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When public declaration of asset falls short 0

It is not easy to know how much a president, or any politician, is worth in Africa. So it was a matter of great public interest when Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, described by his image minders as ‘living an austere and Spartan lifestyle’, recently announced that he owns two inherited mud huts, some cows and a little money. But is that all?

Nigerians waited for so long to get the public declaration of assets of President Muhammadu Buhari and when it came two weeks ago via a press statement by Garba Shehu, his Senior Special Assistant on Media & Publicity, it left much to be desired.

If President Buhari made a false start by not declaring his assets publicly the day he was sworn in on May 29, 2015, he double-faulted with his “public” declaration two weeks ago. For a regime that came to power promoting probity and accountability, President Buhari and his handlers did a disservice to open government.

The statement by the presidency on the assets of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, as declared to the Code of Conduct Bureau, was long on sophistry and short on details; what it revealed was interesting, what it failed to say essential. According to Garba Shehu, “Documents submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), show that the retired General has indeed been living an austere and Spartan lifestyle, contrary to what many might expect of a former Head of State of Nigeria and one who has held a number of top government positions, such as governor, Minister of petroleum and the head of the Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PTDF).

“The documents submitted to the CCB, which officials say are still being vetted and will soon be made public, show that prior to being sworn in on May 29, President Buhari had less than N30 million to his name. He also had only one bank account, with the Union Bank. President Buhari had no foreign account, no factory and no enterprises. He also had no registered company and no oil wells. President Buhari declared however that he had shares in Berger Paints, Union Bank and Skye Bank. This is entirely unlike what one might expect from a former head of state of a country like Nigeria.

“The documents also revealed that President Buhari had a total of five homes, and two mud houses in Daura. He had two homes in Kaduna, one each in Kano, Daura and in Abuja. One of the mud houses in Daura was inherited from his late older sister, another from his late father. He borrowed money from the old Barclays Bank to build two of his homes. President Buhari also has two undeveloped plots of land, one in Kano and the other in Port Harcourt. He is still trying to trace the location of the Port Harcourt land.

By Chido Onumah

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Chido Onumah is Coordinator, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy, Abuja, Nigeria. conumah@hotmail.com; Follow him on Twitter @conumah

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