The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP has stressed the need for the judiciary to rule against unduly withheld access to asset declaration forms. It said Code of Conduct Bureau’s obstruction of Nigerians who seek access to the forms was one of the reasons the system had not been to achieve its goals.
It therefore called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria and other heads of courts to encourage all judges to support the fight against corruption.
These were part of SERAP’s recommendations during the virtual media presentation of its latest report titled, ‘No escape for the corrupt: Lifting the lid on asset declaration in Nigeria’, on Saturday. The presentation was done by a professor of public law and president of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Prof Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN.
The CSO identified the reasons why the asset declaration system is not effective to include “non-compliance by most public officials, lack of transparent follow-up and verification of declared asset and the persistent reluctance of the custodian of the CCB to publish the records for public scrutiny.”
In its recommendations, SERAP said, “Through proactive interpretation, the courts should pronounce against unduly withheld access and progressively entrench the culture of transparency and accountability in governance. The judiciary should also change the often-antagonistic attitude of many judges towards lawyers and litigants in anti-corruption matters and asset declaration cases.”
SERAP also recommended that the CCB should study the asset declaration systems in Argentina, Bhutan, the Philippines and Thailand, while calling on the Attorney General of the Federation to initiate executive bills to correct flaws in the CCB.
It added, “The AGF as the Chief Law Officer should focus on the verifiability of declared asset, public disclosure and clarification of gifts by inserting guideline provisions as to what is reasonably attributable to gift.”
It called on the CCB to see CSOs and journalists as partners in enthroning transparency and accountability in Nigeria rather than antagonise their efforts. The programme, anchored by Maupe Ogun-Yusuf and SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, was attended by many other participants.