Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) has argued that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is not eligible under the constitution to contest for President.
The AGF argued that, having not been born a Nigerian or by Nigerian parents, and having not met the provisions of Sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution, Atiku would be violating Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act should he put himself forward as candidate.
These form part of the AGF’s arguments in support of the suit filed before the Federal High Court, Abuja by the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA).
The EMA is 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, the former vice president cannot contest for the top office.
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.
Although the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 was filed before the 2019 presidential election, it is yet to be heard and determined.
However, it was mentioned on March 15, during which Justice Inyang Ekwo noted that the suit was ripe for hearing and fixed May 4, for that purpose.
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.”
In his written address, the AGF argued that the effect of the June1, 1961 plebiscite was to have the people of. Northern Cameroon integrated into Nigeria as new citizens of the country, even after Nigeria’s independence.
He added: “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 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.