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Appeal Court Declines to Order CCB to Reveal Assets of Jonathan, Buhari, Others

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Friday declined to compel the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, to reveal the assets that were declared by former presidents, vice presidents, and principal officers of the National Assembly.

The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices, dismissed appeals that were brought before it by two non-governmental organizations: the Public & Private Development Centre (PPDC) and the Incorporated Trustees of the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy.

The appellants had approached the court to set aside a high court judgment that denied them access to asset declaration forms that were filled out and submitted to the CCB by past political leaders in the country.

The groups had dragged the CCB and its chairman before a Federal Capital Territory High Court over the refusal to honour the request they made under the Freedom of Information Act.

Specifically, PPDC requested the asset declaration forms of former president Goodluck Jonathan and his vice, Namadi Sambo; ex-president Muhammadu Buhari and his vice, Yemi Osinbajo; and while African Media Centre requested those of former principal officers of the National Assembly.

However, the high court, in a judgment that was delivered by Justice A. G. Abdu-Kafarati, dismissed their suit.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, the groups took the matter before the appellate court, which also dismissed their request on Friday.

Delivering the verdict, Justice Okon Abang, held that the appellants did not meet the condition precedents that would warrant the release of such information to them.

Describing their application as premature, Justice Abang held thus: “As at the time the suit was filed at the trial court, the National Assembly did not make any written instrument prescribing the terms and conditions that will guide any members of the public to either apply for the inspection of the assets form or disclosure of information in those forms in the custody of the respondent.”

He stressed that the appellants ought to have gone to court first to compel the National Assembly to prescribe the terms and conditions for members of the public to comply with before approaching the CCB to disclose personal information relating to the declaration of assets by former officeholders.

Justice Abang further held that the provisions of the FOI relied on by the appellants were not in agreement with relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

“Contrary to the submission of the appellant, the applicability of the right to information established in the FOI is contiguous with the terms and conditions contained in Paragraph 3(c) Part 1, third schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which is the supreme law of the land.
The process cannot be circumvented. The appellant has no choice but to comply with what the Constitution states.

“The 1999 Constitution, as amended, will nullify any provision of the FOI Act that is inconsistent with the Constitution,” he added.

Consequently, the appellate court dismissed the appeal, even as it awarded a cost of N200,000 each against the appellants.

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