The Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has posited that former vice president, Atiku Abubakar cannot contest election for president in Nigeria because under the nation’s constitution, he is not eligible.
Part of the AGF’s arguments in support of a suit filed by the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa, Ema, led by Oladipo Okpeseyi, SAN, before the Federal High Court Abuja, is that Atiku was not born a Nigerian or by Nigerian parents; does not 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 should he aspire to become president of Nigeria.
In the suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 filed before the 2019 presidential election, but not heard, the EMA is challenging Atiku’s eligibility to contest for president and prays the court to consider the provisions of sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution and the circumstances surrounding his birth.
Justice Inyang Ekwo before who the suit was mentioned on March 15, noted that it was ripe for hearing and fixed May 4.
The AGF averred in the affidavit supporting the suit as follows:
“The first defendant (Atiku) is not qualified to contest to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The first defendant is not a fit and proper person to be a candidate for election to the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The first defendant 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.”
Also 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.
“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.”
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.”
The AGF further 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.