NASS Okays June 12 Democracy Day …Declares Public Holiday …Ekweremadu Backs State Police

Senate passes bill to recognise June 12 as Nigeria's Democracy Day

The National Assembly has passed the amendment to the National Holiday Act to move Nigeria’s Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12.
The Senate at the plenary yesterday passed the amendment in concurrence with the House of Representatives which approved the new date earlier in December 2018.
The passage followed the adoption of a report by the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, for the Senate to concur with the House.
The three clauses of the amendment bill were passed by the Committee of the Whole when the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, put them to voice vote.
The legislation is now billed for transmission to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
Buhari had in June 2018 declared that the Democracy Day would henceforth hold on June 12 of every year.
The President made the declaration as the Federal Government honoured the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential election, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, with a posthumous conferment of the highest national award, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, on him.
Buhari had also conferred on Abiola’s running mate in the election, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe and foremost human rights lawyer, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the Grand Commander of the Niger award, which is the second highest national honour.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, put the conference report to a voice vote and it was adopted by the lawmakers.
In the bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives on November 26, 2018, the current democracy date, which is May 29, was deleted and replaced with June 12.
On June 12,1993, presidential election was held and adjudged to be the freest in the country’s history.
However, the results were annulled by the then Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
In the process, one of the presidential candidate who was reported to have polled most votes, Mr Moshood Abiola lost his life.
Our correspondent reports that 25 years after, President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018, announced that the nation’s Democracy Day would hold on June 12 of every year as against current arrangement where the ceremony holds on May 29.
The national assembly however needed to amend the public holiday act to give the directive a legal backing, to make it binding.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, yesterday, said that if the increasing rate of insecurity, banditry, kidnapping in the country must be nipped in the bud, there was the urgent need for President Muhammadu Buhari to throw his weight behind calls for state police.
Ekweremadu, who blamed the rising security challenges on unitary police system prescribed by the Constitution, stressed that the best option was not to jettison the decentralized policing, which ensured the security of the people and their property up to 1966, but to ensure that appropriate checks in terms of recruitment, appointment of police chiefs, control, logistics, funding, among others, were put in place, to guide against possible abuse by state governors as feared by some.
Speaking, yesterday, in Abuja at the opening of a two-day conference on the Implementation of Autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary, Ekweremadu, who hailed Buhari for assenting to the Constitution Alteration Bills on Financial Autonomy for States’ Legislature and States’ Judiciary, said: “Our Constitution contradicts, in several respects, the basic principles of democracy such as the separation of powers, checks and balances, and compromises the independence of the critical institutions of democracy.
“This is why the National Assembly has, starting from 2010, successfully altered the Constitution to strengthen the principles of separation of powers, checks and balance, and indeed our democracy and good governance by placing the National Assembly, INEC, and most recently, the State Houses of Assembly and Judiciary on first line charge”.
He, however, cautioned State Assemblies that the autonomy was not a license to appropriate whatever they liked to their respective Assemblies and States’ Judiciary, but recognition of the prioritisation of the release of their funds in the appropriation law of their respective states.
The Deputy Senate President, who described the local government as the weakest link in the governance structure, however, urged the State Assemblies to approve the Constitution Amendment Bills that seek to strengthen the councils as a third tier of government.
He suggested the establishment of a National Police Service Commission (NPSC) to exercise a level of oversight over the activities of the state police such as maintaining common facilities for all police services in the country, including training, criminal intelligence databases, forensic laboratories, among others.
Ekweremadu said, “The NPSC should also run a system of inspectorates and certification such as supervision of recruitment, training, supervision of standards, and annual certification of every state police service.
“There should also be a body known as State Police Service Commission for the states and should comprise a representative of the executive to be appointed by the Governor, representative of the Federal Government to be appointed by the NPSC, two independent experts in security matters to be appointed by the governor subject to confirmation by the State House of Assembly, and a representative each of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
“Others are a retired police officer not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police, representative of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), representative of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), and representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and other relevant civil organizations, as the case may be. The body should be responsible for the recruitment, appointment and disciplining of the members of the state police force.
“Importantly, the funding of the state police should be a first line charge on the state account or it can be deducted at source from the Federation Account and paid to the Police Service Commission for onward disbursement to the respective State Police Service Commissions.
“There should be an Act of the National Assembly stipulating the type of arms that can be acquired by a sub-national police and also unacceptable conducts, which can lead to the sanction of a sub-national police command.”
On affordability, the deputy Senate President said that state police would not be compulsory as those who have the resources could establish one, while those who could not afford would continue to rely on the federal police until they were able to establish one.
He said, “The important thing is to lay down the legal frameworks that authorise and regulate decentralised policing so that those who can afford it can start, hence I urge Mr. President to lend his political will and weight to the quest for decentralised policing.”