Nigeria’s governors are shying away from following the path of probity laid by President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in making public their assets, and declined at the weekend to follow suit.
The exception was Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Jigawa State, who pledged on Sunday to follow the example of President Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in making known his assets and that of his deputy Ibrahim Hadeja.
Other governors contacted however, demurred. The nays cutting across party lines said that they would not go beyond the constitutional requirement imposed on them in submitting their declared assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
President Buhari and Osinbajo, last Thursday, made their assets public, becoming the second time a Nigerian leader in the Fourth Republic would make known his assets. The only other precedent was in 2007 when the late President Umaru Yar‘Adua made known his declared assets publicly.
Ajimobi, others say no
For instance, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State affirmed that he would not do it, saying that having done it in 2011, necessity was not on him to do it again and urged those interested in knowing his worth to use the Freedom of Information Act to access it.
Speaking through Mr. Gbade Ojo, his spokesman, the governor said: “Declaration of assets is a constitutional matter that all civil servants must do. The Code of Conduct Act makes it mandatory for all civil servants to do so. But the Act does not make it compulsory that it is done publicly.
“In 2011, when Governor Ajimobi was sworn in as the governor of the state, he declared his assets and since he is a re-elected governor, he doesn’t have to do it again. The media can go through the Code of Conduct Bureau to access it.
“As for President Buhari and his Vice, Professor Osinbajo, they are newly-elected. So, that is why they have done it as required by the Constitution.
“As for me, I have also declared my assets but not publicly and since there is Freedom of Information Act, the media can go and access it to know whether what I have declared is correct or not,” he said.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, who is also the Chairman of the APC Governors Forum, it was learnt, was not in a hurry to publicly declare his assets.
Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor said: “I will need to confer with the governor before making a categorical statement on the issue.”
Continuing, the CPS also said: “I am not aware that any state governor has, so far, declared his assets openly. Moreover, I do not know of any law of this land which insists that governors must openly declare their assets.”
Asked why Governor Okorocha would not toe the line of President Buhari, the CPS said there was no marching order from the Presidency that all governors must copy the President’s style.
Attempts to find out from Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State about whether he would declare his assets publicly like his predecessor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, who claimed to be worth N4 billion, was unsuccessful.
The governor did not respond to calls and text messages sent to him but the Secretary to the State Government Taiwo Adeoluwa, said the issue of public disclosure of assets was personal.
Efforts to also find out the readiness of Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State to toe the path of Buhari did not yield result at press time.
Mr. Emmanuel Nanle, Director of Press and Public Affairs to the Governor, said: “The governor has already declared his assets to the relevant authority; it is his decision to either make it public or not.
“It is not part of the law to make public your assets; it is a personal decision. The governor did not make mention of his intention, but I will find out if he intends to do that.
“The governor is particular about bringing the needed change to the people of Plateau. Public declaration of assets is a private decision and certainly, the governor has that personal decision to make. But if he decides not to do so, he has not gone against any law of the land.”
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State and his deputy, Elder Peter Kisira are equally not disposed as they said they would not proceed beyond the constitutional step of submitting the declarations to the CCB.
Dr. Muideen Akorede, the governor’s spokesman, said public disclosure was at the discretion of the officeholder.
Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State, on his part, could not be reached on the issue but his aides insisted that he was already in court on the issue arising from an alleged libel.
His stance nonetheless, the governor’s political rival, Senator Shehu Sani, APC, Kaduna Central, has followed the President’s example by declaring a cash balance of N22 million, five residential houses and six vehicles, among others.
We’re still in court — El-Rufai
El Rufai has been out of the country for over a week and his deputy, confirmed that the governor had strings of international engagements and he has been sitting-in for him.
El Rufai on July 27 this year, filed a case of defamation at Kaduna High Court, against a national daily which published a story claiming that he had declared N90 billion and 40 mansions with the Code of Conduct Bureau.
Said one of his aides who does not want his name mentioned: “It is not proper to make issues out of something that is already in Court. I am sure that you know the consequences of that. But, I can assure you that the governor is not afraid to declare his assets publicly when the case would have been done with.”
Senator Sani in a statement at the weekend said: “In line with the moral example set by President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo, and in conformity to the standard of transparent and exemplary leadership, and in submission to the public and popular demand for integrity test for all public office holders, in a new Nigeria on a filtration process for a politically clean and decent future, I have decided to voluntarily make this public declaration: Two residential houses in Kaduna, two houses on lease in Kaduna; two uncompleted office apartments in Kaduna; one residential house in Abuja; one family-inherited house in Kurfi, Katsina State and one family-inherited house in Minna, Niger State.”
Others are: “Bank account, N22 million; shares in four firms – bought N5million shares in 2007 but it crashed in 2008; five books – I authored over 30 books published in Nigeria, United States and United Kingdom with royalties and I publish a community journal ‘Peace Magazine”, he said.
He further declared that he had six vehicles but did not specify the types.
Governor Abubakar of Jigawa State was the only APC governor who was inclined towards following the President’s example.
Governors belonging to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were equally defiant in their determination not to follow the example set by the President.
Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi) also demurred on the issue when contacted. Governor Wike said he followed the laid down regulations on the issue.
Mr. Opunabo Nko-Tariah, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the governor, said: “He will be in sync with the relevant provisions of the law on asset declaration.”
The Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, in a response on the position of the governor said: “Quite frankly, I have no comment on the subject. It doesn’t even arise to the level of gossip…as a political issue”.