…As Yar’Adua dusts Buhari on Asset declaration
…Constitution creates the loopholes – Agbaje
The audacious approach to transparency and accountability adopted by the late Nigerian President Musa Yar’Adua, on June 28, 2007, a month after his inauguration by presenting to the public photocopies of his completed assets declaration form as submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), appear to have made nonsense of claims in some quarters that President Muhammadu Buhari is the ‘awaited Messiah’ to cleanup Nigeria’s mess, observers have said.
In the document, Yar’Adua declared the values of his entire assets. The document detailed the late President’s assets, valued at N856, 452,892, with a total annual income that was put at N18.7million.
The late advocate of the rule of law also disclosed that his wife, Turai Yar’Adua had a total asset of N19million, made up of houses, stating the value of each of the houses.
In what many analysts have termed short of constitutional standard, Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, had declared last month in a statement that President Buhari has about N30million in his only bank account with the Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, while Yemi Osinbajo, vice president, had a balance of N94million, $900,000 and £19,000 in his bank accounts, with the spokesperson silent on the President’s liability and the assets of his wife, Aisha Buhari.
Although, some Nigerians have argued that declaration of assets by public officers is not voluntary; they are mandated by the law to do so before and after occupying public offices and that declaring the assets publicly is done only on moral grounds.
It will be recalled that President Buhari, during his electioneering, had told Nigerians, “I pledge to publicly declare my assets and liability and also encourage my political appointees to publicly declare their assets and liabilities.”
Section 140, sub-section 1 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states, “A person elected to the office of President shall not begin to perform the functions of that office until he has declared his assets and liabilities as prescribed in this Constitution and he has taken and subscribed the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office prescribed in the Seventh Schedule to this Constitution.”
The Code of Conduct for Public Officers listed in the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Part 1, paragraphs 1 to 14 states that “declaration of Assets – Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every public officer shall within three months after the coming into force of this Code of Conduct or immediately after taking office and thereafter :(a) at the end of every four years; and (b) at the end of the term of office; submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets and liabilities and those of his unmarried children under the age of 18 years.
“Any statement in such 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 Code. Any property or assets acquired by a public officer after any declaration required under this Constitution and which is not fairly attributable to income, gift or loan approved by this Code shall be deemed to have been acquired in breach of this Code unless the contrary is proved. 12. Allegation of breach of Code – Any allegation that a public officer has committed a breach of or has not complied with the provisions of this Code shall be made to the Code of Conduct Bureau”, it read it parts.
But the CCB’s assets declaration form also stated that every declarant is required by Law to declare his/her assets and liability including that of their spouse (s) who is not a public officer, a provision President Buhari appear not to be interested in.
Some Nigerians had first raised issue of discrepancy when Aisha Buhari, when she, in company of former deputy governor of Plateau State, Pauline Tallen; wife of former governor of Rivers State, Judith Ameachi, wife of former Nasarawa State governor and others, visited two Internally Displaced Persons camps namely: Demare and Saint Theresa in Adamawa State February this year and donated drugs worth N135m to the IDPs; after her husband had earlier said he took a bank loan to purchase a N27m All Progressive Congress (APC) nomination form.
She again made headlines during her husband’s inauguration when she was pictured wearing an expensive-looking watch which was described by section of the Nigerian media as a Cartier Baignoire Folle 18-carat white gold diamond timepiece estimated to cost around $50,000.
Aisha Buhari, who is a granddaughter to Nigeria’s first Minister of Defence, Muhammadu Ribadu is a professional cosmetologist and beauty therapist obtained a Diploma in Beauty Therapy from the Carlton Institute of Beauty Therapy, Windsor, United Kingdom and specialised in permanent make-up, mesotherapy and miocro-dermabrasion. She holds a post-graduate diploma in cosmetology and beauty from Academy Esthetique Beauty Institute of France. She is a member of the United Kingdom Vocational Training and Charitable Trust and the International Health and Beauty Council.
In February 1989, Aisha got married to Muhammadu Buhari, who had five children from his previous marriage to the late Safinatu Yusuf. Aisha and President Buhari have five children together and one grandchild.
Investigation also shows that Mrs. Buhari has run a successful business as the Founder/Managing Director of Hanzy Spa and Principal of Hanzy Beauty Institute, a Beauty salon located 5, COL. A D Umar Road, Kauna, Unguwar Rimi, Kaduna, and in yet to be obtain address in Abuja; but closed down the businesses after her husband won the presidential election to enable her focus on the new demand.
Her beauty institute, Naija247news learnt, is a National Board of Technical Education (NBTE) accredited vocational training centre and registered by the Ministry of Education aimed at exploring the untapped wealth in the emerging beauty industry and offers National Vocational Certificate (NVC).
But Fred Agbaje, a constitutional lawyer, told Naija247news in an interview that making it compulsory for public office holders to publish their assets is the only way to block the loopholes in the asset declaration process, and added that the terms and conditions for asset declaration should be amended in the constitution immediately.
According to him, the constitution has attached importance to the need to declare assets and liabilities, but queried the essence of asking for such declaration it is not to ensure probity, responsibility and eradication of corruption in the polity.
“If these are the purposes for which it is required that public officers should not be corrupt how we are sure that what they have declared is what they actually have? How are we sure that politicians, at the end of the day when they are leaving the office, would not have acquired more than what they have told the CCB. I have said it before, and I am telling you now that we should move away from this empty ritual to something sincere. Even journalists like you cannot access information with the CCB; even through the Freedom of Information Act (FOI); you would be asked all sorts of things including money. It ought not to be so. We should actually access the information with the CCB at the expense of the public officer who submitted the information”, he said.
Canvassing for constitutional amendment to reflect current demands, he upheld that the current ‘constitutional ritual’, as provided in sections 149, 152 and 158, relating to asset declaration is not far reaching enough because it has failed so far in the purpose it set out to achieve.
As at the time of filing this reports, Femi Adesina, special adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, had yet to return calls and text message sent to his cell phone asking him the President’s position on the assets and liability of his wife, Aisha Buhari.