A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State, has granted leave to a human rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, to compel the Code of Conduct Bureau to publish asset declarations submitted to it by successive presidents and state governors since the return of democracy in 1999.
Justice Muslim Hassan granted the order for leave following the hearing of an argument in court on an ex-parte motion by SERAP’s counsel, Adelanke Aremo.
In a ruling, Justice Muslim held that, “Going through the application filed by SERAP, supported by a 14-paragraph affidavit with supporting exhibits, statements setting out the facts, verifying affidavits and written address in support, I am satisfied that leave ought to be granted in this case, and I hereby grant the motion for leave.”
SERAP’s action, designated FHC/L/CS/1019/2019, came consequent upon the claim by CCB that it could not disclose details of asset declarations submitted to it by successive presidents and state governors since 1999 because doing so “would offend the right to privacy of presidents and state governors”.
In the suit, SERAP applied for judicial review and to seek an order of mandamus directing and compelling the CCB to disclose details of asset declarations of all presidents and state governors since 1999.
The suit reads, “Asset declarations of presidents and state governors submitted to the CCB are public documents.
“Public interest in disclosure of the details of asset declarations sought by SERAP clearly outweighs any claim of protection of the privacy of presidents and state governors, as they are public officers entrusted with the duty to manage public funds, among other public functions.
“A necessary implication of the rule of law is that a public institution like the CCB can only act in accordance with the law, as to do otherwise may enthrone arbitrariness.
“The CCB does not have reasonable grounds on which to deny SERAP’s FOI request, as it is in the interest of justice, the Nigerian public, transparency and accountability to publish details of asset declarations by presidents and state governors since the return of democracy in 1999.
“Disclosing details of asset declarations of public officers such as presidents and state governors would improve public trust in the ability of the CCB to effectively discharge its mandate.
“This would in turn put pressure on public officers like presidents and state governors to make voluntary public declaration of their assets.”