By Chijioke Okoronkwo
Abuja, June 10, 2019 President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday at the Presidential Villa, signed the Public Holidays Act Amendment Bill into law.
This is as he, same Monday in Abuja, welcomed the support of the Italian government to help recover and repatriate illegally deposited Nigerian assets in foreign countries.
Sen. Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate) disclosed the signing into law of the Public Holidays Act Amendment Bill to State House Correspondents in Abuja.
Enang said that the Act declared June 12 of every year as public holiday and Democracy Day in Nigeria.
“It amends the Public Holidays Act which now removes May 29 of every year as a public holiday and now makes June 12 as a public holiday in Nigeria henceforth.
“By this Act, May 29 is no more a Public Holiday,’’ he said.
Buhari had on June 6, 2018, declared June 12 to be the new Democracy Day in commemoration of the democratic election of MKO Abiola on June 12, 1993.
The Federal Government had earlier on Monday declared June 12, as a public holiday, to commemorate the nation’s National Democracy Day
Speaking when he received a delegation from the Italian Parliament led by Senator Vito Petrocelli, Chairman Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs at State House on Monday, President Buhari had, according to a statement by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity),
commended the Italian government for demonstrating ‘‘open-mindedness’’ and willingness to cooperate with Nigeria on the issue of repatriation of stolen funds.
The Italian Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Stefano Pontesilli, who accompanied the delegation, while conveying the message of the Italian Government had told the Nigerian leader: ‘‘We are willing to cooperate with your administration 100 per cent on illicit assets repatriation.’’
The President, while acknowledging the good wishes of the Italian government in the aftermath of the February 23 presidential election, told the delegation that his second term in office would consolidate on the progress recorded in the last four years in the country.
He also used the occasion to remind developed countries to do the needful on reviving Lake Chad.
‘‘Lake Chad is now 10 per cent of what it used to be. At least 30 million people around it benefit from fishing, farming and animal husbandry.
‘‘The drying up of Lake Chad has forced some people to defy the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean in their bid to get to Europe,’’ he said.
President Buhari thanked the Italian government for its policy of accommodating displaced persons, particularly African refugees.
The President also appreciated the Italian delegation for emphasizing the cordial relationship between Nigeria and Italy and the need to establish a ‘‘bilateral committee on friendship’’ that would identify areas of cooperation and work collectively.
Earlier, Senator Petrocelli had told President Buhari that the delegation, which included Senator Tony Chike Iwobi, Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, a Nigerian and first African to be elected into the Italian Parliament, are in the country to attend to the June 12 Democracy Day celebrations.
He also congratulated the Nigerian leader on his re-election.
The President and the delegation which also included Italian investors discussed a range of bilateral and global issues including migration, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), infrastructure development, anti-corruption and the need to strengthen inter-parliamentary relationship between Nigeria and Italy.