OPPOSITION political party, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), yesterday expressed its dissatisfaction with Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s refusal to openly declare his assets before he became the country’s president.
Former Head of State, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, contested the last presidential election against Jonathan on the platform of the CPC.
Also yesterday, the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to implement the report of the subsidy probe.
Ihedioha wanted Nigerians to join the National Assembly in compelling the Executive arm of government to urgently implement the subsidy report rather than allowing it be swept under the carpet like other probe reports.
Reacting to the statement made by Jonathan at the presidential media parley on Sunday night, National Publicity Secretary of the CPC, Rotimi Fashakin, noted with dismay the president’s statement that he was not bothered about not declaring his assets.
He noted that the Fifth schedule Part 1, 11(1) of the 2010 Constitution (as amended) states thus:
“ Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every public officer shall within three months after the coming into force of this Code of Conduct or immediately after taking office and thereafter -
(a) at the end of every four years; and
(b) at the end of his term of office, submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets, and liabilities and those of his unmarried children under the age of eighteen years.”
According the CPC, there is a clear mandate on the president to make his assets public to Nigerians, warning that his continued refusal to declare his assets would mean that his administration supports corruption in the country.
Fashakin also expressed grave concern that the President as Vice President to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was forced to declare his assets against his desire, describing him as an unprincipled person who otherwise ought to have resigned his appointment if he was forced to act against his desire.
He said: “What is unmistakably clear is that the President’s demeanour on this issue of asset declaration leaves many unanswered questions: Is the President of the nation now selecting which provision(s) of the Constitution he will comply with when, in fact, he swore to defend the law of the land?
“Is the President’s unwillingness to declare his assets, more than four years after he did so in 2007, not frustrating efforts to rationally assess the net increase of his assets since commencement of his service at the nation’s presidency?
“Should the President still be trusted in championing the fight against corruption and lack of probity in public office? Is the President above the law of the land?”
Ihedioha who was the guest speaker at the yearly lecture of the Department of Political Science, University of Lagos, said Nigerians should not allow controversies to erode their judgment or sentiment over the implementation of the subsidy report .
According to him: “Rather than allowing the report to go without being appropriately treated, Nigerians should commend the House for having the boldness to investigate subsidy in the first instance. Whatever might have followed, Nigerians should also give the House the possibility of doubt that it has necessary machinery in place to deal with any of its members that are found wanting.”
To him, it is a criminal offence not to spend money passed by law “but it is even more criminal to spend money from the Consolidated Account without appropriation and in carrying out our investigative role, the National Assembly has the powers to summon any elected public officer to appear before it.”
Ihedioha, who spoke on “The Legislature: Roles, Misconceptions and Experience in Consolidation of Democracy in Nigeria”, noted that since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the Legislature had remained the most underdeveloped arm of the government due to some reasons.
He said: “For the greater part of our nationhood, the military has held the political centre stage. And for the cumulative period of 29 years that the military controlled power in Nigeria, the Legislature was the greatest casualty, as it was always the first democratic structure to be dissolved, and its powers appropriated and exercised by the military juntas.
“This has affected the orderly development and growth of the legislature as the single most important pillar of democratic governance. The Executive and Judiciary have, however, always remained intact even with military intrusions into the political process. It is only the Legislature that is left to commence a learning process each time the military intervened and returned to the barracks.”
He added: “The Legislature is a highly misunderstood institution in our country today. Because it is misunderstood as a result of what I call crisis of expectations, it has also become highly maligned even by those who should know better.”
Ihedioha also noted that most often people confuse the roles of the Executive with that of the Legislature. “The doctrine of separation of powers which assigns different responsibilities to different arms of government does not seem to make any sense to most Nigerians who expect the Nigerian legislator to provide roads, schools, bridges, markets, hospitals, electricity, water, etc, in the community, even when this does not fall within the schedule of the Legislature.”
He said the provision of such social infrastructure was within the ambit of Executive functions. “We only appropriate the money for the Executive to provide these infrastructure. But most often, our constituents including the enlightened ones believe that an elected representative is empowered with resources to provide public infrastructure. This is one of the many misconceptions, which have continued to dog the Legislature.”
On the renaming of University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University, he told the university community that the House would put into consideration the views of all stakeholders before making any decision.