Falana also addressed the June 12 public holiday, saying the President has the constitutional right to make the declaration without the National Assembly’s consent.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari did not break any law by conferring nation honour on late MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election.
The President on Wednesday, June 6, awarded Abiola posthumously the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) title.
He also declared June 12 as the official Democracy Day instead of May 29, stating that June 12 is more symbolic.
However, some prominent Nigerians, including a former chief judge, Alfa Belgore, had criticised the national honour, saying it is illegal to confer such title on a dead person.
But Falana said Buhari can confer national honour deserving Nigerian, dead or alive.
“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”, Falana said.
“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.”
The human rights lawyer also reacted to June 12 holiday declaration by Buhari. He said the President has the constitutional right to “appoint a special day to be kept as a public holiday”.
“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,” Falana added.
He submitted that going by the National Honours Act and the Public Holidays Act, the award conferred on Abiola and the June 12 public holiday declaration are lawful.