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Channels TV reports that the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos to set aside a judgment of a Federal High Court and to order public disclosure of asset declaration details submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) by President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, governors, their deputies, and other politicians since 1999.”

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had on Monday, May 11, 2020, dismissed the application filed by SERAP seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel the CCB to make available to the public specific details of asset declarations submitted to it by successive presidents, vice-presidents, senate presidents, speakers of House of Representatives, state governors and their deputies since 1999.”

Justice Muslim Hassan declined the prayers, holding that, “I agree with the CCB that the duty to make the asset declaration form of public officers available is dependent upon the terms and conditions to be proscribed by the National Assembly. The terms and conditions must be specific and related to asset declaration of public officers and not legislation of general nature such as the Freedom of Information Act.”

SERAP in the appeal filed last week contended that “The learned trial judge misinterpreted the provision and purport of paragraph 3[c], Third Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended). The judge did not consider that the Freedom of information was enacted by the National Assembly in 2011 to grant public access to public documents.”

They then asked for Buhari and Osibanjo to declare their asset to the public thus;

“Asset declaration forms submitted by public officers are public documents in the custody of the CCB. The CCB is under a legal obligation to provide the information requested by SERAP in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

SERAP is, therefore, seeking “an order allowing the Appeal, and setting aside the judgement of the Honourable Justice Muslim Hassan delivered on Monday, 11th May 2020.”

SERAP is also asking the Court of Appeal for “an order granting all the reliefs sought by the Appellant in the Appellant’s motion on notice dated 4th October 2019 before the lower court including an order of mandamus directing and compelling the CCB to publish details of asset declarations as prayed; and a declaration that the failure of the CCB to publish the asset declarations amounts to a breach of legal obligation.”

SERAP is asking the Court of Appeal for “a declaration that the failure of the CCB to provide specific documents and information on the number of asset declarations so far verified by it 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 violates the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter.”

SERAP is also seeking an “order of mandamus directing and compelling the CCB to immediately take cases of false asset declarations to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for the effective prosecution of suspects, and include banning the politicians involved from holding public offices for at least a period of 10 years and seeking a refund of stolen public funds as part of the reliefs to be sought before the Tribunal.”

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