Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court, Abuja to order President Muhammadu Buhari to make public details of his assets, specifically property and income.
The group also included Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies in the lawsuit.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/65/2020 filed last Friday, SERAP is seeking: “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to make public their summary of assets; disclose whether they have had any reason to review and update their asset declarations submitted to the CCB, and if the declarations have been made as constitutionally and statutorily required.”
In a statement signed by the group’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP is also seeking “an order to compel President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to disclose whether they have received any confirmation of the verification of their asset declarations by the CCB and to disclose whether they have taken any steps to encourage members of their cabinet to also submit their asset declarations to the CCB, and to make such declarations public.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel Kolawole Oluwadare, read in part: “The advantages that the general public would gain from being informed about the summary of assets declarations submitted to the CCB outweigh any perceived privacy or inconvenience if the court orders the details to be made public as sought by SERAP.”
“By a combined reading of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the FoI Act, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies ought to be directed and compelled to make public their asset declarations as submitted to the CCB.”
“The reliefs sought are constitutionally and statutorily grounded and based on Nigeria’s international transparency obligations. The reliefs sought do not clash with the rights to privacy and data protection. Both rights are not absolute and can be restricted provided there is a basis in law and a legitimate public interest justifies the restriction. Prevention of grand corruption and exposing unexplained wealth of officials are serious and legitimate public interests.”
“SERAP and indeed the general public have a legitimate interest in ascertaining and scrutinizing the veracity, exactitude and honesty of information contained in asset declarations submitted by public officials to the CCB. Without public disclosure of summary of assets, this would have no practical importance.”
“Public disclosure of summary of assets submitted to the CCB would help uncover any irregularities and trigger formal verification of declarations by the CCB and other anti-corruption agencies, be entirely consistent with government’s expressed commitment to prevent and combat corruption, provide a safeguard against abuse, and serve as an incentive to public officials to provide exact information when filing and submitting their asset declarations.”
“Any perceived claim of interference with the right to privacy are sufficiently foreseeable for the purposes of the legal requirements for asset declarations by public officials, given that public-disclosure of summary of assets would undoubtedly contribute to the legitimate aim of asset declaration regimes to prevent corruption, as it would ensure transparency regarding the details of those assets.”