Monday, July 30, 2007
Mr VP Nigeria won't declare his assets publicly
Vice President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State said he would not make public the details of his assets which he filed with the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by the constitution.
Jonathan’s position is a sharp contrast to the decision of his principal, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who last month published the contents of his assets declaration form. The President had stated that he is worth N850 million in cash, stock and other types of property.
Speaking at an interactive session with newsmen, the Vice President said “people are calling on me to go and publish my Code of Conduct declaration. I have five declaration of assets at the Code of Conduct Bureau. If the law says so I will, but if it does not I will not.
"I have declared my assets five times between 1999 and this year. Anybody who doubts that can cross-check at the relevant places." He said the "spurious" allegations against him in the media were politically motivated and that he is ready for any scrutiny on his 16-month tenure as Bayelsa State governor.
Section 185 of the 1999 Constitution states: " A person elected to the office of the governor of a state shall not begin to perform the functions of the office until he has declared his assets and liabilities as prescribed in this constitution and subsequently in the Seventh Schedule to the constitution…"
Although there is no provision in the constitution that places a mandate on public officials to declare their assets and liabilities to the public, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as governor of Katsina State in 1999, publicly declared his assets and repeated the same exercise in 2003 upon re-election.
Shortly after being sworn in as president in May 29, he again made public his assets totalling well above N800 million. Yar’Adua was followed by Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State, who made public his assets of well over N3 billion as well as former Zamfara State governor now senator, Ahmed Sani Yerima.
Jonathan also said he cannot declare how much the assets and liability he left behind in the state as he is no longer the state governor and that there are so much on-going projects that would make it difficult to categorically state the exact amount the state has in its coffers at any given time.
The Vice President lamented the pull-him-down syndrome prevalent in the state and added that such attitude should stop in order for the state to move forward.
I am not afraid to apologise if I do anything wrong," he said. He urged the media to refrain from speculations in view of its role in shaping lives and opinions. According to him, his administration in Bayelsa made solid investments for the future development of the state.
"I acknowledge that the state had its share of liabilities; that was why I cancelled some approvals on realising that our finances were going down," Jonathan said. On the attack on his personal residence some months ago, Jonathan said his major loss were his school certificates.
The vice president added: "There was no money in whatever form, whether domestic or foreign that was stolen during that attack on my residence. I challenge anybody with contrary version of what I said on that attack on my residence to prove it."
He solicited the cooperation of all Bayelsa people and urged them to work for the progress of the state.
He said he is not afraid of petitions from any quarter, saying he has a large number of petition filed against him already and most of them lack substance.
Coming to the defense of the Vice president in the area of assets left behind for his administration, Governor Timipre Sylva disclosed that the Jonathan administration left over N20 billion in investment through the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI) for his government.
Sylva who like Jonathan did not say exactly how much in cash or debt the Jonathan government left agreed with the Vice President that government is a continuum and as such whatever assets and liability left by the previous administration is inherited by the in-coming one.
... but Nigeria's legal luminaries think not
Femi Falana, President, West African Bar Association
Goodluck Jonathan reportedly said public declaration of assets by public officers was voluntary and therefore, he would not make his assets and liabilities public.
Reacting to the statement, a leading legal practitioner, Chief J. B. Daudu (SAN) queried: “Morally, is he not bound to follow suit to show transparency? If voluntary declaration is an example of openness of transparency that the president set a very good example, being a vice president, he has no choice in the matter.
He should have followed a good example of the president. By his stance he must have something to hide. It is unfortunate, let’s hope we won’t have another Atiku,” he added.
Also speaking, the President of the West African Bar Association (WABA), Mr Femi Falana, explained that the vice president and other public office holders are not only morally bound to declare their assets publicly, they have a legal obligation to declare their assets publicly to the people.
“Public declaration of assets for public office holders is not just a moral question, it is, in fact, a legal obligation, which they must discharged just as the president has demonstrated by example.
“The legal implication is to the effect that the word declaration came from the Latin word declario, which simply means ‘to make public’ or ‘announce publicly.’ So it is both morally and legally incumbent on the affected public office holders to make known publicly their assets to the people. Do you declare something and still keep it secret? No. Public assets declaration is an essential ingredients of democracy,” Falana said.
Also kicking against the pronouncement, another notable lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa, who said he was surprised at the statement.
“I think that since the vice president knew that it was part of the campaign policy of the president to openly declare his asset, it is wrong for the vice president to now make a U-turn that he would not declare his assets publicly, contrary to what they promised the electorate. He cannot, at this time, deny his president,” he added.
According to Adegboruwa, Jonathan has no moral justification not to declare his asset publicly. “We cannot have a president who is transparent and have a vice president who chooses not to be transparent,” he said.
Birds of the same feathers flocking together or two left hands trying to scrub each other clean? If you have declared your assets somewhat, Mr VP, what's the fear in going the whole hog and doing so publicly? It would appear that someone truly has something to hide.