Notwithstanding no specific law mandating the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to engage the services of registered Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) in the process of assets declaration, the professional body last week reiterated that its involvement would save the nation hassles associated with wrong valuation of assets.
Besides, NIESV chieftains, including Chairman, Estate Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON), Elder William Odudu, First Vice President, NIESV, Dr. Bolarinwa Patunola-Ajayi, Prof. Mustapha Bello, Chairperson NIESVs Ogun, Hajia Ibironke Alaba among others held that non-involvement of professional estate surveyors by the CCB was a disservice to the nation.
They spoke in Abeokuta and Abuja, during NIESV Ogun State chapter, Mandatory Continuing Professional Development (MCPD) Seminar, chaired by Adesina Adegbenro, an engineer and Abuja branch MCPD held within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The event, which had its theme as: Asset Declaration, “Issues and Challenges,” discussed legal requirements for asset declaration, international perspective on asset declaration and valuation requirements for asset declaration as its sub themes.
In Abuja, the estate surveyors called on CCB to ensure that valuation job, which is critical to asset declaration process was not done by any other profession other than NIESVs members, who among others have the requisite competence and empowered by law to undertake such exercise.
Speaking on the Abuja seminar topic: “Alternative Revenue Generation for National Development: The Relevance of the Estate Surveyors and Valuers”, Odudu said it was obvious that mere declaration of assets was not enough, but that registered valuers must be engaged to verify the documents and value of the declared assets, adding that, valuers could be useful in the fight against corruption.
He charged valuers to do valuation based on the set template, as valuation outside that would not be accepted. “To ensure that the fight against corruption be more successful, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers is in a better position to partner with the relevant government agencies in the struggle for the enthronement of transparency in all facets of our national lives”.
Similarly, Chairman, NIESV, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Chapter, Mr. Emmanuel Alao noted that overdependence of Nigeria on oil revenue had caused much harm to the country’s economy. Therefore, resorting to land resources as revenue and fixing the loopholes in real estate taxation would help Nigeria, and for this to be successful, government should have more consideration for estate surveyors and valuers, because “We’re well versed with the relevance of taxes especially on landed property, which is a major source of revenue of government revenue anywhere in the world”, said Alao.
At Abeokuta, Adegbenro, said discourse on assets declaration could not have come at a better time than now when states and Federal Government were inaugurating their cabinets.
According to him, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended establishes and empowers the Code of Conduct to check corruption in the public sector by monitoring the assets of politicians at their entry and exist of political offices. This was to ensure that they have not used embezzled and ill-gotten state funds to acquire assets that the perquisites of their offices could not afford.
But the question, according to Adegbenro, was are the stipulations of the constitution being implemented? “For instance, what is then percentage of our past and present office holders who have declared their assets before getting into office” How many of these assets have been verified and how many of these office holders have been indicted for not declaring their assets.”
The politician said CCB would do well to publish the names (not assets) of those who have failed to declare their assets and to ensure they are prevented from further functioning in those public offices until they have fulfilled the constitutional provisions.
Odudu said he had said at a similar forum that CCB should not only accepts forms for assets declaration but that those assets declared must be verified, which CCB empowered to do by law. However, he said, the duty of assets valuation should be undertaken by registered estate surveyors and valuers, who are trained and therefore have the competence to deliver such services, adding that is a sure way to preventing corruption in the nation.
According to Patunola, in order to increase the positive effects of declaration system, the declared data should be available to investigators for detecting cases of possible criminal offences. He said although privacy concern could constitute grounds for denying all private information to the immediate superiors of public offices, countries should enhance the use of declarations to monitor conflicts of interest and hence allow superiors access to relevant data.
Speaking on the legal requirement, Mr. Lukman Abdulai, who noted that a good system of punishment should aim at achieving three things including correction, deterrent and reformation, but said that CCB was limited by immunity clause covering the president, vice president, governors and their deputies.
With the CCB in place, Abdulai, a legal practitioner, said the nation could be rid of corruption if the right people are appointed to man the office and if the executive arm of government creates a favorable environment.
“The Code of Conduct Bureau & Code of Conduct Tribunal are almost enough to rescue Nigeria from corruption and corrupt officials. If the president appoints men and women of integrity, fearless and courageous men, who will be ready to hold their lives in their hands, ready to loose it or have it as heaven may decide.”
Professor Bello, of the Department of Estate management, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, who spoke on “International Perspectives on Asset Declaration said in growing number of cases, asset declarations have led to exposure of unjust enrichment, adding it had been shown that countries with detailed disclosure requirements, such as Latvia, have experienced a decline in corruption.