Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has disagreed with a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, for saying President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to bestow posthumus awards on Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) was illegal.
Falana, in a statement on Thursday, said although paragraph 2 of the National Honours Act presupposed that a person who might be bestowed with a national award must receive it in person, paragraph 3 gave the President the power to give it to a representative of the beneficiary.
The senior advocate, who was an active participant in the struggle for the actualisation of the June 12 mandate, therefore, faulted the retired judge for taking the law out of context.
He said, “With profound respect to the honourable Justice Alfa Belgore, the National Honours Act has not prohibited or restricted the powers of the President to confer national honours on deserving Nigerian citizens, dead or alive.
“No doubt, paragraph 2 of the Honours Warrant made pursuant to the National Honours Act provides that ‘a person shall be appointed to a particular rank of an Order when he receives from the President in person, at an investiture held for the purpose.
“But paragraph 3 thereof has given the President the unqualified discretion ‘to dispense with the requirement of paragraph 2 in such manner as may be specified in the direction’. Therefore, since the national awards conferred on Chief Abiola and Chief Fawehinmi cannot be received by them in person, the President may permit their family members to receive same on their behalf.”
Falana also disagreed with the National Assembly for saying that the President lacked the power to unilaterally declare June 12 as a public holiday.
The activist said Section 2 of the Public Holiday Act was clear about the President’s power to take such an action.
He said, “Furthermore, Section 2 (1) of the Public Holidays Act stipulates that in addition to the holidays mentioned in the Schedule to the Act, the President may appoint a special day to be kept as a public holiday either throughout Nigeria or in any part thereof.
“It is crystal clear that the President is not required by law to seek and obtain the approval of the National Assembly before declaring a public holiday in the country.
“In view of the combined effect of the National Honours Act and the Public Holidays Act, the legal validity of the well-deserved awards and the historic holiday has not been impugned in any manner whatsoever.”