June 12 bill: Lawyers disagree on new Democracy Day
Posted: 12/Jun/2019

Lawyers have expressed divergent views over the recent assent by President Muhammadu Buhari to the bill on June 12 as Democracy Day in Nigeria. Reacting, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) said it could cause constitutional controversy where there were attempts to elongate the tenures of the president and state governors beyond the existing May 29 inauguration date.  
“Even if you amend the constitution, you can’t give more time to people that have just started their own tenures on May 29. It’s not possible to take a retroactive effect,” he said. “The way I see it is that June 12 will remain a symbolic Democracy Day, inauguration will remain May 29.”  
Agbakoba therefore called for a national awareness of the situation and a consensus on how the transition could be attained in 2023 and the future. On his part, Lagos-based constitutional lawyer, Barrister Jiti Ogunye, called on the Federal Government to extend the tenure of the newly sworn in lawmakers and consolidate the May 29 public holiday and the June 12 democracy day to avoid a constitutional lacuna. 
He said once May 29 and June 12 are consolidated by a constitutional amendment, the tenure of the members of the National Assembly could then be extended by some days. His words: “If we have two days of holiday – one inauguration day and the second democracy day, we need a kind of consolidation of the two holidays. Once we observe this day, the NASS can by constitutional amendments legislate on the subject regardless of the fact that they were sworn in on May 29 and have their tenure extended by some days so that June 12 will be marked as inauguration and democracy day holiday. 
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for assenting to the bill making June 12 democracy day and a public holiday. But Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), while agreeing that inauguration would remain May 29 without a public holiday while commemoration would hold on June 12, however, added that it would not require any tenure elongation for occupants of the offices. “And that should not mean that people would not work. 
Then on June 12, there would be public holiday. There would be no tenure elongation. There is no legal quagmire here,” he said. “Not all elected governors are sworn in on May 29. There are staggered elections in Ondo, Osun, Edo, Ekiti, Bayelsa and Anambra,” he said. Akintola said the idea of different dates for inauguration also applied in the United States and other advanced democracies. He commended the president for “doing what all the past leaders didn’t do.”