Ahead of the 2023 general election, a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) has called on the various presidential candidates, including Mr. Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), Peter Obi of Labour Party and other political office seekers to declare their assets.
The CSOs which included: Accountability Lab Nigeria, Connected Development (CODE), Socio – Economic Rights And Accountability Project (SERAP), Budgit, Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), PLSI, Yiaga Africa, and Enough is Enough (EIE) said the call became imperative to ensure politician don’t enrich themselves and their cronies while holding public offices.
Speaking on behalf of the coalition, the Executive Director of CODE, Hamzat Lawal said there was a need for all the presidential candidates, government and critical stakeholders to prioritise accountability issues in government processes, fiscal transparency, and on plans to strengthen anti-corruption agencies and address gender challenges.
He said: “Despite the existence of a legal framework for asset declaration for political office holders, the level of compliance is unknown as data on asset declaration for office holders is not available to the public.
“The lack of public data on the assets of potential political aspirants provides an avenue for opacity and a lack of accountability; thereby fueling political corruption.”
Lawal pointed out that the present administration failed in setting a standard as far as public declaration of assets by political office holders was concerned.
According to him, “President Muhammadu Buhari failed in declaring his assets. We don’t want a situation whereby politicians will go into public offices and enrich themselves and cronies.”
Lawal added: “In all of this, to strengthen democracy in Nigeria through inclusive and accountable leadership with integrity and enhancing public trust in governance, we are calling all political parties and political aspirants to publicly declare their assets.”
The coalition lamented that the monetisation of politics was the main headline during the political parties’ primaries, adding that it became a pointer to how vote buying and selling would play a disruptive role in the 2023 elections.
This, it said, also affected the value of the naira as candidates now deal in and distribute major international currencies, especially the dollar.
It stressed that in the last couple of weeks, the dollar-naira exchange fell to as low as N715$1 on the parallel market due to the undue pressure on the value of the naira.
Also, the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Sam Itodo decried that vote buying had become widespread practice, where democracy has struggled to be fully consolidated due to Nigeria’s entrenched corrupt political class, trapping citizens in self sabotaging, subservient relationship with political leaders.
He said it was an aberration of the constitution to nominate clear partisan persons as Resident Electoral Commission (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Itodo called on the National Assembly to oversee full operational independence of the INEC ahead of the 2023 elections and yield to numerous calls for transparency regarding its budget and auditing of its finances.
The coalition also called on political parties to adopt a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) approach in their campaigns and political engagements toward inclusive governance and a plan to advance the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill.