|Buhari and Osiganjo (L)|
The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) has received with deep concern and mixed feelings the belated public disclosure of the assets of the duo of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo. The only good aspect of the public disclosure is success recorded by Nigerians by forcing the said assets to be made public against the will of their owners and the Presidency. This is in line with the fact that “public might shall always triumph over private might and interests”. The long delays in making the assets public are totally condemned. The duo of Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osibanjo owe Nigerians unreserved apologies.
Beyond the grossly belated public disclosure of the said assets, there are missing points inherent in them. That “the assets declared are still undergoing CCB vetting”, almost 100 days after they were statutorily declared and submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) is not only condemnable, but also suspicious. Another fundamental missing point is the failure of the Presidency that caused them to be belatedly made public, to publicly disclose what Prof Yemi Osibanjo declared in his assets declaration form before he was sworn in as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State during the administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu (1999-2007). This is to easily compare them with those his present one, declared prior to his vice presidency on 29th May 2015. In the area of “holding shares” held by both particularly Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, their monetary values were not disclosed. It is possible for one to hold “shares” amounting to N10 Billion in one or two companies not to talk of six companies (Octogenerian Ltd, Windsor Grant Ltd, Tarapolsa Ltd, Visterion Ltd, Aviva Ltd and MTN Nigeria) in Prof Osibanjo’s name.
Again, Nigerians deserve to know who owns substantially or partly some, if not most of the companies (excluding MTN) mentioned in the Vice President’s shareholdings. The Presidency has a public and moral obligation to inform Nigerians of this. It is also fundamentally necessary for the country’s secret police to carry out detailed investigation into the huge cash of over N280 Million contained in Prof Yemi Osibanjo’s local and domiciliary accounts including N94Million in naira account and $900,000 (over N180Million) and 19,000 British Pounds (about N4.5Million) in domiciliary accounts.
While the houses mentioned in the Vice President’s name as well as his disclosed cars are circumstantially and socially convincing and befitting to him as “a professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria”, the huge cash sums and liquid investments (shares) publicly mentioned in his name need to be forensically investigated. Statutorily and conventionally speaking, being a public office holder in Nigeria and across the globe does not in any way translate to “super richness” or a flamboyance lifestyle. It is strictly a call to serve and its remuneration packages are not “companies’ profits” or for keep, but for personal and public office comforts while in office. From what was published in Pastor (Prof) Osibanjo’s assets declaration forms, he is a mere private legal practitioner and not a business mogul.
Now, are those huge cash sums found in his name from his clientele? Or are they accrued from his dividends as a share holder in six mentioned companies? How much cash does all his companies’ shares worth? How many lawyers of his standing in Nigeria could amass such huge cash amounting to over N280Million? On the part of Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari, the assets published in his name particularly houses and cars are socially and circumstantially convincing and befitting of a former military head of State. The only area that requires further clarifications and investigation is his undisclosed shares in Berger Paints, Skye and Union Banks. There is need for the Presidency to inform Nigerians how much cash Buhari’s shares in the three banks worth and when they were procured. Further official and independent investigations are also required to ensure that Retired Gen Buhari exhausted publicly (as published) all his assets in his recent assets declaration.
In all, Intersociety is substantially satisfied with President Buhari’s assets declaration, with the exception of undisclosed worth of his shares. Conversely, our substantial satisfaction over his published assets other than undisclosed shares of his in Berger Paints, Skye and Union Banks will be revoked once it is found civilly or criminally that Retired Gen Buhari has more moveable and immoveable assets than those he declared and published. As for those of Professor Yemi Osibanjo, they woefully failed our social and circumstantial conviction litmus test. The Presidency is inexcusably changed to convince Nigerians and members of the international community that the Vice President’s published assets are socially and truly those befitting “a professor of law” practicing in Nigeria.
Finally, we still make bold to say that the belated publication of the referenced assets, which question marks we have clearly pointed out; is far not enough to convince Nigerians and members of the international community that the present Buhari administration is morally grounded to liberate the country from the shackles and manacles of corruption and other graft practices.
Judging from what President Buhari has commendably (fairly) declared and belatedly made public as his total assets, our informed questions are: Does Buhari not share same political leadership status and former public offices with the likes of Olusegun Obasanjo, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Ibrahim Babangida and Atiku Abubakar? What about their juniors like Retired Gen Theo Danjumma, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Adams Oshiomonole And Nasiru el-Rufai(still serving), etc? Are these former top public office holders on the same or similar pace and page with Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari in terms of their present lifestyles, assets and investments in Nigeria and beyond its borders? Some universities, companies’ shares, privet jets, farms and other industrial and liquid investments worth billions of naira, if not billions of dollars, are socially and circumstantially traced in their names. How did they procure them as former career public servants, company staffers and public office holders? We dare insist that those that wish to go to equity must go with clean hands!
Emeka Umeagbalasi (B.Sc., Criminology & Security Studies)
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Uzochukwu, Oguejiofor-Nwonu, Esq., LLB, BL, Head, Campaign & Publicity Department