Nige­ria’s new pres­i­dent de­clares as­sets in graft fight

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY MICHELLE FAUL

Nige­ria’s new Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari has pub­licly de­clared his as­sets, a spokesman said Satur­day, in a move that is a far cry from his pre­de­ces­sor’s adamant re­fusal to do so.

The pres­i­dent and his deputy sub­mit­ted their dec­la­ra­tions to the Code of Con­duct Bureau on Thurs­day though the fig­ures filed were not avail­able im­me­di­ately, Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Buhari, who took of­fice on Fri­day, has promised to fight the cor­rup­tion crip­pling Africa’s big­gest oil pro­ducer. He said ev­ery public of­fi­cer in his gov­ern­ment must obey the law by declar­ing their as­sets on as­sum­ing of­fice and again on their de­par­ture.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan in 2012 con­demned a clamor for him to pub­licly dis­close his worth. He said his re­fusal was “a mat­ter of per­sonal prin­ci­ple ... and I don’t give a damn about it, even if you crit­i­cize me from heaven.”

Jonathan added at the time that he could be in­ves­ti­gated when he left of­fice. But this week he ar­gued that any cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion of of­fi­cials in his gov­ern­ment would amount to a witch hunt un­less the con­duct of of­fi­cials in two pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions was also scru­ti­nized.

Buhari said in his in­au­gu­ra­tion speech Fri­day that there will be no witch hunt. On Satur­day, amid fears his new gov­ern­ment would block po­ten­tial sus­pects from flee­ing the coun­try, he said no pre­vi­ous of­fice hold­ers are barred from leav­ing Nige­ria.

Con­duct Bureau Chair­man Sam Saba later clar­i­fied that Jonathan had de­clared his as­sets as re­quired by law, but not pub­licly. That was done while Jonathan was the vice pres­i­dent, be­fore he be­came presi- dent in 2010. Lawyers ar­gued the point and crit­ics said Jonathan’s re­fusal was an­other in­di­ca­tor of the im­punity that reigned un­der his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Jonathan’s mas­sive re­jec­tion at the polls in March was caused in part by his gov­ern­ment’s in­volve­ment in a se­ries of ever more colos­sal cor­rup­tion scan­dals. The most egre­gious charges came from the then gover­nor of the Cen­tral Bank, who dis­closed that some US$20 bil­lion went miss­ing over 18 months from the fed­eral petroleum ac­count. A limited in­de­pen­dent foren­sic au­dit has failed to re­solve the con­tro­versy.

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