Mixed reactions trail Buhari’s assets declaration ….. PUNCH

President Muhammadu Buhari

Mixed reactions have continued to trail President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s public declaration of their assets.

A statement by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, had on Thursday disclosed part of the contents of the assets declaration forms separately submitted by Buhari and Osinbajo to the Code of Conduct Bureau.

Shehu said in the statement that the verification of the President’s and the Vice President’s assets was ongoing and that the forms would be released to the public after the CCB’s verification.

Based on the statement, Buhari’s assets include about N30m in his only bank account with the Union Bank Plc and a total of seven houses, comprising two mud and a standard house in Daura, his hometown; two homes in Kaduna, one in Kano and one in Abuja.

The President’s assets also include two undeveloped plots of land in Kano and Port Harcourt, an orchard and a ranch in Daura with 270 head of cattle, 25 sheep, five horses, a variety of birds and a number of economic trees.

According to the statement, Buhari also has several cars, two of which he said were bought with his savings, while the others were supplied to him by the Federal Government in his capacity as a former Head of State.

However, the declaration has been trailed by diverse reactions, with some Nigerians raising questions over the value of the President’s assets, which were considered as vague in the document.

For instance, analysts say they have been unable to draw comparisons between the President’s action and that of the late former President Umaru Yar’Adua, the first Nigerian President to publicly declare his assets.

Yar’Adua on June 28, 2007, a month after his inauguration, made public photocopies of his completed assets declaration form as submitted to the CCB.

The document detailed Yar’Adua’s assets, valued at N856, 452,892, with a total annual income that was put at N18.7m.

In the document, Yar’Adua declared the values of all his assets.

A breakdown of the assets declaration showed that Yar’Adua had a total of N43, 702, 892.43 as cash in his bank accounts, with other assets contributing for the rest.

Among his detailed declaration of assets, Yar’Adua listed his family compound in Katsina State, which he described as an inheritance. He valued it at N105m.

There were also a multi-storey building at A8 Wuse 2, Abuja and a duplex at Malali, Kaduna State, valued at N212m and N120m, respectively.

He also disclosed that he had a seven-bedroom duplex at 2, Lema Jubril Close, valued at N90m, which he said was built from savings in 1987 and a vacant plot at Asokoro New Layout in Abuja, valued at N50m.

Yar’Adua also said that he had 2,000,000 units of shares of Habib Bank acquired in 1998; 100,000 units of shares of Intercity Bank Plc; and another 100,000 units of shares of Muradi Hotels Limited.

He also disclosed that he had vehicles worth N181,250,000, consisting of 29 new cars worth N174,700,000 in both Katsina and Abuja, which he described as campaign vehicles, a Honda Accord car worth N350,000 and a Mercedes Benz worth another N6,500,000.

In addition, Yar’Adua disclosed that his wife, Turai, had a total asset of N19m, made up of houses. He stated the value of each of the houses.

Considering Yar’Adua’s declaration of assets, analysts have described Buhari’s recent version as a clear departure from a full declaration of assets.

They labelled the declaration of assets as done by Buhari as having too many holes, saying Buhari should have specified the total number of his cars rather than stating that he has several cars, two of which he said were bought from his savings.

Shehu’s statement had claimed that the President had shares in Berger Paints, Skye Bank and Union Bank .

But analysts said Buhari should have stated the value of each of his houses, describing his declaration of having ‘two homes’ as deceptive since many houses can constitute a home.

While Yar’Adua declared the number of shares he had in companies, Buhari’s declaration also failed to disclose that.

Meanwhile, in December 2014, Buhari in a Facebook post insinuated that he had about N1m in his account, about 150 of cattle and houses in Kaduna, Kano and Daura. But there was no mention of any property in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

He had said, “I have at least one million naira in my bank, having paid N5.5m to pick my form from my party.

“I have around 150 (head of) cattle because I am never comfortable without cows.

“I have a house each in Kaduna, Kano, and Daura, which I borrowed money to build.

“I never had a foreign account since I finished my courses in the USA, India and the UK.

“I never owned any property outside Nigeria. Never!”

Some analysts said Buhari did not explain how his 150 head of cattle and about N1m in December 2014 multiplied to 270 head of cattle and N30m less than a year later, respectively, especially as Buhari had said that he had to borrow the N27m he needed to purchase his presidential form from his party, the All Progressives Congress.

Reacting to the declaration of assets by Buhari and Osinbajo, a lawyer, Carol Ajie, said the documents had loopholes.

Ajie said Buhari and his deputy needed to “make clear if they have liabilities or not, bearing in mind that the constitution places emphasis on assets and liabilities.”

The lawyer said, “We need a bit more on specificity on some of the items such as shares in Berger Paints, Union Bank and Skye Bank, considering the length of time between April when he won the election and now, a period of six months for assets valuation of his seven houses located in Daura, Kano, Kaduna and Abuja.

“We have no addresses on these houses and what type of houses-bungalow, block of flats or duplexes- and estate valuer’s estimates. Same for his farms, orchard and a ranch in Daura, etc.”

Another legal practitioner, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, said the President had yet to complete the declaration “as it is the law that his spouse is not a civil servant; the spouse must declare her assets in the same manner as done by President Buhari.

“The same goes for his deputy. As it is, there may be likelihood of violation of the law on declaration of assets,” he added.

A civil rights lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa, who described Buhari’s assets declaration as belated, also faulted the President for failing to disclose the worth of the property and stocks he listed as belonging to him.

He said, “He should have let us know the worth of those assets, especially the ones in Abuja. So without knowing the worth, we cannot estimate what the President has. The information supplied to the public by the President is so scanty, as to totally amount to hoarding vital details of his assets.

“For the assets declaration to make any meaningful impact, it should have been declared voluntarily and without any prompting upon the President by Nigerians. The implication of this is that the President was forced to declare his assets.

“Secondly, the assets declaration is coming after Nigerians, through their most diligent efforts, have already uncovered most of the President’s ‘secret assets’, especially the house in Abuja. By now, most of the contents of the President’s assets declaration document are already in the public domain.”

The lawyer also called on the President to make the assets of his adult children known to the public.

He said, “The Code of Conduct Bureau and the constitution require that it is not just the assets of the President that should be declared, the assets of all his grown-up children should also be disclosed.

“Is he hiding his assets through his children because there are many of them that are grown up? In Nigeria, you suddenly discover that children who are 18 years of age have houses in London, United Kingdom or Maitama and Asokoro in Abuja.”

Another lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, who commended the President for his public declaration of assets, also joined his voice with those calling for a more detailed declaration.

He said, “I commend the President and the Vice President for what they have done.

“Moving forward, our expectation is that now that we have a summation of this asset declaration, number of houses is disclosed, the account is disclosed and the credit in the account is disclosed.

“We hope that when the verification is concluded and that will not be too long, further details and particulars would be furnished to the Nigerian people.

“Those who are calling for fuller disclosure are not calling for something extraordinary or that ought not to be done, so I join those who are calling for fuller disclosure even as I commend this summary of disclosure.”

However, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Emeka Ngige, dismissed claims by some of the analysts, saying that the task of valuating the listed property should be left to the CCB.

He said, “I think the actions of the President and the Vice-President have sent positive signals on governance. The policy should now be extended to all political office holders appointed by the administration.”

Another civil rights lawyer, Liborous Oshoma, described the criticisms trailing the asset declaration in some quarters as “sentimental.”

He said, “For me, the essence of this is to open a new struggle for us, a new fight, a new demand of accountability. It is not necessarily about the worth of what was declared, but the fact that the assets were declared.

“The man has said he owns so and so, anybody who wants to question that can begin to conduct investigations into what he said he owns. It is not much about the worth of the houses and it has not been established that the houses were acquired with stolen funds because that is when we can begin to calculate the worth.”

Meanwhile, the Code of Conduct Bureau on Friday said it had begun the verification of the assets declared by President and his deputy.

The CCB, through its Head of Press and Protocol Unit, Mrs. Iyabo Akinwale, confirmed to our correspondent that the verification of their assets had commenced.