Nigeria’s new president and vice president declared their assets a few days ago.
The opposition PDP attacked this “secret” declaration and this was echoed by many other commentators.
As typical with many Nigerians, a lot of hot air was wasted on whether the assets declaration should be made public or not.
The Nigerian Constitution in the Fifth Schedule, Part 1 paragraph 11 states: Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every public officer shall within three months after the coming into force of this Code of Conduct or immediately after taking office and thereafter –
(a) at the end of every four years; and
(b) at the end of his term of office, submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets, and liabilities and those of his unmarried children under the age of eighteen years.
There is no requirement for this declaration to be made public.
So Buhahari and his vice have fulfilled their constitutional obligation.
The real issues about asset declaration are whether all assets are declared and this becomes even more pertinent after the person has been in power. Most crooked public office holders use fronts to acquire assets while in office. So declarations on what they own are not worth the paper they are written on.
Rather than keep banging on about public declarations of assets that are bound to be false, what we need is the type of investigative journalism and whistleblowing that expose wrongdoing in high office.
If Nigerian journalists do their job properly, if conscientious Nigerian civil servants alert the public to wrongdoing and the electorate remains vigilant over the next four years, we would be in a better position to checkmate the theft of public funds, than if we just relied on some piece of paper.