By Dipo Olowookere
A Freedom of Information (FoI) request has been sent to the Chairman of Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Mr Muhammed Isah, by a prominent anti-corruption group known as Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The group wants Mr Isah to use his “good offices and leadership position to urgently provide information on specific details of asset declarations submitted to the CCB by successive presidents and state governors since the return of democracy in 1999.”
According to SERAP, it is seeking information on “details of asset declarations by successive presidents and state governors between 1999 and 2019, including details of declarations made immediately after taking offices and thereafter, and for those who have left public offices, at the end of their term of office.”
The group also said it wants information “on the number of asset declarations so far verified by the CCB and the number of those declarations found to be false and deemed to be in breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, by the Bureau.”
In the FOI request dated April 18, 2019, and signed by SERAP deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “While we welcome the judgment by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Justice Walter Onnoghen, we now urge the CCB to extent its mandates to enforce constitutional provisions on asset declarations by public officers to cover elected officers and to vigorously pursue the prosecution of any such officers who use their powers either as presidents or state governors over public funds to enrich themselves.”
According to SERAP, “While judicial corruption is bad, the level of corruption involving many politicians since 1999 and the entrenched culture of impunity of perpetrators is equally appalling. Publishing the asset declarations of elected public officers since the return of democracy in 1999 to date would improve public trust in the ability of the Bureau to effectively discharge its mandates. This would in turn put pressure on public officers like presidents and state governors to make voluntary public declaration of their assets.”
The FOI request read in part: “SERAP is concerned that many politicians hide behind the fact that members of the public do not have access to their asset declarations to make false declarations, and to cover up assets illegally acquired in corruption or abuse of office. The CCB can use the opportunity presented by the Onnoghen judgment to increase the accountability of politicians through the asset declaration provisions if it is not to be accused of witch-hunting the judiciary.
“The grim condition of many of our citizens since 1999 has been worsened by the deterioration of public services whereby access to clean water and affordable health-care has become a pipe dream and the supply of electricity became epileptic and irregular due to years of grand corruption by many politicians at the highest level of government.
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal action under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.
“The persistent refusal by successive presidents and state governors to make public their asset declarations is entirely inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the 1999 Constitution, and has been particularly harmful to the country and its people, especially given the widespread evidence of grand corruption among politicians holding public offices in Nigeria.
“The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) seeks to prevent corruption and abuse of office through its provisions on the declaration of assets not just by judicial officers but by all public officers including elected officers like presidents and governors.
“Nigerians can no longer accept the excuse by high-ranking government officers that declaring their assets before the CCB is enough, as such pretext is not supported by the oaths of office by elected public officers. The failure by successive presidents and state governors to voluntarily make public their asset declarations would seem to suggest that they have something to hide.
“Given that many public officers being tried for or convicted of corruption are found to have made a false declaration of their assets, the CCB should no longer allow politicians to undermine the sanctity and integrity of the asset declaration provisions of the Constitution by allowing them to continue to exploit legal gaps for illicit enrichment.
“SERAP believes that while elected public officers may not be constitutionally obliged to publicly declare their assets, the Freedom of Information Act 2011 has now provided the mechanism for the CCB to improve transparency and accountability of asset declarations by elected public officers.
“Asset declaration forms are public documents within the meaning of section 109 of the Evidence Act, and therefore, Nigerians are entitled to have access to such information. SERAP urges the CCB to vigorously push for change in law to provide penal sanctions for politicians that fail to make public their asset declarations.
“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on the asset declarations by elected public officers since the return of democracy in 1999.
“SERAP notes that provisions on the declaration of assets by all public officers in Nigeria are entrenched in the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, contained in Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. The primary objective is to prevent corruption and abuse of office and to ensure transparency in public officers.
“SERAP also notes that public officers for the purposes of the Code include the President and the Vice-President of the Federation, state governors and their deputies; the President and Deputy-President of the Senate, the Speaker and Deputy-Speaker of the House of Representatives and Speakers, the Chief justice of Nigeria, justices of the Supreme Court, the President and justices of the Court of Appeal, and other judicial officers and all staff of courts of law.”
SERAP, therefore, urged the CCB to disclose including by publishing on a dedicated website, details of asset declarations submitted by presidents and state governors since the return of democracy in 1999; disclose details on the number of asset declarations so far verified by the CCB and the number of those declarations found to be false and deemed to be a breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers by the Bureau; and immediately take cases of false asset declarations to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for effective prosecution of suspects, and include banning the politicians involved from holding public offices for at least a period of 10 years and seeking refund of stolen public funds as part of the reliefs to be sought before the Tribunal.
Business Post reports that since 1999, four persons have governed Nigeria as Presidents and they are Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, late Mr Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Mr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Mr Muhammadu Buhari.
We Cater for Over 17.5 Million Nigerian Orphans—SOS Children’s Villages
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
Over 17.5 million orphans in Nigeria are being catered for under the watch of the SOS Children’s Villages in Nigeria.
The independent, non-governmental, non-profit international development organization, in addition, runs family strengthening programs, where children and families in need benefit from vocational training, care, medical and food assistance.
The National Director of the SOS Children’s Villages in Nigeria, Mr Eghosa Erhumwunse, recently disclosed this in Isolo, Lagos, while receiving food items donated by Crown Flour Mill (CFM) Limited, producers of the popular Mama Gold flour and semolina brands and Crown Pasta food products.
Thanking the firm for the humanitarian gesture, he said, “By making this food donation to bring relief to the children at the Villages, Crown Flour Mill Limited has demonstrated that it is a business that values the wellbeing of its host communities.
“We cater for over 17.5 million orphans in Nigeria. Our in-country strategic partners have been instrumental in ensuring the vulnerable segments are able to survive the various shocks of the ongoing global crises and local challenges.”
Some of the food items donated included Crown Premium Spaghetti bags of Mama Gold Semolina and Crown Supreme Semolina and a range of sanitary products and toiletries.
In addition to these, a cookout for over 480 students of Biyamusu Primary School, Ajingi, Kano was also organized by the firm along with the donation of food products and toiletries to the wards of Nasarawa Children’s Home an orphanage also in Kano state.
These contributions supported by the flour milling firm were in line with its series of activities lined up to commemorate the 2021 World Food Day (WFD) tagged: Our actions are our future – Better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.
Speaking during the visit, the Managing Director of Crown Flour Mill Limited, Mr Ashish Pande, lamented the gap that exists between many children and their access to a healthy future.
He reiterated the firm’s determination in providing consumers, the underprivileged, and people affected by food shortage with access to affordable and nutritious food options.
On her part, the Corporate Affairs Manager at Olam Nigeria, Ms Damilola Adeniyi, said, “No one, most of all children, deserves to suffer hunger or lack access to good food.
“Therefore, we are taking actions that align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of achieving zero hunger in the world in our business operations, which lay emphasis on food safety, fortification, security, and Corporate Social Investments (CSI) such as this.”
200 Retirees in Jigawa to Share N331.7m
By Adedapo Adesanya
No fewer than 200 retirees in Jigawa State will share N331.7 million, the Executive Secretary of the Jigawa State and Local Government Contributory Pension Scheme, Mr Kamilu Aliyu, has disclosed.
Speaking on Wednesday in Dutse, Mr Aliyu stated that the beneficiaries were retired from the service in the state, local government and Local Education Authorities (LEAs).
He said that the payment comprises retirement benefits, death benefits, death pension balance and refund of eight per cent contribution.
Breaking down the figures, Mr Aliyu said that 83 of the beneficiaries were from state service, 72 from local government service and 45 from LEAs.
He said that a total of N331.698 million would be paid to 200 retirees in the disbursement exercise.
“Forty-seven beneficiaries from the state service will be paid N99.709 million as retirement benefit, and 52 retirees of the local governments will receive the sum of N72.653 million, while N26.753 million will be paid to 22 beneficiaries from LEAs.
“For the death benefits, 15 retirees from the state will be paid N38.721 million and 14 retirees from the local government will be paid N27.270 million while 18 others from LEAs will get N47.645 million,” he said.
Mr Aliyu said that under the death pension balance, nine beneficiaries from the state would be paid N9.2 million, six retirees from the local government will receive N1.613 million while five others from LEAs will get N6.9 million.
According to him, 12 beneficiaries will receive N1.25 million as a refund of the eight per cent contribution.
The executive scribe reiterated the commitment of the state government to ensure prompt payment of pension and other entitlements to improve the wellbeing of pensioners.
To achieve this, he said, the board had adopted proactive modalities to hasten payment processes of the retirees whenever their number reached about 200.
“We no longer have to wait until we have a large number of retirees.
“This will enable the retirees not wait for long or suffer before they start enjoying their benefits after disengagement from the service,” he stated.
Oyo to Implement Social Protection Programme
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
All is now set for the implementation of the social protection programme aimed to address the issues of lack of access to education and healthcare for children in Oyo State.
This Oyo State Social Protection and Implementation Plan is being put in place in collaboration with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
According to the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning in Oyo State, Professor Musibau Babatunde, the idea of this scheme is to strengthen social protection among the vulnerable people in the state.
Speaking during a four-day stakeholders’ meeting in Oyo town, the Commissioner said the state, through constant engagements with relevant stakeholders, has finalised the production of a Medium-Term Sector Strategy (MTSS).
Mr Babatunde explained that the partnership with UNICEF would provide a unique opportunity for the most vulnerable people in the state to access development and intervention programmes.
“The essence of the partnership on social protection is to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable people in the state. Through this, we will make them an integral part of the development and intervention programmes in the state,” he said.
The meeting, organised by the state’s Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning and UNICEF, was attended by representatives of civil society organisations, media, development partners among others.
Speaking earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, Mrs Mofoluke Adebiyi, said the workshop was aimed at articulating and mapping social protection programmes in the state for proper domestication of the National Social Protection Policy.
She recalled that a three-day technical working session held in Oyo between August 30 and September 1, resulted in the production of a clean and updated revised policy document that culminated as the working tool for the workshop.
In another development, the Oyo State government has reiterated its total commitment to the wellbeing of the less privileged, saying it will leave no stone unturned in catering especially for the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC).
The wife of the Oyo State Governor, Mrs Tamunominini Makinde, gave this assurance on Tuesday at the 10th anniversary of Winnie’s Castle Orphanage, Ibadan.
She said the administration of her husband, Mr Seyi Makinde, would provide basic needs and protect every child’s right to survival, development, protection and participation as enshrined in the State Child Rights Law (2006).
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