President Goodluck Jonathan has condemned the mounting calls on public office holders to publicly declare their assets while in office, saying such clamour by Nigerians is not right, as officials should be allowed to determine whether making their assets public agree with their principles.
He made it clear his own principle disagree vehemently with allowing the people he governs know how much he is worth and what he really owns.
Fielding questions on Sunday during his third Presidential media chat at the Aso Villa Abuja, Mr. Jonathan said when the matter came up during his time as Vice President to late President Musa Yar’adua he made it very clear that it was not a right decision to take.
Asked why he has refused to publicly declare his assets as an example for members of his cabinet, the President said, “The issue of public asset declaration is a matter of personal principle. That is the way I see it, and I don’t give a damn about it, even if you criticise me from heaven. When I was the Vice President , that matter came up, and I told the former President (late Musa Yar’adua) let’s not start something that would make us play into the hands of people and create an anomalous situation in the country.
“The law is clear. A public officer should declare his assets, and if there are issues, then the relevant agencies would have a basis to assess whether you have amassed wealth or not. When it is said that people should declare their assets in public, it is not only the President or the vice President, it includes everybody, including Ministers.
“When I was a governor in Bayelsa state for about a year before becoming vice president, I was investigated thoroughly. I have nothing to hide. But, because I was under somebody and it was becoming an issue, because of the media, and because my boss had declared, it was said that the vice President must. I declared, not because I wanted to.”
Mr. Jonathan continued, “Initially I said they can talk about it from morning to night, I will not. I said it is a matter of principle. It is not proper. If one amends the law to say that only the President and the Vice should declare assets publicly, fine. But, presently everybody who is holding political office is expected to do, and I say it is not right. Those who made the law knew why they put the law that way. I could be investigated when I leave office.
“You don’t need to declare assets publicly, otherwise you are playing to the gallery.You don’t need to publicly declare assets. That’s a matter of principle. If I have to declare publicly, it means every political office holder will have to declare publicly. And it is not the right thing to do. That is my believe.
“It is not the President’s declaration of assets that would change the economy. There are challenges security, power and revolutionising agriculture. These are areas we should be interested in . Whether Mr. Jonathan publicly declares his assets or not is not the issue.
On the controversial trip to Brazil for the Conference on Sustainable development, the President said he had no regret for attending the summit in spite of the instability in the country.
He said he could not afford to boycott the summit because of the country’s internal challenges, as doing do would have sent wrong signals to the international community.
He explained, “I have no regrets travelling to Brazil for the Rio Conference lat week. The issue of Boko Haram is very pathetic. I sympathise with people who have lost relations and property. People feel unsafe, and I feel the pain. As the president, if one person dies, I feel so sad.
“A lot of Nigerians who were worried that I traveled to Brazil did so out of ignorance. One of the tactics of terrorists is to strangle government . If they hear that the President, Vice President or Ministers could not travel because of their activities, they would celebrate.
“The government of Nigeria must not stop for a second because of terror. Let the relevant security agencies continue to do their work and allow government to continue to function. The day government stops functioning, it communicates very serious negative signals to the international community. If government stops to function, we would have played into the hands of the terrorists.
Boko Haram and their sponsors cannot and will never stop the government from moving. All the arms of government will continue to keep faith with their national and international engagements . They cannot bring us to our knees. We must continue to fight to bring Boko Haram to an end.”