On June 12 1993, Abiola emerged as the winner of the presidential election but the military government, led by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, annulled the exercise before the result was announced officially.
On Wednesday, Buhari conferred the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on the late icon as a sign of honour, and also declared June 12 new date for celebration of Democracy Day.
This did not go down well with some lawmakers as a lawmaker from Delta state, Nicholas Ossai, while speaing during plenary on Thursday, said the decision was made with bad intent
“Public holiday is derived from the national assembly act and not from executive declaration,” the lawmaker said.
“This honour is to be given to the president or former presidents who are still alive. Two weeks ago, we celebrated our great feat as a nation our Democracy Day. The executive never thought it wise to declare it on that day. What is the difference between now and one week ago, it is an act of discrimination?
“What happens to the public funds used in celebrating Democracy Day weeks ago? They must be accounted for. Why didn’t the president announce it on that day?”
At this point, he was shut down with shouts of “sit down” from some of the lawmakers, leading to a rowdy session.
Some of the other lawmakers who also spoke on the issue said there is need to abide by the rule of law while others spoke in favour of the president’s decision.
After normalcy was restored, Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the house, said the public holidays act gives room for the president to fix public holidays.
“The national assembly has exercised its powers as provided in the constitution by enacting that act,” he said, adding: “But its section 2(2) gives the president powers to declare a new date for public holidays.”
Toby Okechukwu from Enugu state said while Buhari’s decision is commendable, the lawmakers must ensure the president is “doing what is within the framework of the law.”
“We must make sure that we set the correct actions to ensure it is sustainable and it is registered for what it is. We must ensure the rule of law is abided by,” he said.
Kayode Oladele from Ogun state said Buhari’s decision was in order and that it would always be remembered.
“That (annulment of the 1993 election result) was the beginning of the crisis in Nigeria. Had it not happened, we would not have been where we are today because Nigerians spoke without any iota of doubt that this is what we want,” he said.
Some of the lawmakers also argued that while the Public holidays act empowers the president to fix a new public holiday, the act defines May 29 as date for celebration of Democracy Day.
They said the lawmakers have to amend the act and change the date before the new date of June 12 will be adopted
Following the dissenting views, Dogara suspended the matter and referred it to the house committee on rules and businesses to sort out the issues and report back to the lawmakers.