Human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN) has countered former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Alfa Belgore for regarding President Muhammadu Buhari’s honour on Moshood Abiola as illegal.
DAILY POST had reported that Belgore on Wednesday kicked against the President’s move, stating that the award of Nigeria’s highest national honour on the late Abiola was illegal.
Belgore, who was CJN from 2006 to 2007, said the national honours cannot be awarded posthumously, much less the GCFR, which is the highest honour in the land.
“It is not done. It is for people living. The only thing they could do is to name a place after him, but national honours award, no,” the ex-CJN was quoted as saying.
But Falana, in a statement, said there was nothing illegal in the President’s action relying on the Act and Public Holidays Act.
According to him, the national honour acts do not restrict powers of the President to confer honour on Nigerian citizens dead or alive.
Falana 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.
“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.”
Falana argued that in view of the combined effect of the National Honours Act and the Public Holidays Act, “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.
“The legal validity of the well deserved awards and the historic holiday has not been impugned in any manner whatsoever.”