June 12: Buhari’s public holiday declaration not effective until Act is amended – AGF Malami

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Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has weighed in on recent controversies over legality of declaring June 12 a public holiday by President Muhammadu Buhari. Mr Malami said the president’s declaration is only an intention and will not be effective until the Public Holidays Act is amended.

President Buhari on June 6 directed that effective 2019, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, marked every May 29 for the past 18 years, be shifted to June 12 to honour Moshood Abiola, the winner of the 1993 presidential election.

May 29, the date replaced, is usually declared public holiday and legally recognised. Mr Buhari’s gesture since declaration has been widely criticised especially on the legality of such move. Nigerians question if the president has the power to declare a public holiday without an amendment to the country’s public holidays Act.

Speaking with State House correspondents on Wednesday, Mr Malami first argued that the president can give a posthumous award without altering related acts, based on precedence.

“The other question relating to posthumous awards. I think we need to make distinctions between the Nigeria National Merit Award Act and the Nigerian National Honours Act. They are two distinct and different applicable laws as far as National honours awards are concerned.

“You have the National Merit Award on the strength of which we have the law of the governing board comes into effect and then as it relates to the National Honours Act, the board does not have any relevance in terms of processing of the Honours.

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“For then, above all, we equally have in existence, precedence as it relates to the award of posthumous Honours. I can recall that a former head of state, General Murtala Mohammed was equally honored posthumously amongst others.”

He noted Mr Buhari’s pronouncement on June 12 as Democracy Day is an anticipatory declaration which will still go through legislative processes to be cemented.

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“As it relates to public holidays, there is truly a public holiday Act, but it is about the process and process of amendment. At any rate, the Act can be amended and the process of amendment has been put in place. So, when the Act has been fully amended, the declaration of the President will come into effect. It is a declaration of intention, a declaration of desire and that will eventually be given effect with the act of amendment of the existing law.”

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