THE nation’s pioneer anti-corruption agency set up by the Federal authorities to ensure that the actions and behaviour of public officers conform to the highest standards of morality and accountability has come under fire.
The Nigeria Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) filed a lawsuit against the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) recently, accusing it of colluding with public officers to undermine their professional practice.
The institution’s first Vice President, Dr. Bolarinde Patunola-Ajayi told The Guardian that all lines of communication was explored to ensure that public officers adopt a new template for the asset declaration, but all failed. His words: “NIESV tried to dialogue with the bureau for some years, but there was no positive action in this laudable scheme.
There was correspondence to that effect. The institution is only interested in the global best practice and accountability in governance. This struggle is for all Nigerians not a selfish course.”
In the matter before a Federal High Court in Abuja, the registered trustees of the institution is asking the Federal High Court to restrain the Code of Conduct Bureau from accepting or receiving assets declaration from public officers without a valuation report dully signed by a registered valuer and challenging the propriety or otherwise of the practice of accepting assets declarations from public officers without a valuation report of experts.
Other plaintiff in the suit filed on behalf of the body by Ikechi Gerald Nweneka is Olorogun James Omeru, NIESV President while the Attorney General of the Federation, CCB and Sam Saba, the CCB Chairman are the three defendants.
The institution has given reasons why it took the Federal government, Code of Conduct Bureau to court over their non-involvement in assets declaration process. They argued that only persons registered by the Estate Surveyors and Valuer Registration Board of Nigeria have authority to value assets in Nigeria.
In a 19 – paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons, plaintiffs it contended that the practice of accepting assets declaration without a report by a registered estate surveyor and valuer to determine the real value of assets is in contravention of section 3 (a) and (b) part 1 of the third schedule of the 1999 constitution.
In the court actions, it averred that by law, only persons registered by the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria have authority to value assets in Nigeria.
They also asked for a declaration by the court that the combined force of sections 2and 15 (1) of the CCB and Tribunal Act cap C15 and paragraph 6 (d) a valuation report of the assets of public officers signed by a registered estate surveyor and valuers is necessary for a valid assets declaration to be received by the CCB.
The affidavit deposed to by Omeru indicated that the current practice by public officers is to allocate figures to their assets without any professional input or ascertainment of the true value of the assets.
Plaintiffs averred that the practice was largely responsible and has heightened corrupt practices by public officers in the country. They also contended that the CCB has a duty to maintain a high standard morality and accountability in the conduct of government business by ensuring that the actions and behaviours of public officers conform to the highest standards of morality and accountability.
Plaintiffs therefore asked for court order directing the CCB to henceforth request for a valuation report signed by a valuer registered in accordance with the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Act before accepting assets declaration from public officers in the country.