Governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress have said they will not follow the example laid by President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in declaring their assets publicly.
The governors, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH, said it is not compulsory for them to declare their assets publicly and that they would not be pressured to follow the president’s action.
According to them, there is no law mandating the governors to publicly state their worth in terms of property and cash.
Buhari and Osinbajo last week made a public declaration of their assets with the former stating that he had declared his assets four times since 1975.
The President had said, “I recall that in 1975 when the late Murtala Mohammed became the Head of State, we were lined up in the corridor – governors, ministers, members of the Supreme Military Council – and officials of the Ministry of Justice were brought and every individual was made to declare his assets.
“So right now, all heads of state and government, governors, ministers, and permanent secretaries will have to declare their assets because it is a constitutional requirement.”
However, one week after Buhari and Osinbajo declared their assets, the APC governors said they were only required to make details of their properties known to the Code of Conduct Bureau and not the public.
The Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, told one of our correspondents that it was not his responsibility to publish his assets, but that of the CCB.
While claiming that his assets declaration form is with the CCB, Lalong said that all that the law required was for him to declare his assets before the CCB, adding that the law did not mandate him to make them public.
He said, “I have declared my assets as required by the law and it is left for the Code of Conduct Bureau to publish it. I don’t think that the law makes it mandatory for me to publish my assets. Anybody who wants to know should approach the bureau for the form I filled and submitted to it.”
Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, will also not declare his assets publicly. He alleged that those asking him to declare his assets were the supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party, who were bent on frustrating his administration as a result of the shock the party suffered during the last general elections.
Okorocha said, “I will not rule the people of the state by public opinion. There were no calls for declaration of assets during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.”
He advised Nigerians not to use the APC’s “change” promise against the party in whatever way.
Okorocha, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Onwuamado, told one of our correspondents that the declaration of assets by Buhari was a welcome development, but added that it was an individual’s decision.
He said, “This is an individual thing. Governor Okorocha believes he is a second-term governor, he is not a new governor that should be declaring assets. Meanwhile, there is no law that says governors should declare their assets.
“When former President Goodluck Jonathan was in power, who talked about declaration of assets? What President Buhari has done is a good thing, but it is not mandatory.”
Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, also said he would be the last person to make details of his assets public.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Public Affairs,, Prince Kassim Afegbua, said, “My governor has said while it is constitutional for public officers to declare their assets, making it public is not a matter enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
“Every public officer is bound to declare, but the idea of making it public is not in the constitution.”
A Government House source told one of our correspondents that the Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, was not ready for public declaration of his assets since he had sent details of his worth both in physical property and cash to the CCB.
The media aide to the governor, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, also said, “The constitution does not state that the governor should declare his asset publicly. I know that the governor has declared his assets to the CCB.”
The media aide said, “The governor has met all the necessary constitutional requirements.”
The Secretary to the Ogun State Government, Mr. Taiwo Adeoluwa, who spoke on behalf of Governor Ibikunle Amosun, stressed that public declaration of assets is not statutory.
Similarly, the Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, said no law compelled him to declare his assets publicly.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ibraheem Dooba, said his boss has declared his assets as the law stipulates and has submitted his assets declaration form to the CCB.
“The governor said he declared his assets before being sworn in and no law compels him to make his assets public.”
Also, the Special Adviser to Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, Mallam Isa Gusau, said the governor had not held any discussion on the public declaration of his assets.
The same is true for the Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje.
His Director of Press and Publicity, Baba Dantiye, said in a text message to Saturday PUNCH that the governor had yet to discuss the matter with him.
In Nassarawa State, Governor Tanko Al-makura has remained silent on the issue of public declaration of his assets.
His Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Tukur Ahmed, also refused to speak for the governor on the governor’s asset declaration.”
A similar situation exists in Adamawa State where Senator Jibrilla Bindow holds sway.
The governors’ supporters, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it was not the requirement of the law for anyone to make a public declaration of his assets.
One of them said, “It is a personal decision of the governor to choose to make his assets and liabilities public.
“However, he has complied with the law by filling and submitting his assets declaration forms with the CCB.”
Attempts to speak with the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Yohanna Mathias, failed as he neither picked his telephone nor responded to the text messages sent to him as of the time of filing this report.
Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, has also yet to publicly declare his assets.
His Senior Special Adviser on Media, Imam Imam, said he was in transit when one of our correspondents asked him when his principal would publicly declare his assets.
It was gathered that the Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, would not declare his assets publicly.
“Governor Ajimobi has already made his assets public through the Code of Conduct Bureau before the last general elections,” a government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents on Friday in Ibadan.
The source added, “Ajimobi made his assets known twice – in 2011 and 2015 – before the governorship elections which he contested and won. He did this because he has nothing to hide.”
His Lagos State counterpart, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, is also not planning to make his assets public.
A senior government official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the governor had complied with what the law stipulates. He said, “There is no moral reason for the governor to make his assets public.
“He did not promise to do so during his campaigns. Buhari made it a campaign issue and he has fulfilled his promise.”
A social commentator and policy analyst based in Lagos, Dr. Anthonia Orji, said it was necessary for the governors to follow in the footsteps of President Buhari.
She said it would go a long way in telling Nigerians that their administrations embrace transparency.
She noted that the actions of Buhari and Osinbajo had in some way proved to Nigerians that the duo had no tolerance for corruption.
She said, “Fighting corruption starts with transparency and truthfulness. That is what Buhari and Osinbajo have done. They are telling the world that they have nothing to hide.
“They are not afraid to be questioned and criticised, which are good things for the country to move forward.”