June 12: Lawyers differ over Abiola’s award, Justice Belgore’s comment

June 12: Lawyers differ over Abiola’s award, Justice Belgore’s comment

Lawyers have been reacting to the posthumous award of the highest national honour to late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola and the comment by former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Alfa Belgore.

Belgore, a former chairman of the National Honours Award Committee, said the award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) cannot be bestowed posthumously, except on soldiers or other servicemen for bravery.

Supporting this position, human rights lawyer Hamid Ajibola Jimoh also said it is illegal for the president to posthumously honour the dead who are by their death ex-Nigerian citizens.

“Such award is contrary to Section 2(1) of the National Honours Act 2004 (As amended). Only a living Nigerian citizen can be so awarded under the Act,” he said.

“The president lacks the constitutional or legal power to declare an election or the cancelled election in favour of Chief MKO Abiola either directly or by implication as winner and such declaration is invalid, illegal, unconstitutional, null and void,” Jimoh added.

But a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Akin Olujimi (SAN) said the president can make the declarations under his Executive or Presidential Orders. “There is nothing wrong with this declaration. Having made it, other processes can now follow,” he said.

“Many times, people criticise government when they don’t have access to certain things that government has before pronouncements,” he added.

He said the fact that the entire nation recognises the June 12 struggle is what is much more important.

The 2nd Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and pro-democracy activist, Onyekachi Ubani, also said Abiola deserved the honour because he is viewed as an ‘Army General for democracy’ who fought and gave his life for the enthronement of democracy in the country.

“The most important thing is that we love what President Buhari has done. If there are legal niceties that he did not call, we have overlooked it and we are happy with what he has done,” he said.

Similarly, Max Ogar, who quoted former presidential spokesman Reuben Abati, said the award needs not go through the law based on expediency and ‘Doctrine of Necessity’, explaining that laws are made for man not man for law.

“The very important question is does the grant of national honour of GCFR on late Abiola hurt anyone? In my opinion it does not,” he said.

Abiola was believed to have won the 1993 Presidential election held on June 12.

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