare their assets. The much needed change will be elusive if they do not declare their assets publicly.”

The President, Civil Liberties Organisation, Mr. Steve Daniel-Aluko, stressed the benefits of declaration of assets by public officials.

Daniel-Aluko told one of our correspondents that such a decision would further demonstrate the sincerity of the current APC-led government to fight corruption.

He said, “If we understand the meaning of the change mantra, then everything should be done not only differently, but in accordance with the law. By publicly declaring their assets, the ministers would have been seen as emulating the President, who had publicly declared his own assets.”

The Coordinator, Federation of Middle Belt People, Mr. Manasseh Watyil, shared a similar view.

He said, “If we must fight corruption to a logical end, then all political appointees must declare their assets. The President has led by example. So, it is necessary that others should follow.”

The hue and cry the APC-led government is making about zero tolerance for corruption, according to the President, Trade Union Congress, Mr. Bobboi Kaigama, would be meaningless if the ministers-designate failed to publicly declare their assets.

Kaigama said, “This has been our call; the ministers-designate are Buhari’s appointees and the President has already put a template in place – like a rule of engagement. So, they have to follow suit like the President and the Vice-President have done.

“The constitution has not said that they should make it public but there is a change mantra, which means that we have a scenario where there is zero tolerance for corruption and to prove to Nigerians that we have zero tolerance for corruption, those at the helm of affairs should do like Buhari and Osinbajo have already done.”

The General Secretary, Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Peter Ozo-Eson, also backed the call on ministers-designate and other appointees to publicly declare their assets.

He said, “The law requires them to declare their assets but it does not say that they must do it publicly. However, even the President has, in his wisdom, decided to declare his own assets publicly. To that extent, we believe that the greater the openness in this matter, the better it is for governance generally.

“The ministers-designate ought to be encouraged to take a cue from their principal and follow suit. I don’t think that we can force them because it is not a legal requirement, but it will promote transparency if they emulate the President.”

A chieftain of the Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, believes that declaration of assets by public officials will elicit public confidence in the leadership.

He said, “Things should be done honestly and transparently and if public declaration of assets means more public confidence and trust, so be it. So, if Buhari’s public declaration is appreciated as a public trust, why should those who are working with the President not emulate him and do the same?”

A pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said it would be a slap on Buhari’s administration if the ministers-designate failed to see the need to declare their assets.

The Secretary of the group, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, said, “Is there any particular person you feel should not declare his assets? If the President has said people should declare assets and if he has gone ahead to declare his own, I see no reason why any political office holder should not declare his assets.

“If you are taking up a public responsibility and the leader has publicly declared his own and you refuse to declare your assets, I think it is a slap on the leadership.”

A northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum, on its part said the ministers-designate should be given a stipulated time within which they should make their assets known.

ACF National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim, told one of our correspondents that the issue was not negotiable as it would enhance public confidence in the President’s administration.

Ibrahim said, “The position of ACF is that all public officers must declare their assets in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“And they should do it within the stipulated time as contained in the constitution because the constitution gives a time frame which should be complied with.”

Foremost Igbo socio-political association, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said though ministers-designate had been confirmed by the senate, any of them who refused to declare their assets publicly should be dropped.

The president of the youth wing of the organisation, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said any minister-designate who refuses to declare his assets publicly should be seen as corrupt and not fit to hold public office.

He said, “The view of Ohanaeze is that the ministers-designate should follow in the footsteps of the President by also declaring their assets publicly.

“Any of the ministers-designate who fails to do so should be seen as having a skeleton in his cupboard. Such a person should be seen as a corrupt person who is not fit to be in Buhari’s cabinet.”

The National President of South-South Solidarity Forum, Dr. Bassey Umoh, said ministers-designate have no reason not to declare their assets publicly since their principal had already set the pace.

He said, “If President Buhari has declared his asset, why should the ministers-designate delay? Although we have not felt the impact of the change mantra, we only hope it is not used as a political weapon.”

A lawyer and rights activist, Mr. Femi Aborisade, also stressed why those seeking public offices should declare their assets.

Aborisade said the realities of the economic distress of Nigeria today requires that only those who are prepared to publicly declare their assets and liabilities should venture close to public offices.

“Those who lack the courage should be told to remain in the private sector,” he said.

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