Political Conference Committee Proposes
Constitutional Guarantee of Access to Information
The National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) Committee
President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chairman of the Africa Union
Executive has proposed the inclusion of a provision in the
new Constitution granting individuals, including the press, “unfettered
access to information.”
The Committee said such a provision will more effectively
expose the excesses of politicians and political parties in order to
sanitize the electoral system, if the country is to achieve the goal of
conducting free and fair elections.
The recommendation is one of the several transparency
provisions proposed by the Committee in its 93-page report to the full
The Committee, headed by Alhaji Femi Okunnu (SAN) with Dr.
Umaru Dikko as Deputy Chairman, is one of the 19 Committees set up by the
Conference to examine various aspects of the work of the Conference. It
was charged with reviewing the system of government and structure of the
Executive arm and making recommendations on the system of government to be
adopted by Nigeria and other issues related to the Executive.
The Committee, which recommended the retention of the
presidential system of government, noted that the large scale corruption
and absence of transparency and accountability in the body polity today is
inimical to good governance and can threaten Nigeria’s young democracy.
It suggested that efforts to eliminate or reduce these vices or problems
must be intensified if democracy is to endure.
It recommended that there must be public declaration of
assets by public officers before, at mid-term, and after the office holder
leaves office, saying: “This is to discourage inflated assets declaration
by politicians in the Executive branch of the Government, both at Federal
and State levels, who declare funds loaned to them by friends as their own
in order to fraudulently swell their assets base, only to withdraw such
funds from their accounts immediately after they have been sworn into
office. The asset declarations must be published in the news media and on
The Committee proposed that all candidates for election to
a public office, including those of the President or the Governor, must
openly declare their assets at the High Court of Justice before assuming
office, at mid-term and on leaving office and that such assets
declarations must be made public in the newspapers and on the Internet.
It suggested that every Nigerian citizen should have the
right to challenge in the High Court or the appropriate tribunal the
assets declarations submitted by any public officer, including the
President, the Vice President, the Governor or the Deputy Governor of a
The Committee recommended that the Code of Conduct Bureau
established under the Constitution and charged with receiving assets
declarations from public officers, should be constitutionally empowered
and obliged to publish assets declarations in national newspapers and on
the Bureau’s website.
According to it, there should also be a National Assets
Investigation Panel or Commission to which complaints can be brought
against public officers, including the President and the Governors, and
the Panel should be constitutionally empowered to investigate the assets
of any public officer and make its findings public.
It also proposed that the assets of any public officer,
especially the President, the Vice President, the Governor or the Deputy
Governor of a State in the form of stocks and shares “should be held in
blind trust” while he or she is in office.
The Committee also recommended that the report of the
Auditor-General of the Federation or the Auditors-General of the States
should be made public through a publication in the media at the time of
their presentation to the Legislatures.
It noted that “It is instructive to note that the 1960,
1963, 1979, 1995 (ill-fated) and 1999 Constitutions all failed to include
free and unfettered access to information as a right under the chapter on
fundamental human rights. Similarly, there is no reference to
accountability and transparency in governance under the Executive arm in
the 1960, 1963, 1979 Constitutions. The ill-fated 1995 Constitution and
that of 1999 gave limited recognition to accountability and transparency
It said it considered the issue of transparency and
accountability by public officials as very important features that must be
put in place if Nigeria is to attain good governance.
According to the Committee, “The near total absence of the
twin features over the years and by successive administrations have been
the major impediment to the development of a mature social, political and
economic climate in Nigeria. They have sustained the seeming perpetual
levels of underdevelopment and poverty.”
It identified essential features of transparency and
accountability to include issues such as free and fair elections, access
to information, recall mechanism, the rule of law, institutional
safeguards such as the Independent Corruption Practices and Other Related
Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),
the Code of Conduct Bureau, and the Auditor-General.
The Conference will reconvene in plenary sessions from May
23 when it will begin consideration of the reports of the various