A human rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has sued the Code of Conduct Bureau for its failure to disclose assets declared by presidents and governors.

The Code of Conduct Bureau in a letter with reference number CCB/HQ/LU/047/59 had rejected a Freedom of Information request by SERAP demanding the details of asset declarations submitted to it by presidents and state governors between 1999 and 2019.

This refusal, the CCB argued, was on the grounds that producing such information would amount to an invasion of the privacy of presidents and governors.

In the suit, which it filed before the Federal High Court in Lagos, SERAP is seeking an order granting leave to apply for judicial review and to seek an order of mandamus compelling the CCB to make available to it asset declarations submitted to it by presidents and state governors between 1999 and 2019.

The group, in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1019/2019, is also praying the court order granting leave to it to apply for judicial review and to seek an order of mandamus compelling the CCB to take cases of false asset declarations to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for prosecution of suspects.

In the suit, SERAP argued that “asset declarations of presidents and state governors submitted to the CCB are public documents. Public interest in disclosure of the details of asset declarations sought by SERAP clearly outweighs any claim of protection of the privacy of presidents and state governors, as they are public officers entrusted with the duty to manage public funds, among other public functions.

“A necessary implication of the rule of law is that a public institution like the CCB can only act in accordance with the law, as to do otherwise may enthrone arbitrariness. The CCB does not have reasonable grounds on which to deny SERAP’s FOI request, as it is in the interest of justice, the Nigerian public, transparency and accountability to publish details of asset declarations by presidents and state governors since the return of democracy in 1999.”

Counsel for SERAP, Adelanke Aremo, argued in the suit that, “The right to receive information without any interference or distortion should be based on the principle of maximum disclosure and a presumption that all information is accessible subject only to a narrow system of exceptions.”

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