By Henry Umoru
ABUJA – THE Senate, yesterday, agreed with the House of Representatives to approve a bill that will make June 12, the nation’s Democracy Day.
With the approval of the bill that sought to declare June 12 as Democracy Day in Nigeria and bringing the Act in tandem with the current realities and exigencies of modern times, it means that Nigeria as a country would then be marking the date as the country’s democracy day.
The passing of the Public Holiday Act( Amendment) Bill, 2019 ( HBs.918 & 1529), is against the May 29 that has been the tradition since 2000.
The bill which emanated from the House of Representatives, got unanimous adoption of the senators during plenary yesterday when it came up for concurrence.
The bill seeks to amend the Public Holiday Act 2004 to make June 12 the new date for Democracy Day celebration to replace May 29, which marks the official handing over from military to civilian administration in 1999.
Passage of the bill for second and third reading in the Senate Thursday , was sequel to a motion moved to that effect by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan ( APC Yobe North).
With the passage by the Senate, the bill would then be transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent, after the Legal Services Department of the National Assembly must have done its job on the passed bill.
It would be recalled that President Buhari had in June last year directed that the National Democracy Day of May 29 be replaced with June 12 as new date for democracy celebration and change of battons in terms of power transmission.
Buhari gave the directive while conferring a posthumous award on the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, general elections, Moshood Abiola and also as way of immortalising him.
Also recall that the June 12, 1993 presidential election acclaimed to be the freest and fairest in the country’s history suffered a setback when the results were annulled by the then military.
Also yesterday, the Senate concurred with the House of Representatives on passages of five other bills, raising the number to six as Bills passed in concurrence .
Also recall that that in giving the date a legal framework, Hon Edward Pwajok ( APC Plateau) and Kayode Oladele ( APC Lagos) had sponsored a bill to that effect in the House of Representatives last year which was read the third time and passed for third reading in March this year .
The bill as drafted by the two lawmakers and passed by the House in March , sought for an Act to amend the Public Holidays Act to declare June 12 as Democracy Day in Nigeria in view of current realities and exigencies of the modern times.
Pwajok who led debate on the bill in the House, said that before 1979, there were separate Acts regulating public holidays in the country, just as he recalled that in 1975, a law was made to repeal all state laws on public holidays and to streamline the process of declaring holidays for the federation.
According to him, by law, the President may declare any day as a public holiday by public notice or act through the Minister of Internal Affairs, just as he said that by the schedule of the Act, some days such as New Year Day, National Day like October 1 and religious festivals are set aside for public holidays, adding that in 2000, the National Assembly amended the schedule to add May 29 as Democracy Day, but in May 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari announced June 12 as the new Democracy day.
He explained that for the pronouncement to become effective, there has to be an amendment of the Public Holidays Act.
Others bills moved for concurrent passage by the Senate with the House of Representatives were the Federal Capital Territory Area Councils Service Commission ( Est etc) Bill 2019 and Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency ( Est , etc) Bill 2019 .
Others were Projects Development Agency Enugu PRODA ( Est, etc) Bill 2019, Good Samaritan ‘s Bill 2019 and Data Protection Bill, 2019.