By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubukar Malami SAN, has told a federal high court in Abuja that the former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, is not eligible to run for president in Nigeria.
Malami said this in an affidavit in support of a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 and filed before the court by the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA) challenging Atiku’s eligibility to contest for president.
The plaintiff, on the strength of sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution and the circumstances surrounding his birth, posited that the former vice-president cannot contest for the office of the president.
Malami, through his legal team led by Oladipo Okpeseyi agreed that Atiku is not a Nigerian citizen by birth.
“The first defendant (Atiku) is not qualified to contest to be president of the federal republic of Nigeria,” Malami submitted.
“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.”
Malami said 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 added.
Citing the provisions of 1960, 1963, 1979 and 1999 constitutions Malami said 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.
“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,’’ the AGF maintained.