Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is not fit to run for President, according to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The AGF argued that if Atiku ran for president, he would be breaching Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act since he was not born in Nigeria or to Nigerian parents, and he had not fulfilled the criteria of Sections 25(1) & (2) and 131(a) of the constitution.
These are among the claims made by the AGF in support of the suit filed by the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa before the Federal High Court in Abuja (EMA).
The EMA is questioning Atiku’s eligibility to run for President, asking the court to rule, among other things, that the former vice president cannot run for President because of the provisions of sections 25(1) and (2) of the constitution, as well as the circumstances surrounding his birth.
According to documents filed for the AGF by a team of lawyers headed by Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN), Atiku is not a Nigerian citizen by birth, as stated by the complainant.
Despite the fact that the FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 lawsuit was filed before the presidential election of 2019, it has yet to be heard and decided.
However, it was brought up on March 15, when Justice Inyang Ekwo stated that the case was ready for hearing and set May 4 as the date.
The AGF in the affidavit said: “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.”
The AGF argued in his written address that the plebiscite on June 1, 1961 had the effect of making the people of. Northern Cameroon assimilated into Nigeria as new people even after the country’s independence.
“This eligible all those born before the 1961 referendum as Nigerian citizens, but not Nigerian citizens by birth,” he continued. As a result, only people born after the 1961 plebiscite became naturalized Nigerians.”
He cited provisions of the 1960, 1963, 1979, and 1999 constitutions, stating that the “reasoning of the lawmakers in ensuring that the persons to be President of Nigeria are citizens of Nigeria by birth is because such an individual is the number one citizen and the picture of the Nigerian state.”
The AGF argued that if it is discovered that a person was born outside of Nigeria before the country’s independence in 1960, in a place that was never part of Nigeria until June 1, 1961, as it was in this case, that person cannot claim Nigerian citizenship 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.
According to the AGF, the only way Atiku could have obtained Nigerian citizenship by birth under the 1999 Constitution was if both or one of his parents and grandparents were born in the country.
“If any of his parents had become Nigerian citizens by virtue of Section 25(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which must be in accordance with Sections 26 and 27 of the same constitution,” he added.
“With no concrete proof of compliance, we submit that the first defendant cannot contest election to the office of the Nigerian President.”
The process of acquiring citizenship by registration is covered in Section 26, while the process of obtaining citizenship by naturalization is covered in Section 27.
The AGF argued that Atiku violated Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act by running for Vice President before recognizing he was not a Nigerian citizen by birth.
Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on whose platform he ran for president last year, have dismissed the plaintiff’s charges and asked the court to dismiss the case as frivolous.
They also filed a joint notice of objection, claiming that Atiku is a “true citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Apart from serving as Vice President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, Atiku has held a number of public and private positions, including Governor of Adamawa State and a Commissioned Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service.
He said that his parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were all born in Nigeria and that they lived, died, and were buried there.
Atiku argued that he is fit and eligible to run for President of Nigeria, and that the plaintiff filed the lawsuit in bad faith in an effort to smear his character and reputation.
He questioned the plaintiff’s right to contest his nationality, claiming that it had failed to demonstrate a compelling interest over other Nigerian citizens to be allowed to approach the court on the matter.