Two Nigerian lawyers on Wednesday night tackled a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Alfa Belgore, for saying that national honours cannot be awarded posthumously.
Earlier on Wednesday evening President Muhammadu Buhari declared June 12 as Democracy Day, against May 29, which Nigeria hitherto officially recognised.
The president also conferred the nation’s highest honour, GCFR, on the winner on the winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election.
But in reaction to Mr Buhari’s declaration, Mr Belgore said the national honours cannot be awarded posthumously.
“It is not done. It’s for people living,” PREMIUM TIMES quoted him as saying.
Amina Miango, an Abuja-based lawyer, said the former CJN “goofed this time”.
According to her, the law is silent about whether the honour should be conferred on the dead or living.
“With due respect to the former CJN, he goofed this time. I went through that Act and there is no illegality anywhere,” she said.
A UK-based Nigerian lawyer and June 12 activist, Abdul Mahmud, said the former CJN was wrong in saying the president’s action was illegal.
“Former CJN Justice Belgore claims the conferment of GCFR and GCON on MKO and Gani respectively is illegal as National Orders can’t be conferred on the dead,” he said.
The lawyer expressed surprise that people have been quoting the former CJN’s position.
“Folks are quoting him! Please, go look at the law yourself, National Honours Act, 1964. It is online.
“Look at the Honours Warrant, a subsidiary legislation made pursuant to the National Honours Act, 1964; then look at Section 2 (1) & (2) of the Honours Warrant which deals with “eligibility for appointment to orders”.
“The CJN is wrong. Dead wrong. That the eligibility for conferment only states two conditions for eligibility in Section 2(2) Honours Warrant.
“The conditions are: 1) must be a citizen of Nigeria. 2) Any person which the president considers eligible for honourary appointment.
“The provision of Section 3 (2) Honours Warrant which says a recipient must appear in person to receive his honours is clawed back by Section 3(3), which grants the president powers to dispense with the requirement of section 3(2).
“It is not correct that posthumous honours cannot be made. Once a recipient meets the threshold eligibility, the president can dispense with the appearance of the honoured at the investiture.
“You may have been better tutored in law than the former CJN,” Mr Mahmud said.