The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Wednesday said the Federal Government had commenced the process of amending the Public Holidays Act 1990 to accommodate June 12 which President Muhammadu Buhari declared as Democracy Day last week.
He said Buhari’s proclamation on the matter was only a declaration of intention that would eventually be given effect after the amendment.
Malami said this while answering questions from State House correspondents at the end of the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari had last week Wednesday directed that henceforth, the nation’s Democracy Day would be holding on June 12 of every year as against the current arrangement where the ceremony holds on May 29.
He also honoured the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola, with the highest National honour, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic.
Buhari also honoured Abiola’s his running mate, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe; and the late human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, with the second highest national honour, the Grand Commander of the Niger.
Questions have been raised on whether the President has the constitutional power to declare a day as public holiday outside the Public Holidays Act 1990.
But the minister explained, “As it relates to public holidays, there is truly a Public Holidays Act, but it is about the process and process of amendment
“At any rate, the Act can be amended and the process of amendment has been put in place.
“So, when the Act has been fully amended, the declaration of the President will come into effect.
“It is a declaration of intention, a declaration of desire and that will eventually be given effect with the amendment of the existing law.”
Malami, however, said there was no merit in the argument that national honours could not be conferred on individuals posthumously.
He said a former Head of State, late Gen. Murtala Muhammed, was awarded with a national honour posthumously.
He said, “On posthumous awards, I think we need to make distinctions between the Nigeria National Merit Award Act and the Nigerian National Honours Act.
“They are two distinct and different applicable laws as far as national honours awards are concerned.
“You have the National Merit Award on the strength of which we have the law of the governing board comes into effect and then as it relates to the National Honours Act, the board does not have any relevance in terms of processing of the honours.
“Above all, we equally have in existence, precedent as it relates to the award of posthumous honours. I can recall that a former Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed was equally honoured posthumously amongst others.”
Buhari’s declaration of June 12 as the new Democracy Day and the recognition of the late Abiola as the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election plus the conferment of the GCFR honour on the late politician few months to the 2019 presidential election has been criticised by the Peoples Democratic Party.
The main opposition party and some Nigerians had viewed the action as a means that the President was employing to gain political advantage.
But Prof Wole Soyinka had applauded President Buhari for the honour done Abiola, Kingibe and Fawehinmi but he advised that other unknown victims of of the annulment should be honoured.
He also urged the President to set up a Hall of Shame for corrupt past leaders and politicians the same way he had started a Hall of Fame for those who had contributed to the nation’s development.
SERAP, CACOL, CDHR back Soyinka on Hall of Shame for looters
Meanwhile, three civil society organisations have supported Soyinka’s call on the President to set up a Hall of Shame for corrupt past leaders and politicians.
The Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights said in separate interviews that the setting up of such a parallel hall would restore sanity into Nigeria’s public administration and restore the country’s value system.
The SERAP Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said, “I believe that as we have incorporated honours for those who have done us proud. We should also have a Hall of Shame where it will be documented that some persons have looted our treasury blindly. The call of Soyinka to me is very timely and it makes a whole lot of national sense.”
The CACOL Director, Debo Adeniran, said, “We should have the name, shame, and nail corrupt leaders policy everywhere and every time. It is to serve as a deterrent to other young and aspiring leaders. Corrupt leaders should not return from jail and be welcomed into their community as we saw in Delta State.
“Basically, Soyinka’s call is a good way to go and it will deter political leaders from going the way of unbridled corruption and looting.”
Also the CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said that he had always emphasised the need to criminalise and demonise all forms of bad public behaviour including stealing.
According to him, corruption, greed and over-ambition led to the annulment of the June 12 election.
“The government must set up a Hall of Shame which will reinforce the values which our country holds dear and discountenance bad behaviour,” he stated.
Also, the Joint Secretary of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum, Yinka Odumakin, said he supported the call for the establishment of a hall of shame for those that nullified the June 12, 1993 polls.
He stated, “You are honouring Abiola and honouring Kingibe who betrayed MKO and served under Abacha as a minister. Many people who participated in the ceremony should be in that hall of shame.”
N’Assembly must pass pending anti-corruption bills – TI, CISLAC
However, the Transparency International and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre have said the National Assembly must support the anti-corruption campaign of the Federal Government by ensuring the passage of all pending anti-corruption bills before the houses.
The TI Chair in Nigeria and CISLAC Director, Musa Rafsanjani, said this on Wednesday, noting that Nigeria’s judiciary must also be firm and consistent by shunning every form of inducements and manipulations and delivering a decisive judgment on all corruption cases.
Rafsanjani, in a release, said the judiciary must be commended for the judgment delivered on the ex-governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, who was handed down a 14-year sentence for misappropriation of funds during his tenure after a trial which lasted for 11 years.
The TI Chair said the judgment would restore the citizens’ confidence in the government’s fight against corruption.
He said, “We note that, until recently, despite numerous allegations and court proceedings levelled against Politically Exposed Persons, it is worrisome that many of them moved in and out of the country without consequences regarding the allegations of embezzlement and misuse of funds levelled against them.
“It is embarrassing to Nigerians and the nation as a whole that many of these PEPs, who still contest elections in some states, have not been handed down a decisive sentence. We therefore call on the judiciary and appellate courts to be consistent and firm and consolidate the implementation of the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, by shunning every form of inducements and deliver a fair judgment on all corruption cases.
“We also call on the relevant anti-corruption agencies to carry out their primary functions without fear or favour in the fight against corruption. We call on the National Assembly to support the government by ensuring the passage of all pending anti-corruption bills.”