The Code of Conduct Bureau has said that assets declared by public officers would not be available for public inspection.
In a response to the Advocate for Peoples Rights and Justice, the CCB said that assets declarations by public officers contain personal information that fall within the exemptions of the Freedom of Information Act.
The advocacy group had filed an FOI request demanding the assets declaration forms of the heads of both the CCB; the Code of Conduct Tribunal; and Nasir El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State (while he was the FCT minister).
“This is to ensure the citizens’ right to know, in line with your fight against corruption,” the group stated in a letter dated September 28 and signed by Victor Giwa, its National Coordinator.
The request came a week after the CCB slammed a 13-count charge of false asset declaration and corruption against Bukola Saraki, the Senate President.
The bureau accused Mr. Saraki of offences ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to failing to declare some assets – which were beyond his legitimate earning – he acquired while in office as governor.
Mr. Giwa told PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday that the purpose of demanding for the declared assets was to strengthen the country’s anti-corruption fight.
“We believe that the Code of Conduct Bureau’s fight against corruption must start from them.
However, in its response to the group, dated October 9, the CCB declined the request.
“It is 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,” the CCB said in a letter signed by Arinze Ijeanuli on behalf of the Chairman.
“Conversely, by virtue of sections 12(1)(a)(v), 14(1)(b) and 15(1)(a) of the same Act, the Bureau is not under any obligation to grant your request which constitutes invasion of personal privacy.
“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 such terms and conditions prescribed by the National Assembly.
“However, the terms and conditions under which that can be done are yet to be prescribed by the National Assembly.”
The quoted sections say….
- (1) A public institution may deny an application for any information which contains-
(a) Records compiled by any public institution for administrative enforcement proceedings and by any law enforcement or correctional agency for law enforcement purposes or for internal matters of a public institution, but only to the extent that disclosure would-
(v) constitute an invasion of personal privacy under Section 15 of this Act, except, where the interest of the public would be better served by having such record being made available, this exemption to disclosure shall not apply, and
- (1) A public institution shall deny an application for information that contains-
(a) trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person or business where such trade secrets or information are proprietary, privileged or confidential, or where disclosure of such trade secrets or information may cause harm to the interests of the third party provided that nothing contained in this subsection shall be construed as preventing a person or business from consenting to disclosure;
SHOULD THE Code of Conduct Bureau be the ones to determine these circumstances? Should the court of Law be involved here to determine where and when the lines are crossed between personal privacy and public interest?