The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) has told a Federal High Court, Abuja that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is not qualified to contest for President as he (Atiku) is not born a Nigerian or by Nigerian parents.
The AGF further argued that the former Vice President is not eligible, under the constitution to contest for the President of the country on the ground that Atiku failed to meet the provisions of Sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution and would be violating Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act if he put himself forward as a candidate.
The AGF’s argument was contained in an affidavit in support of the suit filed by a group, Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA), challenging Atiku’s eligibility to contest for President and praying the court to hold among others, that considering the provisions of sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution and the circumstances surrounding his birth, Atiku cannot run for the Presidency of the country.
According to the documents filed for the AGF by a team of lawyers, led by Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN), it was agreed that, as argued by the plaintiff, Atiku is not a Nigerian citizen by birth.
The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 which was filed before the 2019 presidential election, is yet to be heard and determined, but was however mentioned on March 15, 2021, during which the trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo fixed May 4, for hearing.
The AGF in the affidavit said: “The first defendant (Atiku) was born on the 25th of November, 1946 at Jada, at the time in Northern Cameroon. By the plebiscite of 1961, the town of Jada was incorporated into Nigeria.
“The first defendant is a Nigerian by virtue of the 1961 plebiscite, but not a Nigerian by birth. The first defendant’s parents died before the 1961 plebiscite.”
In his written address, the AGF argued that the effect of the June 1, 1961 plebiscite was to have the people of. Northern Cameroon integrated into Nigeria as new citizens of the country, even after Nigeria’s independence and added that “This qualified all those born before the 1961 plebiscite as citizens of Nigeria, but not Nigerian citizen by birth. Consequently, only citizens born after the 1961 plebiscite are citizens of Nigeria by birth.”
The AGF argued that, where it is revealed that a person was born outside Nigeria before Nigeria’s independence in 1960, in a location which was never part of Nigeria until June 1, 1961, as it is in this case, such a person cannot claim citizenship of Nigeria by birth.
“This is even more so where his parents do not belong to any tribe indigenous to Nigeria until their death. The facts of his (Atiku’s) birth on the Cameroonian territory to Cameroonian parents remain unchallenged.
“At best, the first defendant can only acquire Nigerian citizenship by the 1961 plebiscite. The citizenship qualifications under Section 26 and 27 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), by implication, has limited the first defendant’s privileges or rights and cannot be equal or proportional to the privileges of other citizens who acquire their citizenship status by birth.
“This would include the legal preclusion of the first defendant from contesting for the office of the President of Nigeria,” he said, “With no concrete proof of compliance, we submit that the first defendant cannot contest election to the office of the Nigerian President.”
The AGF argued that Atiku, having contested election to the office of the Vice President before now, knowing that he is not a Nigerian citizen by birth, committed an offence under Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act.
Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on whose platform he contested the last election, has denied the plaintiff’s claims and prayed the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.
They also filed a joint notice of objection, in which they maintained that Atiku is, “A citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Atiku stated that aside from serving as Nigeria’s Vice President from 1999 to 2007, he held many public/private offices, including serving as Governor of Adamawa State and as a Commissioned Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service.
According to the former Vice President, both his parents, grandparents and great grandparents were born in Nigeria and they lived, died as Nigerians and were buried in Nigeria.
Atiku argued that he is qualified and eligible to be elected into the office of the President of Nigeria, adding that the plaintiff filed the suit in bad faith and in an attempt to malign his person and integrity.