June 12: What Buhari must do to prevent future presidents from questioning award to MKO Abiola – VATLAD

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A group, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy, VATLAD, has faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s recognition of heroes of the June 12 struggle, even as it pointed out what must be done so that successive governments won’t question the awards.

It argued that the process adopted by the President, if allowed, will amount to usurpation of the constitutional powers of the Judiciary and will pose direct threat to the constitutional functions of the Judiciary enshrined in section 6 of 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended.

Recall that the President had, in the statement he personally signed on June 6, 2018, asserted that June 12 1993, the date of a presidential election considered to be the fairest in Nigeria’s history, “was far more symbolic of democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29 or even October 1”.

He followed up by directing the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami SAN, to publish in the Federal Gazette his order that the Democracy Day should now be celebrated on June 12 from the hitherto May 29, as well as the posthumous award of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on the Abiola.

But in a statement issued on Tuesday through its National President, Comrade (Engr) Igbini Odafe Emmanuel, VATLAD maintained that if the process is allowed, it will make mockery of the same Principle of Democracy, and the separation and independence of the three organs of government which Nigerians stood united for on June 12, 1993 and still stand for presently.

It stressed that Buhari’s statement referring to Chief MKO Abiola as “the presumed winner of June 12, 1993 cancelled elections” raises more constitutional and legal issues and questions, wondering why he would refer to the late politician as a presumed winner of a cancelled election.

While also asking if there is any recognition for presumed winner of an election in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, or in the nation’s Laws, the group reminded Nigerians that it is the exclusive constitutional function of the Judiciary to resolve any or all matters (Disputes) brought before any constitutionally established Court of Law for adjudication.

The statement reads in part, “It is also the known Law that the Court is allowed to deliver “bad” judgement which must be unconditionally obeyed until and except a superior Court of Law sets same aside.

“By section 36 of 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended, it is also a constitutional Right of any Nigerian to freely approach any Court of Law to institute any matter for adjudication. Some of the matters may be perceived as “bad” but it does not take away the Right of such Nigerians to institute such matters in Court of Law or for any Court not to hear such matters. Thereafter it is the duty of the Courts to hear and resolve such matters in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, and the Laws of Nigeria.

“It is a fact that Chief Arthur Nzeribe and his  Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) are citizens of Nigeria who instituted a matter in Court of Law praying the Court to stop the process of June 12, 1993 and their prayer was granted by a competent Court of Law. This decision of the Court may be perceived by us to be “bad” but only a superior Court of Law can lawfully agree with us. Sadly, no superior Court of Law has set aside this “bad” Judgement, 25 years after.

“Sections 130 – 130 of 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, unequivocally list the requirements for any Nigerian to be constitutional declared elected President of Nigeria.

“President Buhari also clearly stated in his Statement that the highest Honour in the Land (Nigeria) is GCFR. He has laid the foundation upon which he based his decision to want to give this award to Chief MKO Abiola. He did not say because Abiola was a philanthropist or lover of sports. This foundation must first be fully interrogated and well established in order to prevent any likely hidden agenda and to be sure it is in line with the provisions of Nigerian Constitution and Laws.

“It is also well known that this award by practice has been given only to Nigerians immediately they assume the Office of Head of State of Nigeria and Commander-in- Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

“It will be recalled how in year 2010 it was so difficult a process and debate before the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan was allowed to be awarded GCFR and decorated after the untimely death of President Yar Adua. The Doctrine of Necessity had to be invoked to allow for this award to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan who was then full acting President. This is the seriousness attached to this award of GCFR.”

On the strength of the above, VATLAD called on Buhari to halt the presentation of proposed awards to Chief MKO Abiola and Ambassador Kingibe,  while he quickly and urgently directs the Attorney-General of the Federation, Malami to approach the Court of Appeal to seek to set aside this existing Judgment of the High Court issued in 1993 and for the Court of Appeal to direct INEC to conclude the process of officially announcing the results of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election.

This, the group said, “is to give constitutional legitimacy to the awards and to prevent any government in future to question them.

“It is the law that we cannot place something on nothing and expect it to stand.

“It’s also the law that an illegality can’t be adopted to resolve an illegality.

“Parties in legal Disputes before Courts of Law are also forbidden to resort to self help.”

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