On Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari declared his assets in fulfillment of Section 140 subsection 1 of the 1999 constitution.
The section reads, “A person elected to the office of President shall not begin to perform the functions of that office until he has declared his assets and liabilities as prescribed in this Constitution and he has taken and subscribed the Oath of Allegiance and the oath of office prescribed in the Seventh Schedule to this Constitution.”
In keeping up with his title of Mr. Integrity, could the president have unwittingly lied before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), like former Senate President Bukola Saraki was accused of doing?
The opaque nature of Buhari’s asset declaration in 2015 and 2019, as well as the failure of the constitution to mandate full public disclosure of assets, makes it is impossible to make such a claim. However, there are items in that asset form as listed by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu in 2015 that should have either appreciated or depreciated in four years.
The 270 Cows
Buhari said in 2015 that he had 270 cows. The breed and a breakdown of the purpose of the cows in the herd- for pet, for breeding, for beef or for milk was not given.
A certain percentage of the president’s herd that is reared for dairy products are expected to live for an average of 5-6 years while an unknown percentage that is purposed to produce beef should live for 12 to 24 months before finding their way to the butcher’s slab. Also, the unknown percentage of Buhari’s cattle kept for breeding would last for 8 to 12 years, if the herder chooses to keep some as pets, then those lucky ones could live to be 20 years old.
If Mr. President last added dairy cows to his herd in 2013, then all of them would have most likely passed on by now and his herd would have depreciated. His cow population would have also lost cows to the butcher’s slab. Only if they are reared for status and ceremony would the herd not contain those fattened for Salah.
Studies show that the average calving rate of grazing cows in Nigeria is at least an interval of two years. These cows start giving birth when they are five years old. Cows in controlled environments like ranches, however, could begin producing offspring when they are three years old. This means they would have a shorter interval between their first set of children and the next. Whether President Buhari’s cattle are in a fattening room receiving plenty healthy food or in the scorching arid lands of the semi Savanah and the Sahel, they would have added offspring that would have caused a ‘significant’ increase to his 270 cows.
One major purpose of rearing cattle is to milk the udder and produce cheese, butter, yogurt, fura, milk, and other dairy products for our consumption. Although Nigerian cows are said to produce one liter or less of milk daily, the beef suckler cattle breed is about the lowest milk producing species of cattle in a ranch setting and it produces four liters of milk a day. President Buhari’s list of cows might include local breeds like the White Fulani or the Red Bororo but considering the popularity of the Holstein-Friesian species- present in 150 countries, we could say that this brand will be in Mr. President’s flock. The minimum liter of milk produced by this breed is 28 liters.
During lactation which lasts for at least 10 months, there are cow breeds that can produce at least 60 liters of milk and up to 100 liters at most. Besides those cattle sold at a minimum of N100,000 for burials, religious and traditional festivities, Buhari will earn N150 on each liter of fresh pasteurized milk sold on his behalf in Nigeria or a minimum of N5,000 on every kilogram of milk he exports based on current global export prices. Mr. President’s account would have surely soared if his herd are well managed or he might have needed to draw some money out of his N30 million to maintain the herd if his cows have not been producing.
Ewe- female sheep are quite productive. They have a short lambing interval and produce one-two offspring every time they give birth. The breeds of sheep in Nigeria produce 25 to 56 kg of milk per lactation period which usually lasts for 70 to 91 days. If President Buhari was selling all the sheep in his flock and maintaining just 25, he would have at least grown his N30 million from the sale of wool, milk, ram, ewe, and lamb for slaughter. The average lifespan of a sheep is 10-12 years.
These plants are referred to as being economic because they generate income. The vagaries of the asset declaration made by the President gives no information on where these trees are located, does he have a forest range or does he have several plantations where these trees are grown. These trees provide medicine, food, domestic and other industrial needs. Or might Mr. President be keeping them for status purposes? PMB also has an unspecified number of orchards.
The loophole in the constitution which permits just the minimum requirement of declaring your asset gave the President a French window sized space to escape telling us just how many hectares of land he has and the average earning he makes from his farms. While he was gracious to state that he has five houses including a mud one, he probably could not number his farmlands or maybe Mr. Shehu refused to tell us. What is obvious though, is that the farmlands would have yielded crops for Mr. President which would have been exchanged for money.
For instance, the average yield per hectare of maize in Nigeria is between 1,528 to 2,000kg per hectare. For cereals, it is 1,591.80 and 3 tons per hectare for rice. It is therefore inconceivable that Mr President’s uncountable hectares of farmland will be producing less than these averages. Except PMB spent all his money on Yusuf’s treatment in Germany, Zara’s wedding and the purchase of the cursed power bike that almost killed his priceless son, it is difficult to accept that N30 million is still the sum in his two bank accounts.
Under Mr. Integrity’s regime, Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Walter Onnoghen, the disgraced former Chief Justice of Nigeria, were brought before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on accusations of declaring false assets.
The Code of Conduct bureau that is quoted to have commended the President for ‘leading by example by declaring his assets in accordance with the law, slammed 13 charges on Saraki. The bureau said he failed to declare some assets he acquired while in office as governor, allegedly acquiring assets beyond his legitimate earnings, operating foreign accounts while being a public officer – governor and senator, etc. On his end, Onnoghen was stung with six charges. He was accused of funding several bank accounts with foreign currencies, failing to declare his assets every four years and not doing the same after he assumed office as CJN.
Since President Buhari is protected by immunity, he has for now escaped the misdemeanor Saraki was accused of. Going by the media circus Nigerians were entertained with during the Onnoghen and Saraki trials, it is expected that the ninth Assembly will amend section 140 subsection 1 of the 1999 constitution to make asset declaration a transparent affair.
Kelechukwu Writes From Lagos