REACTIONS have continued to trail the statement of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) saying that asset declaration is an integral part of the swearing-in ceremony for all public officials including the democratically-elected persons in Nigeria.
In an interview with The Punch newspaper on Monday, May 8, 2023, CCB’s spokesperson, Veronica Kato, said that no defaulting public official will be sworn-in as it was part of the inauguration process.
“But one thing is sure; no public official will be sworn into office without filling their asset declaration form. This is what is contained in our law. Before the oath of office will be conferred on any elected public officials, they must submit their asset declaration forms. It is part of the requirements for the swearing-in ceremony,” Kato stated.
Consequently, a Facebook user, Inspired Castro, claimed that the CCB has said that the President-elect, , Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, will not be sworn in on May 29, without declaring their assets.
The post archived here read:
Bola Tinubu, Kashim Shettima, and others will not be sworn in on May 29 code of conduct warns.
Jungle is maturing.”
The claim has garnered over 300,000 views, more than 7,000 likes and shared by more than 2,000 Facebook users as well as over 500 comments as of Sunday, May 28, 2023 when it was retrieved from Facebook.
Tinubu was declared the winner of the February 25 presidential elections and billed for swearing-in to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29.
However, in the aftermath of his declaration as the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a broad range of Nigerians including the main opposition parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP) have challenged the results of the presidential election at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) sitting in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.
Different reasons ranging from the constitutional requirement of 25% in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to Tinubu’s alleged fraudulent claims of educational attainment are some of the reasons why there were clamours for the suspension of the swearing-in ceremony for the President-elect and his vice.
The CCB’s statement to the Punch newspaper on asset declaration further adds to a string of claims that have circulated to stop Tinubu’s inauguration as Nigeria’s president.
It then brings to fore the arguments if the president-elect can be sworn in without declaring his assets.
What does the Code of Conduct Bureau Act says?
The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) established in Nigeria in 1979 aims at enhancing a high standard of public morality in the conduct of public business.
Section 2 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act LFN1990 provides that the aims and objectives of the Bureau shall be to establish and maintain a high standard of morality of government business and to ensure that the actions and behavior of public officers conform to the highest standards of public morality and accountability.
Asset declaration as the name implies is a statement or document that contains the total worth of an individual in terms of material resources, both liquid cash and properties.
The asset declaration forms contain personal information about public officials like the president, their properties, assets, and liabilities, and those of their wives/husbands and their children who are under the age of 18 years.
According to guidelines specified by the CCB, all public officers are to declare their assets on (a)Assumption of office; (b) At the end of his term of office; (c) At an interval of four years for public officers on continuous employment of Government whether Federal, State or Local Government (d) and at such other intervals as the Bureau may determine from time to time.
Section 140 Subsection 1 of the 1999 constitution reads: ”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.”
Based on the provisions of the constitution as stated above, no person elected to the Office of the President is allowed to perform the functions of that office until he has declared his assets. The same applies to the Vice President and key public officials.
Asset declaration from 1999 till date.
In 1999, General Abubakar Abdulsalam’s administration enshrined the Code of Conduct Bureau in Section 153, Third Schedule, Part 1 and Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of the Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria.
When Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office as Nigeria’s president in May 1999 and May 2003 respectively, media reports indicated that he did not declare his assets on assumption of office even though the law was provided for in Nigeria’s 1999 constitution.
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who served as Nigeria’s president between 2007 to 2010, upon assumption of office, publicly declared his assets before he took over the office in 2007. A month later, on June 28th, he made public the duly signed copies of his assets declaration he had submitted to the CCB earlier.
Also, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who was then Vice President to Yaradua, declared a personal fortune of N295 million in 2007.
In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari made public his asset declaration revealing that he had less than N30 million in his bank accounts at the time. This also gives credence to the declaration of assets before assuming office.
In the same vein, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the incoming President and Vice President in 2023 to publicly declare their assets, ThisDay reported.
Is assets declaration necessary before the swearing-in ceremony? Lawyers react
According to the CCB Act, the declaration of assets must be done before the President-Elect is sworn in as a person elected to public office can not begin to perform the functions of the office until he has declared his assets and liabilities.
A cursory look at the pattern of asset declaration by past presidents since 1999 shows that in practice, Nigerian politics may sometimes override the law, particularly in cases where powerful individuals or interests are involved.
A legal practitioner, Christopher Monchie, in a chat with The FactCheckHub, said, constitutionally, no elected official can assume office without declaring all he has and his family adding that it is standard practice across the world.
“The law has been in place from time immemorial but with time laws are amended to suit modern realities,” he said.
According to him, the president can be sworn in without declaring his assets but risk being punished.
“An/any elected official who fails to declare his assets or declares not all he/she has is punishable,” Monchie stated.
Also speaking on the issue, another legal practitioner, Abdulkareem Musa, agreed with Monchie that the President-elect is required to declare his assets in accordance with the provisions of Nigerian law.
”By the provisions of paragraph 11 of the 5th Schedule to the Constitution of the FRN 1999, every public officer is required to declare all his properties, assets, and liabilities and those of his unmarried children under the age of 18.
”The President-elect is required to declare his assets within thirty days of taking office. The assets declaration form must include details of all the President-elect’s assets, including property, vehicles, bank accounts, and investment,” he added.
While the CCB is required to keep the President-elect’s asset declaration form confidential, Musa noted that the CCB can release the form if it is necessary to investigate allegations of corruption or other wrongdoing.
Ibrahim Haroon, a Lagos-based lawyer, submitted that Section 140 of the Constitution is clear and requires no microscopic scrutiny.
”Yes, the president can be sworn in without the asset declaration form. The stipulation of the law is that the President-elect and Vice President-elect shall not begin to perform the functions of their offices until they have declared their assets to the CCB.
”The law however does not make this requirement a condition precedent that must be fulfilled before the swearing in. The assets may be declared immediately after swearing in but before the commencement of performance of presidential/vice presidential functions,” he stated.
Abdulsemihi Oladele, a principal counsel at Abdulsemihi Oladele & Co, also opined that the President-elect can be sworn in before filling the asset declaration form as the Constitution in Section 11 (1) part 1 of the fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution says the forms should be submitted to the CCB immediately after taking office.
He added that the consequences of the law being breached or violated is a trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
On Monday, May 29, 2023, both Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima will become the seventh democratically elected president and vice president once inaugurated.