Dino Melaye, the senator representing Kogi West, has cautioned President Muhammdu Buhari against breaching the constitution in his latest move of conferring the honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Moshood Abiola, the widely acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential election.
Mr Buhari on June 6, 25 years after the election, directed the honour be conferred on Mr Abiola. He also said June 12 will henceforth be preserved as Nigeria’s Democracy Day to further honour him.
The president also directed Mr Abiola’s running mate, Babagana Kingibe, be conferred with the second highest honour of Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON).
The GCFR was exclusive to presidents and former presidents until President Shehu Shagari conferred it on Obafemi Awolowo in the Second Republic.
Citing Chapter 43(2) of the National Honours Act on Thursday, however, Mr Melaye argued that the act does not allow for conferment of the honours on non-Nigerians.
He claimed that Mr Abiola is dead and that automatically makes him not to be a Nigerian.
He said, “I am a democrat, I believe very sincerely that Chief M.K.O Abiola deserve even more than the president has pronounced because he is a true patriot, philanthropist and should be so decorated.
“But Mr. President, we are governed in the country by the constitution and extant laws. No matter how beautiful a situation is, the law of the land remains the law of the land.”
The lawmaker mentioned a section of the law which he claims buttresses his point.
“Subsection 2 of the act says a person shall be eligible for appointment to any rank or holder unless he is a citizen of Nigeria. A dead man is not a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We should not be emotional about this. The law remains the law.”
Mr Melaye’s interpretation is expected to be faulted by most Nigerians and is not known to have a precedent in any law court.
Mr Melaye also argued that the act provides that such honour be conferred on the recipient in person and since Mr Abiola is dead, he cannot receive the award; a similar argument to that raised by a former chief justice of Nigeria, Alfa Belgore.
“Subject to the next notice, a person shall be appointed to a particular rank of an order when the president receives him in person,” he said.
“Mr. President, they said in person for us to do what we are supposed to do, we would have to amend the provisions of this act because anything we need to do, we have to do in accordance with the provisions of the law.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, announced that his points of order were noted.