By Adebayo Fajinmi
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubaka Malami (SAN) has contested the eligibility of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
The crux of his argument was that Atiku is not a citizen of Nigeria.
According to the minster, Atiku was not born a Nigerian or by Nigerian parents, and having not met the provisions of Sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution, he would be violating Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act should he put himself forward as a candidate.
Malami noted that the only situation where Atiku could have acquired Nigerian citizenship by birth under the 1999 Constitution was if both or either of his parents and grand parents were Nigerian citizens by birth.
He said Atiku was born on the 25th of November, 1946 at Jada, in Northern Cameroon. By the plebiscite of 1961, the town of Jada was incorporated into Nigeria. He added that, he is a Nigerian by virtue of the 1961 plebiscite, but not a Nigerian by birth, noting that Atiku’s parents died before the 1961 plebiscite.
Atiku’s eligibility for President is being contested and Malami is praying that, the court hold among others, considering the provisions of sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution and the circumstances surrounding his birth, the former vice president cannot contest for highest office in the country.
In 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 AGF further argued that the 1961 plebiscite 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.
He cited provisions of the 1960, 1963, 1979 and 1999 constitutions and noted that the “reasoning of the lawmakers in ensuring that the persons to be the President of Nigeria is a citizen of Nigeria by birth is because such a person is the number one citizen and the image of the Nigerian state.”
However, Atiku and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have denied the plaintiff’s claims and prayed the court to dismiss the suit for lacking merit.
They also filed a joint notice of objection, in which they insisted that Atiku is “a bonafide citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Atiku stated that aside 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.
He argued that both his parents, grandparents and great grandparents were born in Nigeria and they lived, died as Nigerians and were buried in Nigeria.
While saying he is eligible to vie for the office of the President, he said the plaintiff filed the suit in bad faith and it was an attempt to denigrate him.
The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 was filed before the 2019 presidential election and has neither been heard nor determined. But it was mentioned on March 15, when Justice Inyang Ekwo noted that the suit was ripe for hearing and fixed May 4, for that purpose.