A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday fixed February 21, 2022, to deliver judgement in a suit seeking to bar former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, from vying for presidency in 2023.
The suit marked FHC/ABJ/ CS/177 was instituted by a group, under the aegis of the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa.
The group is challenging Atiku’s eligibility on the premise that he is not a Nigerian by birth. The group further posed three legal questions for the determination of the court. It asked the court to determine: “Whether section 25 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), is the sole authority that spells out ways by which a person can become a Nigerian citizen by birth?
“Whether by the provisions of section 131(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), only a Nigerian citizen by birth can contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?”
As well as: “Whether by the combined interpretation of section 25(1) & (2) and 131(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and giving the circumstances surrounding the birth of the 1st Defendant (Atiku), he can be cleared by the 2nd and 3rd Defendants to contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?”
Upon determination of the questions, the Plaintiff applied for a declaration that by the provisions of the Constitution, “only a Nigerian citizen by birth can contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
It urged the court to declare that given the circumstances surrounding Atiku’s birth; he cannot be cleared by either PDP or the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to vie for the Presidency.
The Plaintiff, which told the court that it is a Non-governmental Organisation that is duly registered in 13 African countries, argued that Atiku is not a Nigerian by birth and thus not eligible to contest to become the President of Nigeria.
It told the court that it has specific concerns for promoting the principles of equality, rule of law and human rights in Africa generally, but with particular interest in Nigeria. In a 12-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Michael Okejimi, the Plaintiff, noted that Atiku was born on December 25, 1946.
It said the 1st Defendant had in his own testimony that was gazetted and published in most national dailies, stated that he is from Jada town in Adamawa State. Aside from Atiku, other Defendants in the matter are the PDP, INEC, Attorney-General of the Federation, and the Attorney- General of Adamawa State. While other Defendants urged the court to dismiss the case, the AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN) threw his weight behind the suit, insisting that Atiku is not constitutionally eligible to vie for the Presidency.
Arguing that the former Vice President is not a Nigerian by birth, Malami, noted that Atiku, whose home town, Jada, was formerly a part of Northern Cameroon, acquired Nigerian citizenship following a plebiscite that held in 1961.
He told the court 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 a presidential candidate.
After listening to all the parties, trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the case for judgement