The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) on June 30, 2015 declined a Freedom of Information request made to it on behalf of the Stop Impunity Nigeria (S.I.N) Campaign by the Centre for Social Justice (CENSOJ), for access to the asset declarations made by President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
CCB said the information is excluded from those covered by the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act saying the information falls under the “personal privacy” category. The Bureau also insisted that the National Assembly has not prescribed the terms and conditions under which information about the assets declared by public functionaries would be made available on request.
CCB in its letter titled “Re: Application Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 for copies of the Assets Declaration Forms submitted by President Muhammad Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo,” was signed by Ijeanuli Arinze Ofor on behalf of its Chairman.
The letter conceded that Sections 1 (1), 3 and 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2011 guarantees the right of a person to access or request information whether or not in written form, in the custody of any public agency.
It also noted that “by virtue of Sections 12 (1) (a) (V), 14 (1) (b) and 15 (1)(a) of the same Act, the Code of Conduct Bureau has power to decline a request, which constitutes invasion of personal privacy.”
It claimed: “Assets declarations by public officers contain such personal information which falls within the exemptions to the disclosure of information in the FOIA.”
The letter added: “Furthermore, paragraph 3 (c) of the third schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, provides that the Code of Conduct Bureau shall make assets declarations of public officers available for inspection by any citizen of Nigeria only on terms and conditions prescribed by the National Assembly.”
It pointed out that “the terms and conditions under which that can be done have not yet been prescribed by the National Assembly,” and therefore declined the request.
The S.I.N campaign and CENSOJ had in an application dated June 1, 2015 specifically requested for copies of the assets declaration forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau by General Muhammadu Buhari and Professor Yemi Osinbajo on May 28, 2015 or thereabout in accordance with Section 140(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The S.I.N Campaign is comprised of the Centre for Social Justice (CENSOJ), Community Life Project (CLP), Human Development Initiative (HDI), and Media Rights Agenda (MRA).