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2023 presidency: Court to determine Atiku’s eligibility February 21

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Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar will on February 21, 2022 know if he is eligible to contest the presidential election in 2023, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja said on Monday.

The court will on the said date deliver judgement in a suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/177, challenging Atiku’s eligibility on the premise that he is not a Nigerian by birth.

A group, under the aegis of the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa, had in the suit, 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 Nigeria 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 giving the circumstances surrounding Atiku’s birth, he cannot be cleared by either PDP or the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to vie for Presidency.

The plaintiff, which told the court that it is a Non-governmental Organization 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-paragraphed 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.

 

“Jada used to be in Ganye Local Government Area in Adamawa. That Ganye is regarded as the mother of the whole Chamba tribe.

 

“That Ganye, however, was never part of Nigeria legally as at the date of birth of the 1st Defendant. That the area had been entrusted to Britain by a League of Nations mandate in 1919 and later as Trust Territory by the United Nations in 1946.

 

“That the defeat of Germany in World War 1, Cameroon became a League of Nations mandate territory and was split into French Cameroons and British Cameroons in 1919.

 

“That while France integrated the economy of their part of Cameroon with that of France, the British, administered theirs from neighboring Nigeria, making 1st Defendant’s Jada a British franchise.

 

“That a plebiscite was held in British Cameroons to determine whether the people preferred to stay in Cameroon or align with Nigeria.

 

“That while Northern Cameroon preferred a union with Nigeria, Southern Cameroon chose alignment with the mother country.

“That on June 1, 1961, Northern Cameroon became part of Nigeria, and on October 1, 1961, the Southern territory dissolved into Cameroon.

“That Ganye, which incorporates the 1st Defendant’s birthplace of Jada was the headquarters of British Cameroons, but it joined Nigeria following the plebiscite.

“That when the 1st Defendant was on November 25, 1946, born to a Fulani trader and farmer, Garba Abubakar, Jada village and other parts of Chamba land in the then Northern Cameroon, were still known as British Cameroon.

“That none of the 1st Defendant’s parents or grandparents was born in Nigeria. That the 1st Defendant’s father died a citizen of Northern Cameroon in 1957 prior the referendum of June 1, 1961, that made Northern Cameroon became part of Nigeria.

“That the 1st Defendant’s ancestral origin is deeply rooted in the then Northern Cameroon. That the 1st Defendant is not a Nigerian citizen by birth.

“That the 1st Defendant is not qualified to be elected into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, the plaintiff added.

 

Aside from Atiku, other defendants in the matter are the PDP, INEC, Attorney-General of the Federation, and the Attorney-General of Adamawa State.

Meantime, 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 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.

“The first defendant (Atiku) 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 argued in support of a suit.

 

Malami, in an affidavit that was filed by his team of lawyers led by Oladipo Okpeseyi, SAN, argued that Atiku, having contested election to the office of the Vice President before now, even though he knew that he is not a Nigeria citizen by birth, committed an offence under Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act.

 

He contended 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.

 

“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”, Malami added.

 

Citing provisions of the 1960, 1963, 1979 and 1999 Constitutions, the AGF, argued that “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.”

 

He told the court 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 in Atiku’s case, such a person cannot claim citizenship of Nigeria 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.”

He further argued that the only situation where Atiku could have acquired Nigerian citizenship by birth under the 1999 Constitution, was if both or either of his parents and grand parents were Nigerian citizens by birth.

He added that another way would have been if either his parents had become Nigerian citizen by virtue of Section 25(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which must be in compliance with Sections 26 and 27of the same constitution.

“With no concrete proof of compliance, we submit that the first defendant cannot contest election to the office of the Nigerian President”, Malami added.

However, in a preliminary objection he jointly filed with the PDP, Atiku, maintained that he is “a bonafide citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

He told the court that aside from serving as Vice President from 1999 to 2007, he held many public/private offices in Nigeria, including serving as Governor of Adamawa State and as a commissioned officer of the Nigeria Customs Service.

He said both his parents, grandparents and great grandparents were born in Nigeria and they lived, died as Nigerians and were buried in Nigeria.

Politics

APC postpones presidential campaign to adjust team list

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council has postponed the commencement of its campaign scheduled for Wednesday September 28.

In a statement on Tuesday in Abuja, the Director-General Tinubu/Shettima Campaign Council and Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, announced the postponement, saying the decision was to create room for inclusion of more party chieftains into the council.

The statement is titled, “Adjustment of timetable of activities earmarked to commence campaign by the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council.

Part of the statement read, “Recall that we had earlier earmarked a peace walk and prayers for Wednesday, September 28, 2022, to officially kick-off our campaigns for the 2023 presidential elections.

“We had also announced that the members of the Campaign Council report at the Campaign Headquarters on that day to collect their letters of appointments.

“However, due to the expansion of the list to accommodate more stakeholders and interests within the APC family, we have decided to adjust the time-table of these activities in order to ensure everyone is on board before activities officially commence.

“Consequently, the activities earlier announced for the 28th of September will no longer hold

“As the ruling and most attractive party in Nigeria, we understand the sacrifices and understanding of our teeming members who are more than willing to volunteer themselves for this great task ahead. It also shows the enormous love that the party members have for our candidates.

“A new date and time-table of events will be announced soon.”

Director, Media and Publicity of the council, Bayo Onanuga, had in a statement on Monday said the council would commence official campaign on Wednesday with a prayer session and peace walk in Abuja, in line with the 2023 timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

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Orton dumps Wike, backs Ayu as PDP chairman

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Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has beaten a retreat in calling for the removal of Iyorchia Ayu as the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Ortom had earlier sided with Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers, and his allies in insisting that the PDP should replace Ayu with someone from the South-West since Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate comes from the North like Ayu.

Since the emergence of Atiku as the standard-bearer of the party in May, the Wike group has insisted that Ayu must resign as a condition for supporting the PDP presidential candidate.

But Ortom in a statement issued by Nathaniel Ikyur, his chief press secretary, said he had confidence in Ayu’s ability to lead the party to victory in next year’s general election.

The governor was reacting to the allegations by Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja that he was plotting the downfall of his fellow Benue man, Ayu.

He said he worked tirelessly, alongside other prominent Benue citizens, to ensure that Ayu was elected “as the national chairman of our great party even against all odds”.

The statement read in part, “The governor could not, therefore, turn around to work against him to be removed from office.

“Governor Ortom vouched for the integrity and capacity of Dr Iyorchia Ayu to lead and rebuild the PDP to victory and rescue Nigeria from the misrule of the APC maladministration. That is why Ayu was returned unopposed by the northern caucus of the party and got elected as the national chairman of the PDP at the party’s convention.

“Where was Jemgbagh Development Association, when Governor Ortom galvanised support from across the leaders of the party to make Dr. Ayu PDP’s National Chairman? What was their contribution to that project that they now want to use clannish stance to blackmail the governor?

“This amorphous and emergency Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja, which has never been heard of before, is now masquerading as the voice of Jemgbagh to embark on campaign of calumny against Governor Ortom, who has worked selflessly for the people of Benue State.

“Governor Ortom is more Jemgbagh than most of the people claiming it now. This is fact, because he has done more for Jemgbagh, both in terms of appointments and projects executed as well as patronage in the area, than even one of the Jemgbagh sons, who was governor. Besides, Governor Ortom has consistently worked for the unity of Benue State and will never stand in the way of any of her citizens, either here in the state or in the diaspora.

“For those, who claimed to be leaders of this Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja, we urge them to be truly developmental in their drive to build cohesion among the people and attract real development to their area rather than engaging in mischief or blackmail.”

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Atiku Snubs Wike, Gives Fresh Appointment To Saraki, Anyim, Shekarau, Secondus, Others

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Nyesom Wike and Atiku Abubakar

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has approved the appointment of former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and others as Special Advisers.

Naija News reports that this was made known in a statement on Monday by Atiku Abubakar’s Media Adviser, Paul Ibe.

According to the statement, Atiku also appointed former presidential aspirant, Anyim Pius Anyim.

Ibrahim Shekarau who recently joined the PDP from the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) was also appointed as an Adviser.

The statement reads, “Ahead of the commencement of the 2023 election campaign on Wednesday, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party and former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar has made key appointments of Special Advisers aimed at strengthening his presidential campaign team.

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“The appointees are former Senate Presidents, Dr. Bukola Saraki as Special Envoy to the presidential candidate and Senator Pius Anyim, as Special Adviser.

“Also appointed as Special Advisers to the candidate are former governor of Kano State, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Senator Ehigie Uzamere.

“Former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus was also appointed as Technical Adviser to the presidential candidate.

“The appointments are to take immediate effect.”

Atiku Abubakar charged the appointees to use their vast political experiences in ensuring that the PDP presidential campaign records resounding success in the 2023 election.

Naija News reports that there is no place for Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State among the new appointees.

Wike and Atiku have been at loggerheads over the refusal of the National Chairman of the PDP, Iyorchia Ayu, to resign.

Wike and his loyalists had last week Wednesday pulled out of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation.

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