JUST IN!! June 12: Nigerian Lawyers React, Dare Buhari

Some lawyers in the country have faulted the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to confer the highest title in the land, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR, on MKO Abiola, acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

Buhari had on Wednesday announced June 12 as the new Democracy Day, stressing that the decision was to honour Abiola, acclaimed winner of the election adjudged to be the most fair and credible in the history of Nigeria.

Reacting, however, some lawyers, who spoke with journalists on phone, faulted the decision of the president, describing it as illegal and unconstitutional.

Ace lawyer, Barr Paul Edeh told our reporter that the decision was an indictment on the side of the president.

According to him, since Buhari toppled a democratically elected government in 1983, he should resign and allow Shehu Shagari, whom he overthrew complete his tenure.

“The president is totally wrong for conferring the title on Abiola. Inasmuch as many Nigerians may welcome the idea, the law is against it and anything done outside the purview of the law is illegal. In law, it is said that you can’t put something on nothing and expect it to stand.

“That title is reserved for only a person sworn-in as president. Abiola was never sworn-in, so how did he get the title of GCFR posthumously?

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“The presidency has shot itself on the foot because he would be forced to pay all the entitlements of a former president to Abiola’s family posthumously.

“I think the only thing he did right was the recognition of the said date as our democracy day, anything outside that is illegal and would be challenged, somehow,” the Abuja-based lawyer said.

Also speaking with our reporter, popular activist, Barr Abbas Ochogwu said the conferment of the title was illegal and should be rejected by the Abiola’s family.

“The president is wrong. The law does not empower him to confer such title on anybody. In fact, no one has the constitutional power to do so. That title is exclusively reserved for an elected president. Abiola was never sworn-in and there is no way he could be called a former president.

“For the June 12 decision, we welcome it wholeheartedly because of how significant the date is in the history of our democracy but for the title, it is a no no.”

Also reacting, Abuja-based lawyer and human rights activist, John Ochogwu said, “I think the president has only exercised his presidential power but for me, anyone that thinks he’s wrong can challenge him in court.”

Earlier, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Alfa Belgore, has said that the award of Nigeria’s highest national honour on late Moshood 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 had said.