June 12: Declare MKO Abiola as ex-president – Lawcreaters tell Buhari; call for release of results of annulled presidential election
The major headlines from mainstream newspapers today, Friday, June 8 are focused on reactions from the National Assembly and the Abiola/Fawehinmi families, to the national honours bestowed by President Muhammadu Buhari on MKO Abiola and Gani Fawehinmi; plus the legal implications of the shift of Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12.
Punch reports that President Muhammadu Buhari was hailed by the Senate for honouring Chief MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, his running mate.
The Senate, while backing the declaration of June 12 as the new Democracy Day, also resolved that the Independent National Electoral Commission (then the National Electoral Commission) should declare the results of the 1993 election.
The lawmakers further resolved that Abiola and Kingibe should be declared as ex-president and former vice-president by Buhari, and that entitlements due them as former president and vice-president respectively, should be approved.
The upper legislative chamber also resolved that the president should also declare June 12 a a national holiday.
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Vanguard also reports that legislators applauded President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to recognise Chief Moshood Abiola’s position in the evolution of the country’s democracy; but questioned his procedure.
In the upper legislative chamber, there was tumult, as senators called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to declare the full results of the June 12, 1993 election.
The mood also prevailed as the lawmakers called on the federal government to pay full entitlements of former president and vice-president to Abiola and his running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe respectively.
According to the publication, the uproar further gathered steam after Senator Enyinnanya Abaribe called for December 31, 1983 to be declared as Democracy Destruction Day in an apparent reference to the day in 1983 when Buhari was ushered in as military head of state, after toppling the Shehu Shagari government.
The debate on a motion to recognise Abiola was subsequently shelved in the House of Representatives, after the green chamber descended into a near riot, following opposition raised to the award of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) to Abiola.
The Guardian is however focusing on the legal implications of the president’s decision to confer the GCFR honour on MKO Abiola, and move Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12.
The publication reports that on Thursday, June 7, Hon Edward Pwajok (APC-Plateau) drew the attention of his colleagues at the House of Representatives, to the Public Holidays Act, which declares May 29 as Democracy Day.
The lawmaker pointed out that the Act would have to be amended for President Buhari’s proclamation to take effect.
Pwajok, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), also explained that before a candidate can be referred to as president-elect, he would have to be declared winner by the National Returning Officer.
He pointed out that there was a court order prohibiting the then National Electoral Commission (NEC) from releasing the result, stressing that this would, first, have to be set aside or overruled by a higher court.
The president’s declaration was further challenged by Hon Nicholas Osai (PDP-Delta), who condemned it as yet another usurpation of legislative powers by the executive arm of government.
The House subsequently descended into chaos; and the matter had to be resolved by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who restored order and forwarded the motion to the Committees on Justice, and Rules and Business, mandating them to look into the issue and make recommendations before the House arrives at a decision.
On its part, This Day is reporting that the families of the late Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) have decided to accept the posthumous national honours to be conferred on the late prominent Nigerians by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 12, the new date set aside for the celebration of Democracy Day in the country.
The publication recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, June 6, declared that the nation’s Democracy Day would henceforth hold on June 12 of every year as against the current arrangement where the day is celebrated on May 29.
The decision was taken to honour Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
In addition, Buhari conferred the national honour, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), the highest national award exclusively reserved for presidents and heads of states in the country, on Abiola.
He also said the late Chief Fawehinmi, renowned lawyer and human rights activist, would be conferred with the second highest honour of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) posthumously.
Fawehinmi was at the forefront of the battle for the actualisation of the June 12 mandate.