By Michael Ojo
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has dismissed an application brought before it by the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project, SERAP, seeking details of the assets declaration information of all Presidents, VPs, Senate Presidents, Speakers of House of Representatives, State Governors and their deputies from 1999 till 2019.
In the application filed in June 2019, SERAP also asked the court to grant an order of mandamus directing and compelling the Code of Conduct Bureau(CCB) to immediately take cases of false asset declarations to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for effective prosecution of suspects, including banning the politicians involved from holding public offices for at least a period of 10 years and seeking refund of stolen public funds.
But in a judgement delivered on the application today, Justice Muslim Hassan refused to grant SERAP’s request
In dismissing the application, Justice Hassan referred to section 15(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which establishes the Code of Conduct Bureau and it’s composition.
The court held that paragraph 3(a,b&c) of part 1, 3rd schedule of the constitution is very clear and unambiguous.
In interpreting the sections, the court held that it is the duty of the National assembly to prescribe the conditions for the release of Asset declaration forms for inspection and to achieve this, the National Assembly has to pass an Act to that effect which has not be done.
The court also held that the terms and conditions to be prescribed by National Assembly must be specific and related to Asset declaration of Public officers and not a legislation of general nature such as the Freedom of information Act, 2011.
“In the light of the above I hold that the instant application is unmeritorious and it is accordingly dismissed, said Justice Hassan.
In support of the application, a litigation officer of SERAP, Ahmed Oshodi had stated that the Code of Conduct Bureau had refused to respond to the organization’s FOI Request made since April 2019 on the ground that it would amount to an invasion of privacy of the politicians.
He urged the court to compel the CCB to release the details requested on the basis that it is a matter of utmost national importance, public interest and human rights as it borders on corruption, misappropriation of public funds, good governance, transparency and accountability.