Disagreement among lawmakers on Thursday forced the House of Representatives to step down a motion seeking to commend President Muhammadu Buhari for declaring June 12 as Democracy Day.
This happened after the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara struggled for about 20 minutes to contain a rowdy session from deteriorating.
Buhari had on Wednesday awarded the late M. K. O Abiola, presumed winner of the botched June 12, 1993 presidential election, with the GCFR posthumously, conferring GCON on his running mate, Babagana Kingibe. In a statement he personally signed, the President moved the nation’s Democracy Day celebration from May 29th to June 12th.
But there was disquiet in the House ranged from the conflict in the President’s declaration and the Public Holidays Act, to calls by some lawmakers that Buhari should ask the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to release the full results of the June 12, 1993, presidential election.
Some members of the House also demanded that INEC should declare the acclaimed winner of the election, the late Abiola, as “President-elect”.
Dogara came under pressure to suspend the debate and step down the motion so that all the differences could be reconciled.
The House referred the matter to the Committees of Justice and Rules/Business to look into it and report back within a reasonable time.
In his ruling, Dogara said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well. This is the beauty of democracy, which allows everyone to air their views.
“We must not be seen to be taking decisions that will be called to question later. The Public Holidays Act, in the 5th Schedule, lists May 29th as Democracy Day.
“We have to look at this vis-a-vis Section II of the Presidential Proclamation to be properly guided in a passing a resolution on this matter.”
With the ruling, the debate was called off abruptly in a bid to restore order to the House proceedings.
Meanwhile, at the Senate, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu stated that Buhari’s proclamation of June 12 as the new date for the celebration of Democracy Day would create constitutional crisis, pointing out that there should be an amendment of the constitution to that effect.
He stated this while contributing to a point of order raised by Senator Lanre Tejuosho on the proclamation by the President yesterday.
Citing relevant sections of the nation’s constitution to substantiate his assertion, Ekweremadu explained that an elected President was expected to be sworn in on Democracy Day which was on May 29th, noting that by implication, the tenure of the President was being elongated.
“Mr. President, distinguished Colleagues, unless the Constitution was amended as it affects the day of inauguration, the tenure was being extended from May 29th to June 12th,” he said.
Earlier in her contribution, Senator Biodun Olujimi demanded that results of the annulled presidential election which late M.K.O Abiola presumably won be declared for record purposes.
She canvassed that all entitlements accorded an executive President be paid to the family of the late politician.
“Mr. President, my distinguished colleagues. I want to thank Mr. President for the feat he scored yesterday by posthumously honouring late MKO Abiola for winning the annulled 1993 presidential election.
“To make good his intentions, Mr. President should ensure the release and declaration of the annulled poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
“Also, Abiola’s family should be paid reparations and all other entitlements due to him as former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And that Ambassador Babagana Kingibe should be recognised henceforth as former vice President of Nigeria and be paid his accompanying entitlements,” Olujimi said.
But the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan while supporting payment of the entitlements, stressed that President Buhari has done the right thing at the right time.
On his part, the senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, faulted the honour conferred on Moshood Abiola by President Buhari as the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR.
Melaye during Senate’s plenary on Thursday accused Buhari of breaching the constitution in his latest move of conferring the honour on Moshood Abiola citing Chapter 43(2) of the National Honours Act does not allow for conferment of the honours on non-Nigerians.
He noted that Abiola is dead and that automatically makes him not to be a Nigerian.
The Kogi lawmaker said, “I am a democrat, I believe very sincerely that Chief M.K.O Abiola deserve even more than the president has pronounced because he is a true patriot, philanthropist and should be so decorated.
“But Mr. President, we are governed in the country by the constitution and extant laws. No matter how beautiful a situation is, the law of the land remains the law of the land.
“Subsection 2 of the act says a person shall be eligible for appointment to any rank or holder unless he is a citizen of Nigeria. A dead man is not a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We should not be emotional about this. The law remains the law.
“Subject to the next notice, a person shall be appointed to a particular rank of an order when the president receives him in person,” he said.
“Mr. President, they said in person for us to do what we are supposed to do, we would have to amend the provisions of this act because anything we need to do, we have to do in accordance with the provisions of the law.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in response announced that Melaye’s points of order were noted.