Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has condemned the Code of Conduct Bureau over its refusal to grant a Freedom of Information request by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project on the ground that asset declaration form is private information.
Falana described the ground as “illogical.”
Falana in a keynote address at Stakeholders Dialogue on Corruption in Nigeria held in Kano on Tuesday said, “The federal government has also failed to show commitment to the fight against corruption by encouraging secrecy with respect to asset declaration by public officers.”
The CCB had rejected a Freedom of Information request by an anti-corruption group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, demanding specific details of asset declarations submitted to it by presidents and state governors since 1999.
Falana said, “With respect, it is illogical to claim that the asset declaration forms submitted by the erstwhile public officers are private documents. Accordingly, the rejection of the request by SERAP is a contravention of section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.”
“It is hoped that the CCB will review its position and allow citizens to access the information in the declaration forms submitted to it by all public officers in view of the new policy of the Buhari administration to enforce effective asset declaration by public office holders.”
The senior advocate also advised the government to utilise the loot recovered from treasury looters in addressing poverty and security challenges in the country.
Falana said ,“From the reports compiled by the federal ministry of justice and federal ministry of finance as well as the anti-graft agencies the federal government has recovered not less that N1 trillion from treasury looters and through the whistleblowing policy of the Buhari administration.”
“It is suggested that the sum of N1 billion be set aside for the establishment of a factory in each of the 774 local governments in the country while the balance should be allocated to the police to secure the country.
“Having managed the Petroleum Trust Fund under the Sani Abacha junta President Buhari should have no difficulty in investing the recovered loot in addressing the crises of insecurity and unemployment. After all, the sum of $321 million from the Abacha loot is being distributed to the poor as dictated by Switzerland that illegally warehoused the loot for almost two decades.”
Calling on the civil society to play an active role in the fight against corruption, the activisist said, “The role of the civil society in ensuring the effective fight against corruption and the implementation of the above recommendations cannot be over-stressed.
“In fact, both the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption clearly articulate important roles for civil society in the fight against corruption.”
“A good example of the role civil society can play is that currently being played by SERAP, a Nigerian based human rights and anti-corruption NGO. But as corruption in Nigeria has assumed a dangerous dimension due to the anti-people’s economic programme of the government CSOs must link up with the people in combating the menace of corruption.”