The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), mandates all Public Officers whether elected, appointed, recruited, contracted etc., by whatever name called to declare their assets at the Code of Conduct Bureau Office nearest to their work station in any of the 36 states of the Federation and F.C.T.
Failure to declare your assets as required under the provisions of paragraph 11 of the 5th Schedule of the Federal Constitution shall attract on conviction any or all of the following; (a) Removal from office, (b) Disqualification from holding any Public office, (c) forfeiture to the state any property acquired in abuse of office or dishonesty.
By this schedule of the constitution, it is clear that Vice- Chancellors and lecturers that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recruited for the 2019 general elections, are public servants by the nature of the assignment they have been given and therefore, should declare their assets.
The recent charges level against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), has made it exigent for all ad hoc staff recruited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), especially Returning Officers and Presiding Officers to declare their assets as we approach the February 16 and March 2, 2019 general elections in the country.
Justice Onnoghen was alleged to have stashed cash worth billions of naira in both local and foreign currencies. If the allegations are true, it could have been easier for the CCB, Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to discover his default to declare his assets if there was effective and efficient precautionary measures put in place by the authorities.
Election period in Nigeria has proven to be a season when politicians dole out cash to buy the conscience of voters and electoral officers.
Unfortunately, this trend has continued over the years and may not abate if stringent measures are not put in place to make sure that the loopholes that give room for these challenges are blocked.
One of the measures we think should be adopted by INEC and other authorities to prevent the ad hoc electoral officers from enriching themselves during elections, is to ask them to declare their assets before participating in the conduct of any election.
By declaring their assets before the elections, it would now be easier for the security agencies to detect those who compromise the electoral process for huge financial reward.
We are currently facing the challenges that vote-buying has exposed our electoral process to. Looking at the desperation of an average Nigerian politician to win election at all cost, they wouldn’t mind buying the staff of INEC, so far it will ensure their victory at the poll.
INEC should make declaration of assets a major criteria for the Commission’s Returning Officers and Presiding Officers before they can participate in the process of conducting the elections.
INEC, CCB and security agencies, should work together to ensure that this aspect of our law is well implemented as we go to the poll in line with the 1999 Constitution (as amended).