President Buhari had, earlier in the year, declared June 12 as Democracy Day, in honour of the winner of the 1993 presidential election, MKO Abiola
Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The bill to legalise June 12 as Democracy Day in the country went through the second reading in House of Representatives yesterday despite disagreement by the lawmakers, across party lines.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, earlier in the year, declared June 12 as Democracy Day, in honour of the winner of the 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola.
However, during debate on the general principle of “a Bill to amend the Public Holiday Act, Cap 140, laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004,” which intends to give legal backing to the president’s declaration, lawmakers elected on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were sharply divided over the matter.
Leading the debate on the bill, the sponsor, Edward Pwajok, said the bill, if passed into law, will confer legitimacy on President Buhari’s declaration of June 12 as the new date for the celebration of democracy in the country.
Speaking in support of the bill, Aminu Suleiman, an APC lawmaker from Kano State, lauded the President Buhari for honouring late Chief Abiola and noted that the action of the president would help heal the wound caused by the annulment of the June 12,1993 presidential poll.
“I had the privilege of walking on the streets of Lagos for the actualisation of the mandate of Chief Moshood Abiola, despite coming from the same state as his opponent. We should give legal backing to intervention of the president. What we are doing is to build the process of healing,” Suleiman appealed to his colleagues.
Other APC lawmakers, who spoke on the motion, hailed the June 12 election as the freest election in the history of the country. While eulogising Buhari for declaring June 12 as Democracy Day, APC lawmakers expressed support for the bill and described it as a step in the right direction.
On the flipside, Sergius Ogun, a PDP lawmaker from Edo State, said President Buhari was merely playing to the gallery by declaring June 12 as Democracy Day. The lawmaker said what is utmost at the moment is for the 2019 general elections to be free and fair.
On his part, Kingsley Chinda, also a PDP lawmaker, asked: “What is the purpose of the amendment? Why do we need to change Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12? When the bill was subjected to voice vote, majority opposed the amendment of the Public Holidays Act to make June 12 Democracy Day.
However, the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, who presided over yesterday’s plenary ruled in favour of the minority.
Dogara said his ruling was in the interest of national cohesion and unity. “The point is we should be moved by what is right, in the interest of national cohesion and unity in the present circumstances. We should address issues as statesmen.”
Thereafter, the speaker referred the bill to the Committee of the Whole.
Meanwhile, the House, yesterday, mandated its Committees on Police Affairs, Human Rights and Justice to probe the death of Michael Adikwu, the key suspect in the bank robbery that occurred in Offa, Kwara State, on April 5.
The committees are expected to unravel the circumstances surrounding Adikwu’s death, including when and how he died, as well as unravel the reason the police was not forthcoming on his death.
Besides, the committees, which have four weeks to report back to the House for further legislative actions, are also to unravel alleged cases of human rights abuses, extra-judicial killings and manipulation of criminal investigations by the police.