Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Court fixes date for hearing in suit querying Atiku Abubakar’s citizenship

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The Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday, fixed September 27 to hear a suit filed by the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa, a group, challenging the citizenship of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.

The plaintiff instituted the suit in 2019 challenging Abubakar’s eligibility to contest for president.

When the matter was called, counsel to the plaintiff, Akinola Oladimeji told the court that he was not prepared to go on with the matter.

Mr Oladimeji told the court that it was only on Wednesday that he got wind of the fact that the matter had been slated for hearing on Thursday since the next adjourn date known to him was Sept. 20.

The judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo then sought to find out from the court registrar if parties had been informed of the date and the registrar responded in the affirmative.

The judge in a short ruling said that he was not happy that he gave a date for hearing which had become a subject of controversy.

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He, however, adjourned the matter until Sept. 27 and warned the plaintiff that it would be the last adjournment for his client.

NAN reports that the plaintiff, a civil society organisation in suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 is challenging the citizenship of Abubakar on the grounds that he was not born in Nigeria.

The plaintiff joined the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Attorney-General of the Federation as co-defendants in the suit.

The plaintiff formulated the following questions for determination by the court:

“Whether Section 25 of the Constitution 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, only a Nigerian citizen by birth can contest for office of the president.

“Whether by the combined interpretation of Section 25(1) (2) and 131(a) of the constitution, and giving the circumstances surrounding the birth of Abubakar, he can be cleared by the PDP and INEC to contest for office of the president.”

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The plaintiff held that if the answers to the questions were resolved in its favour, it should be granted the following reliefs:

“A declaration that by provisions of Section 131(a) of the constitution, only a Nigerian citizen by birth can contest for the office of president.

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“A declaration that by the combined interpretation of Sections 25 (1) (2) and 131(a) of the constitution, and giving the circumstances surrounding the birth of Abubakar, he cannot be cleared by PDP and INEC to contest for president.

The plaintiff also asked the court for any order which it may seem fit to make in the circumstances of the application.

However, Mr Abubakar and the PDP, on which platform he contested the last election asked the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.

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In their notice of objection filed jointly, they insisted that the former vice president was a bonafide citizen of Nigeria.

Mr Abubakar also said that besides serving as Nigeria’s vice-president from 1999 to 2007, he held many public and private offices, including serving as governor of Adamawa  and was a commissioned officer of the Nigerian Customs Service.

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

He told the court that the suit was filed in bad faith in an attempt to malign his person and integrity.

Abubakar also objected to the plaintiff’s right to challenge his nationality, arguing that it failed to show the interest it had above other citizens of Nigeria to be entitled to approach the court on the issue.

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NAN

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