Does A Governor Of A State Possess Statutory Power To Declare Public Holiday In His State?
The declaration of 2nd of May 2023, by the incumbent governor of Rivers State, His Excellency, Gov Nyesom Ezenwo Wike via a statewide broadcast has created a media based tug of war as to the power of a governor to declare a public holiday.
While some (myself inclusive) received this news with gratitude and showered encomiums on his excellency, others aren’t having it, as there have been lots of holidays already and people just resumed their various endeavours after the just concluded international worker’s day holiday, hence their displeasure with the impromptu declaration of a public holiday due to the bust of the “President Elect” (Bola Ahmed Tinibu) for the commission of a project. A reason which most of them tag “bizarre”.
This has left pending questions on the minds of citizens and non citizens alike begging for answers. Thus this article is aimed at giving answers to this pending prayer.
Before delving into the aforementioned question, it is pertinent to highlight the meaning of the phrase Holiday.
What is a Holiday?
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word Holiday as a day in which one is exempt from work, specifically a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.
Furthermore in the case of KAIGAMA v. NEC (1993) 3 NWLR (Pt.284) 681 & Ors, “holiday” is defined as a ‘day which is a Sunday or a public holiday”.
Section 2(3) of the Public Holidays Act Cap P.40, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, recognizes only the days listed in the schedule to the Act as ”Public Holidays’. “Per, GALADIMA, J.S.C (P. 41, paras. A-B). Quote from the Supreme Court’s judgement in the case ONYEKWULUJE & ANOR v. BENUE STATE GOVT & ORS (2015) LPELR-24780(SC).
Deduced from the foregoing, Public Holiday in Nigeria and in any part of Nigeria is under the Public Holiday Act, thus it is an issue in the exclusive legislative list, so state legislatures cannot make laws on public holidays. It is only the federal legislature (National Assembly) that can make laws on public holidays in Nigeria or in any state or part in Nigeria.
Therefore it is a General rule, that matters within the exclusive legislative list of the constitution of Nigeria, are federal matters. As such, they are above the powers of any state government in Nigeria.
Public Holidays Act 1979
The Public Holidays Act 1979, is a federal legislation that provides for all public holidays in Nigeria and in any part of Nigeria.
The said legislation empowers the President of Nigeria to declare any special day as a public holiday across Nigeria or in any part of Nigeria. Section 2(1)(2) Public Holidays Act also empowers a state Governor to declare any special day as a public holiday in his state or any part of his state.
Drawing credence from the above proposition as to whether a governor of the state possess the legal power to declare a public holiday in his state, it is my submission therefore that although by Section 2(2) of the Public Holidays Act, the Governor of any state is vested with the power to appoint a special day for the observation of a Holiday so far as it does not conflict with that of the President of Nigeria, any state law on public holidays (whether for founders’ day or state creation day) is illegal, unconstitutional and contrary to the constitution of Nigeria and consequently invalid.
In view of the above, it is glaring that the Public Holidays Act pulls the rope of the tug of war to the end position that the governor of a state possesses the power to declare a public holiday in his state.
However, this does not by any stretch of imagination empower any state House of Assembly to enact laws on public holidays. Therefore long story short, His Excellency Gov Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has the Legal powers to Declare a Public Holiday in the State.
Image Credit: The Nation Newspaper
Udoh, Florence Ignatius is a 300 Level Student of Law at the Rivers State University. Her aim is to enhance her writing capacity on trending legal issues of law.