Senate calls for constitution amendment to recognise June 12

The Nigerian Senate has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to announce the result of the June 12, 1993 presidential election so that Nigerians can know the actual result of the polls.

This is coming barely 24 hours after the Nigerian government awarded Chief MKO Abiola with the highest honour posthumously.

Senate also insisted that May 29 remains the Inauguration Day for President and governors while urging President Buhari to present a bill to the National Assembly, to amend the constitution, to recognise June 12 as the country’s Democracy Day as declared by the President.

It also asked President Muhammadu Buhari to pay all entitlements to the Late Moshood Abiola, as a former President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces, while his then running mate, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, should be recognised as a former Vice President, and that all his entitlements should be calculated and paid to him also.

These resolutions followed a point of order by Senator Biodun Olujimi, upon which she argued that, following the recognition of Abiola and the honour accorded him on Wednesday by President Buhari, as the actual winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, his full entitlements as the then nation’s President should be paid to his family members.

The red chamber finally resolved that June 12 be declared as public holiday.

In her submission, Senator Olujimi said, for once, I want to commend the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. I want to say he has done well especially for those of us from the South-west of Nigeria. This one honour the President has given to what late Chief MKO and his family went through to fight for this democracy that we enjoy today.

The politician said that it was imperative for President Buhari to go beyond declaring Abiola winner and conferring award on him but should also back his action with practical evidence that he meant what he said by paying all the Late politician’s arrears of entitlements as President to his family members.

I feel most comfortable and hope that this is not a Greek gift. One of them Mr President is that the results of the June 12 election was never announced; this is the time to ensure that the results were properly announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) because government is a continuum and declare President MKO Abiola as a President.

If and when that is done, there has to be reparation of his entitlements. He has surviving families, everything that he is entitled to must be put together and given to his family. Thirdly Ambassador Babagan Kingibe must also be recognized and because he is still alive must be recognized as Vice President of Nigeria formally and everything must be brought to the legislature so that we can right all the wrongs; and of course since we are changing from May 29 to June 12, June 12 must be recognized as public holiday for the whole of Nigeria to start celebrating democracy Day, Senator Olujimi explained.

Environmental Degradation

However, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, while supporting the proposals by Olujimi, drew attention to some constitutional issues likely to arise from the pronouncement of President Buhari on Abiola and the June 12.

He further advised that other injustices in the country such as environmental degradation, marginalisation and the current incessant killings should be addressed by the present administration.

According to him, this is a good day for Nigeria. I think, we must commend Mr. President that finally, we are beginning to address injustices in this country and my prayer is that this must be sustained. There are those who are complaining about environmental degradation, marginalisation, killings or any kind of injustice.

This is time for us to address it because any country that sustains injustice is heading for a major crisis. So, we have to address all the injustices in this land. Having said this, I also want to say that I support the proposal by Senator Olujimi that the results of that election should be declared because the mere perception that they won the election is not enough.

INEC has to announce the result for us to know the figures, and let it be on record that Abiola was President and that Kingibe was Vice President. It is good for us to have that record.

On constitutional issues arising from the recognition of June 12 as democracy day, Senator Ekweremadu said, but having said this Mr. President, there are two legal issues involved. The Provisions of Section 135(2D) of our Constitution on the tenure of President because he is saying that June 12 is now the democracy day, suggesting that in 2019, the President will be sworn in on the 12th of June.

This is legally impossible because the law says that subject to the provisions of this constitution, a person shall hold the office of President until (1) when his successor in office takes oath of office, (2) then two says subject to the provisions of subsection one of this Section, a president shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date he took oath of office.

So, the implication is that May 29 remains the day the president will be inaugurated and he will take his oath of office. If you are moving from 29th of May to 12th of June, it means you have to amend this constitution, otherwise we will be extending the tenure of the president beyond what the constitution contemplates. So, we have to advise the President properly so that we don’t get into a jam next year.

In his contribution, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, sarcastically suggested that the Senate should also enact a law to declare December 31 a Democracy Destruction Day, noting that it was the day President Buhari sacked a legitimately enthroned government and took over power by force.

I am insisting that there may be an amendment to the constitution as raised by the Deputy President and I would want to add it would also be necessary for the Executive to quickly bring to the National Assembly an amendment to the Act that says there can not be a posthumous award. Now that they want to do posthumous award to Abiola and others, we should quickly amend that Act.

Secondly, I want to also propose another Act for another date because since we are now moving towards the right direction of saying that democracy is what is needed, I want to propose that we also designate 31st of December as Democracy Destruction Day because that was the day that this same President did a coup that removed but his statement was interrupted by an uproar in the chamber.

However, Senator Jibril Barau raised a point of order, citing Order 56(a) asking Abaribe to restrain himself to the matter under discussion. President of the Senate granted the Order saying , the order is sustained.

The President of the Senate Dr. Bukola Saraki noted that despite the misgivings of anybody against Buhari’s proclamation on MKO Abiola, what would matter was the major role played by Abiola in entrenching democracy in Nigeria.

Thereafter, Senate adjourned plenary till the 3rd of July, 2018.

Source: Voice of Nigeria