Panama Papers : CCB gets 14 days ultimatum to go after named public officers

11:33:00 john naphtali 0 Comments


   The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has received a 14 days ultimatum to go after named public officers in the leaked Panama Papers. A civil society organization, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) told the CCB chairman, Sam Saba to investigate the current and immediate past top public officers named in the leaked documents. The organizations demand was contained in a letter dated April 8, 2016, signed by its executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni.
  The organization in the letter asked the CCB to probe others who are currently operating or have operated foreign accounts in other safe havens and jurisdictions. The organization called on the CCB to where appropriate, refer such officers to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for prosecution. “We would be grateful if the Bureau could begin to take these steps within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps the bureau is taking to address the concerns raised in this letter, the registered trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the bureau to effectively discharge its constitutional and statutory mandates in this instance,” the organization said. According to the organization, it believes that the Panama Papers have shown the extent to which public officers in the country are concealing their stolen wealth in safe havens and secrecy jurisdictions, contrary to the Code of Conduct for Public Officers which prohibits public officers from maintaining and operating foreign accounts. SERAP expressed optimism that the CCB will learn from the lessons of the Panama Papers to fight the abuse of the asset declaration requirements and not wait for further international disclosures that may implicate even more public officers in corruption and money laundering. The organization further argued that except highly placed public officers who use safe havens and secrecy jurisdictions to breach the fundamental requirements of asset declaration are sanctioned, named and shamed, the sincerity of the asset declaration regime as a tool of preventing and combating corruption will continue to be doubted, and Nigerians will continue to witness inadequate transparency and prevalent impunity of corrupt public officers in the country. SERAP in the letter hopes that bodies like the CCB should use this opportunity and mandate to react swiftly to this international scandal by taking concrete and proactive actions to address the growing breaches of constitutional provisions by top public officers. The organization stated that these steps would be entirely consistent with the Nigerian 1999 constitution (as amended), the law establishing the bureau, and will meet demands by Nigerians for improvement in transparency regarding asset declarations and sanctions of public officers for breaches. The letter read in parts: “Effective asset declaration regime can play an important role in detecting illicit enrichment and preventing corruption and avoiding the kind of international embarrassment that the Panama Papers represents for Nigeria. “SERAP notes that the aims and objectives of the CCB include the establishment and maintenance of a high standard of morality in the conduct of public business and ensuring that the actions and behavior of public officers conform to the highest standards of public morality and accountability. “SERAP notes that provisions on the declaration of assets by public officers in Nigeria are entrenched in the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, contained in Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. These provisions aim to prevent corruption and abuse of office, to ensure transparency in public officers and to prevent high-ranking public officers operating foreign accounts to hide their ill-gotten wealth. “SERAP also notes that acts prohibited by the Code include a public officer putting himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and official responsibilities; holding two posts from which he is being paid from public funds; and operating foreign accounts.” Premium Times which is the only Nigerian medium that participated in the one year investigation reports that the Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The documents were obtained from an anonymous source by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners, including the Guardian and the BBC. The documents exposed how corrupt public officers including some from Nigeria can exploit secretive offshore regimes to hide their ill-gotten wealth.
The national leaders both former and current public officers so far exposed in the Panama Papers comprised the Senate president, Senator Bukola Saraki; Senator David Mark and the former governor of Delta State, chief James Ononefe Ibori, Toyin Saraki as well as T.Y Danjuma. These high-ranking Nigerians and their families are said to be increasingly using safe havens and secrecy jurisdictions like Panama to hide their ill-gotten assets.