Declaration of assets: Agreeing with the US is not an agreement, foreign minister says

by Tolu Orekoya

Whether or not the president cares to divulge his assets to the Nigerian public has been debated about in the media since the now infamous “I don’t give a damn!” comment made almost two weeks ago. In light of Nigeria’s foreign affairs relations, it may have put the country in a somewhat dicey situation, and now, the government is using carefully placed words to clarify the situation.

The minister of foreign affairs  Gbenga Ashiru, who made the clarification in a statement said: “The attention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, has been drawn to a news story suggesting that comments by President Goodluck Jonathan on asset declaration during his media chat of last week was in part a “violation of an agreement between Nigeria and the United States of America.

“It is important for the general public to understand that the President’s comment did not violate any agreement because there is no agreement between Nigeria and the United States on public declaration of assets.

“The news story correctly referred to aspects of a joint communiqué issued by Nigeria and the United States at the end of the US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission held in Washington DC from 4-5 June 2012 which reaffirmed Nigeria ’s commitments to budgetary transparency and accountability, including assets declaration by senior public officials.

“These were commitments freely made by Nigeria , and not part of an agreement between it and the US Government. Unless the motive is to disparage the Federal Government, the author of the news story who is based in the US and routinely covers the United Nations should know that there is a world of difference between a communiqué, a mere summary of issues discussed in a meeting, and an agreement, which is a legal and binding document that defines obligations on the part of those covered by it.

“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no agreement between Nigeria and the United States on public assets declaration.

“It is therefore misleading to suggest that comments by President Jonathan in the media chat were a violation of an agreement between Nigeria and the United States of America.”

A communiqué in which both countries reaffirmed their commitment to something is not an agreement. Got it.

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