There is nothing illegal in giving posthumous national honours, a senior official in the office of the attorney-general of the federation has told TheCable.
The official, who declined to be named because he was not speaking under authorisation, said it is “more of a convention to give to only living persons”.
He said Alfa Belgore, former chief justice of the federation, who descried the posthumous awards announced by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday as illegal, was confusing two categories.
The official told TheCable: “The honorable justice is confusing the Honours Warrant with the The Star for Fallen Soldiers which is only given posthumously to members of the armed forces.
“The is nothing in the National Honours Act that precludes giving national honours posthumously. If the law expressly forbids it, President Buhari will not have granted it. The president has broken with tradition without breaking any law.”
Belgore was the chairman of the national honours committee in 2016.
Meanwhile, the official gazette for the award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) to MKO Abiola will be presented to Buhari for his signature any moment from now, TheCable understands.
This will provide a legal seal on the award.
Buhari had on Wednesday announced the award of GCFR to Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12 1993 presidential election who died in government custody in 1998.
He also gave the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) to Babagana Kingibe, Abiola’s running mate in the election, as well as Gani Fawehinmi, the late human rights activist and constitutional lawyer.
Buhari further declared June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day to replace May 29, which constitutionally remains the day the president and governors elected during a general election are sworn in.
The Cable understands that Buhari had directed the attorney-general, Abubakar Malami, to prepare the gazette for presidential signature before making the official announcement of the honours.
“By the provisions of the National Honours Act of 1963, national honours must be gazetted,” the source said.
Section 3 (1) of the act says: “The President shall by notice in the Federal Gazette signify his intention of appointing a person to a particular rank of an Order.”
GCFR is Nigeria’s highest honour usually reserved for heads of state and presidents, while GCON is usually given to vice-presidents.
However, President Shehu Shagari awarded GCFR to Obafemi Awolowo while President Goodluck Jonathan gave GCON to Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga.